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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Operation Gustav - Deployment

Where am I right now? Brooklyn Mississippi. Yes, Mississippi.

Friday at work we got a call saying that FEMA was asking for ambulances across the country to come to the south in preparation for Hurricane Gustav. I immediately wanted to go. I mean, how could anyone turn that down? A trip to the south, not only is everything paid, but FEMA pays you to go, and I get to do EMS in a place everyone else is feeling. That just has 'Jen' written all over it. My boss was so completely awesome and finagled the schedule so we could leave immediately. So I rushed home and grabbed everything I could possibly need for an extended period of time and rushed back. An hour and a half later we were on the road. Where were we headed? Our initial destination was Alabama, and yes, we were planning on driving the whole entire way.

We headed on our way. Full of adrenaline and excitement for the unknown that awaited us when we got there. Halfway en route we were told that we were not going to Alabama, but Mississippi instead. Jackson, Mississippi. We drove all night, until about 5am when I was driving and falling asleep at the same time. After sleeping an hour in a gas station parking lot we were back on the road for a non-stop, except for gas, trip to Jackson, Mississippi. As we drove I tried to take videos every once and a while of our experiences. After we left the cities of the East Coast there wasn't much to report, except that things get desolate and look the same all the way from Virginia to Mississippi.

Sometime around 5-6pm yesterday we reached Jackson Mississippi. We were greeted with the nicest southern hospitality. We did paperwork and then meeted-and-greeted with several other Vermont ambulances who also made the journey. Dinner was served. I had Gumbo for the first time and actually loved it. Mmmm. Afterwards a shower was something I desperately needed. There was a shower trailer set up and I took advantage of it. Actually it was an awesome shower. Soon after I crashed on a military cot in a giant tent pitched in the parking lot for all the EMTs to sleep in.

At 4am I was woken up and told to hurry up, get ready, and be upstairs for a meeting. We were being assigned a "mission. Our mission is what I am doing now... sitting at a rural high school waiting for evacuees from areas further south to arrive. The high school is a pit-stop for buses coming from the coast and going to Jackson where a shelter is. Here everyone is getting off the bus, grabbing a lunch, and going to the bathroom. Our job is to just mingle and make sure everyone is ok and does not need medical assistance. If they do we bring them to the nurses office. We are not suppose to transport people or leave the staging area. When we are done, which may not be until midnight or so, we will either be heading back to Jackson or instead going to Gulf Port Mississippi in preparation for the storm to hit. I hope we go to Gulf Port. It is closer to the storm and means a greater chance of being directly involved in the recovery.

So how long will I be down here? That depends. There are a lot of factors, such as how bad the storm is and the damage it causes. And there is another Hurricane churning out in the Atlantic, Hannah. If that happens to strengthen and hit Florida we may get deployed there. My boss informed me that we may be deployed for up to 21 days, not counting or return drive. I may actually be gone until mid-September. With an upcoming wedding it will complicate things, but not entirely.

Really I couldn't be happier. I am combining what I love with my profession. Of course I love the weather, natural disasters, and everything else that has to do with severe weather and Gustav is all that rolled into one. When you add that to doing EMS with a little spontaneity this is what you get.

I do not know how often, or if I will be able to update very much, but I will try. Wish me, my partner, and all the other crews down here good luck!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pig Scramble?

Even though the fair is over I am still sorting through a multitude of photos and videos from the many hours spent there.

Every year when I go to the fair I see something new, something I never knew people flocked to watch. Of course there are the things like the demolition derby and horse pulling, but until this year I had never seen a pig scramble. Even to me it sounded like something that was just a little too backwoods for up here. Maybe they did that down south in the country, but I had never heard of a real pig scramble taking place up here until this past Sunday.

I was just sitting at our little fair shack, hanging out, and talking with acquaintances when I heard a fair-wide announcement over the loud speakers scattered across the fairgrounds. "Pig Scramble, all Children welcomed to participate at noon at the Grand Stands." No way, a real pig scramble? I thought. It was just something I had to witness.

So a bunch of us headed over to the Grand Stands around noon to witness the scramble. I had no idea what even took place. Someone had to explain it to me. All the kids enter a fenced in circle that has been mudded down by the fire department. There are about a dozen piglets loose in the fenced in area with the children. When someone says 'Go!' all the Children run and try and catch a pig. The first one to catch a pig, pick it up, and carry it to the gate where the entrance is wins. The prize, a whole five dollars! And everyone else that participates gets a dollar. Unfortunately with the prices at the fair a dollar won't buy you any more than a single scoop of ice cream.

