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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Technology Arrives at the Cabin

Vermont is notorious for having HORRIBLE cell phone service. In most places it is spotty at best and your service is highly dependent on your carrier. Since I've owned my house I have never had cell phone service at it. In fact, I've never had service within 15 miles of it in any given direction. It was just something I learned to accept because my phone did work everywhere else I went, and after all, isn't a cell phone for when you aren't home?

Still, I found it very inconvenient that I could not get voicemails or text messages for days at a time, until I traveled several miles outside of town. I also was trapped in those ridiculous cell phone contracts where you have to pay to discontinue so I just sucked it up and paid my bill every month for a service I could only use half the time. Then, AT&T happened. They decided to buy a fledgling cell phone company in Vermont, Unicel, and offer its excellent network and phone selections to us Vermonters. That meant, of course, that the iPhone would finally be coming to Vermont. I immediately jumped on board.

As of a couple days ago I am a proud owner of a new iPhone and I love it. In fact, it is hard for me to put it down. Not only can I finally get text messages and voicemails at home, but I can also get on the internet, check my emails, and have service all through out town. The plan is also only $5 more expensive than my previous plan. I feel like I am one of those techno freaks in an urban setting. Always connected, able to access information and communicate at the touch of a button. The only difference is that I am in the middle of nowhere in Vermont. Its a beautiful thing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Four Puppies and a Funeral

Friday evening it was clear Bonnie was in labor. When I awoke the next morning she had had four little baby beagles. Two boys and two girls. All appeared to be doing wonderfully.

Then two days later I noticed that three of the four puppies were doing wonderfully. They were growing, moving around a lot, and their umbilical cords had fallen off. The fourth puppy, a little boy, (near Bonnie's paw at the bottom right in the photo) was so tiny and not as active. He appeared to be a runt at first, but then it was clear something was wrong. I noticed that he wasn't eating at all and wondered if the other puppies weren't allowing him to feed. His fur was also more yellowish in tint than the other puppies who had nice, glossy, white and black fur. Could puppies have jaundice?

A few hours later I went back into check on them and to coax Bonnie outside to go to the bathroom. I noticed the little runt was off to the side and not moving. He appeared to be gasping for air. I picked him up to discover that he had vomited and had agonal respiration. His little puppy body was limp in my hands. I wrapped him in a towel and was going to boil some rice and try and hand feed him the water (its full of nutrients and a good substitute for milk). Maybe... just maybe there was some way I could save him. It felt like I was at work and this poor puppy was one of my patients that I was caring for and he was my sole responsibilty. I monitored his airway... it was clear. I tried to put my ear to his chest to hear his heart beat, but couldn't hear anything. I held his little nose against my cheek to feel his breaths, maybe he was breathing more than those agonal breaths every ten or twenty seconds, but I didn't feel anything. The little puppy's stomach was sucked in and his rib cage pointed out as if he had never eaten. Then I realized... he had stopped breathing.

The little puppy took one last agonal breath, like a fish gasping for air, and never took another one. He died right in my hands. In only a matter of a minute or two his body began to turn cold. I knew he was gone. Only two days old. Of course I was sad. And Bonnie knew her baby had died. She started whining and howling for the puppy, which I placed back with her and the other puppies so she could grieve and realize he was gone. All night she whimpered and licked the lifeless puppy. By morning she was still with the body and I had to distract her to take it away. After a few minutes of searching for the dead puppy I had hidden out of her sight she went back to the living puppies, which had begun crying. I wrapped the puppy in papertowles and burried him as deep as I could in the snow at the bottom of a big old spruce tree. The whole time I wondered if I could have done anything different or noticed anything sooner, but I know that these things do happen to animals (and people alike). Babies die and we can't save them all, no matter how much we want to.

Friday, February 20, 2009

At the Moment...

Usually my job is really easy... a little paperwork, some television, hanging around with friends, and the occasional 911 call. It rarely feels like work, but more like an extension of home with pretty much all the same comforts. Lately my job has actually been, well... work. We've been running 911 calls almost nonstop. I've been too busy to do much else and am really excited to have a few days off. But there are and have been a few things going on...

1. I went snowmobiling again on my own and discovered why they invented such a thing as a kidney belt.

2. We had our first snowmobile accident/rescue of the year. I didn't bring my camera to tape our response across the lake to the people who were ejected off there sled as they hit a snowbank at 50mph, which is a shame because its always neat to respond in the snowmobile.

3. Tomorrow we are going snowmobiling with some friends from down south. I'm excited.

4. Bonnie is in labor and will probably have puppies sometime this evening or tonight.

Huh, most of my life apparently revolves around snowmobiling at the moment... I can't complain.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ladder Up!

We have reached my most dreaded part of my firefighter I class. Ladders. I hate ladders. Its not because I am afraid of heights or anything like that, its because I am small and ladders are not. Ladders used for firefighting are larger, long, and HEAVY. I also have no experience with ladders other than climbing them and my lack of experience was going to make the class even more difficult.

When we started going over all the different parts of a ladder I never realized how many different parts there were and how many different kinds of ladders there were. There are literally dozens. After reading the chapter and actually trying to pay attention in class I was confident I could identify the fly, tie the halyard, and locate the stops, the pawls, and the butt spurs. Yes, I said butt spurs. We then had to learn how to properly carry all sorts of ladders with all sorts of personnel, ranging from just ourselves to four or five people. It took me three tries to lift and carry the 24' extension ladder by myself. It weighs about 2/3 of my entire body weight and to carry it on one side of my body with one arm was almost something I was physically unable to do. I kept having to remind myself that I couldn't say "I can't do this". I had to think positive, even though my size and strength put me at a disadvantage.