And of course my video tape came along for the adventure. If you have never seen a pig scramble before well now is your chance. Below is the 4-8 year old group. One boy, who wins, looks as if it isn't his first time.

If I had kids I would think that it would be down right hilarious to watch them chase a pig in the mud, but maybe that is just the Vermont in me thinking...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Most Amazing Looking Redneck at the Fair

The last several days I have been at the fair. Its been a a great week with a lack of ambulance calls and a massive amount of cotton candy, enough to make me think I was having a gallbladder attack. One of the things you notice when you spend so much time at the fair is the people and some of them are down right amusing...laugh-out-loudable even. So I was inspired by all the "regular folk" who came out to the county fair to develop a contest... the Most Amazing County Fair Redneck. It was my mission to nonchalantly take photos of people around the fair who looked as redneck or ridiculous as possible and I think I accomplished it.

The results are...

5th Runner Up

Classic guy with a beard in flannel

4th Runner Up

Another classic guy with a beard in flannel, but he looks more like Charlie Daniels and has a beer belly

3rd Runner Up

You can't visit the cow barns without spotting a guy with a beard and wearing nothing but overalls carrying a pitchfork

2nd Runner Up

Classic big lady with bleached blonde hair, multiple kids, generic T-shirt with animals on it, and stylish green crocs.

1st Runner Up

Guy on a lawn mower. He collected bottles all over the fair wearing that nifty straw hat.

Honorable mention
Demo Derby Baby. Mom decides to bring her infant to the demolition derby and then lull it to sleep with the magical lullaby of cars smashing into each other. There are also some other pretty cool looking people in the crowd...

And the winner is...

Racing Redneck! This fella had on a spectacular looking racing suit with his work boots for the demolition derby as he excitedly poses next to his demolished car, despite not winning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Best Part of Summer...

County Fairs!

As summer comes to a close ( yes, its sad to admit) the best part of the season begins. Every week there is a county fair somewhere across Vermont or New Hampshire to visit. You can attend up to 40 different ones between mid-July and the first week of October. This week is the all anticipated Caledonia County Fair. Why is this fair such a big deal? Is it the biggest? No. Best rides? No. Outstanding performer? Not this year. Its because when I go to work I don't just go and sit at the station and wait for calls. I get to go to the fair!

Yesterday was opening day. It is the best day, in my opinion. Not too many people are there so its easy to ride our all terrain vehicles through the fairgrounds without people getting in the way (major and fun perk!). Everything is also nice and clean and everyone is excited. Most of the shifts during fair week are spent driving around, hanging out at the fair shack, eating lots of awful for you, but great tasting foods, and socializing with almost everyone. We just can't ride the rides while we are on duty, but once you are older then twelve they don't hold the same thrill anymore.

Occasionally we do have real emergencies at the fair grounds. Yesterday we had to apply a band-aid and then had one other "minor injury". Last year we had a drunk, a man who severed a toe, a kid who almost lost a finger, and a man with a fly stuck in his ear. You just never know... But while we wait for these medical emergencies you can find us enjoying the fair like everyone else, or at our fair shack where we offer free blood pressure screenings. To this day not one person in four years has asked to have their blood pressure taken. Something tells me that people just don't come to the fair to be health conscious.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Don't you hate it when people do that?

Ambulance calls usually go relatively smooth and uneventful. None of them are exactly text book, but most are pretty close and require little thinking outside of the box. Occasionally some of the out of the box thinking is a little bit of a pain in the ass... excuse my language, but its true. And then there are just calls that make you want to yell at people. Take my experience last weekend.

A lady fell at a restaurant as she was leaving. No big deal right? Well when we arrived she was in an awkward position up against a step and cement wall. Now we had to move her. Before moving her we had to put a cervical collar on there, per protocol. It didn't help that her daughter was there informing us of everything we should be doing and how to do it. After "thanking her" for her input I realized the woman was far too large for a collar. She brought a whole new meaning to the word "no-neck" (see cervical collar sizes if you are unfamiliar). To top it off she was also around 300lbs. Just strapping her to the backboard was a ridiculous task. Transport was uneventful. Conversation was poor. There was no apparent trauma other than a bump to the head. Her vital signs didn't waver. When we pulled into the emergency room dock she informed me she was very nauseaus and may vomit. (...great, I thought) and wanted to sit up. I explained she was on a backboard and the physics of the device did not enable it to bend in half and hopefully she could hold it for a few seconds until she was in the Emergency Room. No such luck. The woman did the infamous "chipmunk cheeks" and then proceeded to vomit profusely everything she just consumed at the restaurant. I yelled for Shawn, who was my partner that night, to hurry and get to the back of the ambulance. We had to roll her on her side so her vomit did not go down her airway since she was strapped flat to a backboard. I tried to roll her myself, but she was just too large. She vomited for several minutes... salad greens and chicken everywhere. (I figured if I had to live it so can my readers!) Then we wheeled her into the ED and spent the next two hours cleaning and disinfecting the ambulance before finally getting to lay down and attempt to sleep at 1am.

If only one of all those pain in the ass things happened on that call it would have been annoying, but everything combined was just an insult. Every once and a while thats what you get... pummeled by EMS karma, but wtf did I do to you karma??

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Vacation In My Backyard

I use the word "backyard" in the title figuratively, meaning that it doesn't have to be your actual backyard, but just close by to think of the context of my entry.

Lately I have REALLY needed a vacation. I am not one to escape from reality and not deal with life, but sometimes you really do just have to step back and take a breath and exit. Stage left. Thats what I did.

I do not have the ability to take a real vacation this summer, and even if I had planned it my plans would surely have changed as of late. What I do have is one day here and one day there to take and spend doing something enjoyable. So thats what I did... took advantage of just one day. I didn't go far at all. Shawn and I climbed in the pick-up and headed north and east.

The drive was beautiful... your regular scenic north country woodland. No moose were spotted, but I was on the look out. The destination was the Connecticut Lakes, which there are three. The first about 45 minutes north and east of home in New Hampshire and the third being practically in the farthest, most northern part of New Hampshire, right before Customs. We reached Lake Frances, the first lake before CT Lakes. A few cars were in the fishing access and a couple people dotted the shoreline. We kept driving in hopes of more emptiness. Fifteen minutes later we finally reached the 1st lake. It was practically devoid of anyone. Shawn and I drove along the edge of it and found a great beach like area to park and wander around. It was absolutely scenic and full of wild life. I waded in the water, took photos, skipped rocks, and just generally wandered around. The only thing that would have made it better was if we had come earlier and brought a picnic lunch. An idea for next time. We didn't stay too long, though, due to an impending storm.

The storm never really came, just a couple of dark clouds. We headed back south, but on a different route. Shawn insisted that there was a huge waterfall along this road and he wanted to take me to it. I was excited and kept and eye out. We passed what I thought was the waterfall, a 10ft high and 1ft wide little swath of water that cascaded down a hillside directly beside the road. Not impressive I thought. Then we rounded a corner and there it was, wow. A massive waterfall right there. It was a beautiful sight. Not a sole was around so we parked and discovered there were paths leading all along the waterfall. Shawn and I spent the better part of an hour hiking up and down the steep sides of the waterfall. I went into some inappropriate spots for flip flops, up on top of the falls to take some photos looking down, but made it back down without any injury or incidents. After exploring around the falls thoroughly we left and then took the long way home.

Both the lakes and waterfall were less than an hour from my home. Instead of packing up the family truckster and heading cross country we just took an little ride and enjoyed ourselves all afternoon. It was just what I needed and literally right in my backyard. An adventure like this makes me excited to find out what else is out there, just beyond my driveway.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I have been contemplating renaming our home "Blueberry Hill". In our front yard there is a little mound, or small hill, and it is covered in blueberry bushes. A lot of the rest of our property is also scattered with random bushes. Last year we didn't really notice too many berries, let alone put in time or effort to pick them. This year, however, we spent the better part of an afternoon collecting the little tart berries.

Apparently, according to the older folks, this year is the best year for blueberries in over 50 years. Some people say they can't remember the last time they have seem so many, especially ones as big as this years. I really don't have any way to validate that, but I am sure it must be mostly true because the berries this year are numerous and gigantic.

In a couple hours Shawn and I filled two bowls, making about 4-5 cups worth. It takes a lot of berries to make a cup. My intentions, as mentioned in my last post, were to make a pie. I do not believe I have enough, though. By the end of our picking adventures I was getting a little slack and probably missed almost as many as I picked. Maybe I can go back and find more, just enough for a pie. Probably not. So instead I think I will buy some cool whip, muffin mix, and pan cake mix to make various blueberry filled baked goods.