Then came the hardest part... actually working with ladders all on our own. We had to set up a roof ladder, ascend the roof carrying a hand tool, and then come back down and take down the ladders.

I have never used so much upper body strength to accomplish one task in my entire life. As I hoisted the 16' roof ladder all on my own, I half wondered if I was going to drop it, but I didn't. I placed it all by myself and then made the long transition to the roof ladder. The transition proved to be exceedingly difficult for me because I am short, but yet again, I managed to do it. My arms were quivering with weakness when I finally reached the top of the roof at the base of the chimney. I had to catch my breath and tell myself I had enough strength to get back down. Being a girl and not being as tall or strong did not hold me back... something I am determined to make sure it doesn't. I conquered the thing I dreaded most in the class. Now, I could go the rest of my life without carrying that 24' extension ladder all by myself.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Winter Isn't Over Yet...

I can't remember the verdict for groundhog day... Up here in Vermont it doesn't exactly matter. Whether he sees his shadow or not because we certainly always have 6 more weeks of winter after February second, with often a few more weeks to spare.

This past week it rained... and rained... and was unseasonably warm. Warm enough for me to wish that spring was here, rather than a tease of warm sunshine on my shoulders before we retreated back to the subfreezing temperatures. The warm weather lasted long enough to cause worry about the snowmobile trail conditions, but to no avail. Snow and cold returned...

When in Vermont you have to remember two things; its February and winter isn't over yet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Snowmobiling for One

All this week Shawn is at a Fire Instructor class. All this week I have been at home, bored out of my mind. The house has been cleaned. I have exercised more than any one person should in a day, watched too much television, and finally dedicated some time to sit down and read a book. When I still had time on my hands I didn't know what to do. In the middle of the day during the week not many people are around. Its not like it used to be between classes in college, where everyone was milling around looking for mid-afternoon adventures. The snow is still deep and the temperatures cold, not like in the summer when I can go outside and find countless things to do without traveling or a lot of expense. I was restless and feeling adventurous so I came up with an idea...

I was going to go snowmobiling. Completely by myself, not just on my own sled, but without anyone else either. Just three years ago I got on a sled for the first time. And last year was the first year I handled a sled on my own, while I followed others on the trails. Now I was going to brave the VAST trails alone. Shawn didn't like the idea... What if I broke down? What if I was lost? What if I got hurt? He insisted I didn't have enough experience on a snowmobile to go it alone. I disagreed, but it is his job to worry about me. You could wonder "what if" forever, though... and I was excited about the idea to go it alone. He was betting on the fact that I would be unable to pull start my snowmobile when it was cold - picture start a lawn mower, but 100x harder.

Well I did get the snowmobile started. That wasn't as much of a problem as I anticipated. The problem was getting around the fourwheeler that was stuck in the way of the sled. After an hour of shoveling I managed to run over my foot, break the shovel, and finally (somehow) powerhouse my way over a snowbank, not roll over, and get around the fourwheeler. My sled was running, I was in one piece, and I was free of the driveway and on my way down the trail. I don't know if I did, but I must have had a shit-eating grin on my face, because I was ecstatic.

Such freedom.

It was like I was 16 and driving my car for the first time without any particular direction to go, but all the independence in the world. For hours I drove around the familiar trails that Shawn and I had been on many times. Never did I go more than a few miles outside of town, but I realized just how awesome and how many trails there are in Island Pond. I went around the lake, across the lake, up a mountain, down a mountain, back across the lake, through the woods, and through town. Not once did I get lost, hurt or break down. But almost...

When I was a good several miles from home I happened to glance down at my sled and notice that the temperature gage was high, very high, actually it was damn near overheating. Great, I thought... I am going to break down and Shawn is going to be right. Instead of worrying about what could possibly be going wrong with my snowmobile I calculated the shortest distance home, sped up a little (incase snow or ice was clogging the air intake on the sled), and headed. By the time I made it home the temperature guage on my poor sled was burried in the red. It just needed some coolant (which I should have checked prior to leaving) and was going to be fine. A dramatic end to a fantastic ride, which I hope to repeat and venture further out on the trails before this short sledding season comes to an end.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Puppies... Again.

My beagle is pregnant. Again.

Can't you tell?

Just like last time she didn't appear "pregnant looking" until all of a sudden. This time I am not as sure when she will have them since I was concentrated more on keeping the two beagles apart rather then trying to conceive puppies. My guess is she will have them sometime near the end of the month. I am not looking forward to having puppies in the middle of winter, but there is nothing anyone can do about that now.

We are going to sell them, probably $200 each, which is a good price for a full-blooded beagle. Her first litter of puppies are gorgeous and the spitting image of their mom and dad. Of course, when they arrive I will post photos. Until then... I'm stuck taking care of the irritable and growing momma.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Its Not Every Day You Get to Insert an NPA

As soon as my shift began this morning we were called for a young man unresponsive. This man went on to being a very complicated medical case that required a lot of interventions, mostly basic interventions, but some I have not done in years. I can't even remember the last time I put in two nasal pharyngeal airways and bagged a patient who was not quite apnic. Here is a crazy video of a kid having a nasal airway inserted... picture what I did to be something like that, but a lot more hectic and a lot more going on at once.

My patient was not responsive...unlike that fellow in the video. Everything I did didn't really help him. He needed far more medical interventions than I could provide, but he did at least maintain and not get worse. I also was thanked by the parents, something that doesn't happen too often. Calls like that make my day. They challenge me. I have to figure out what's going on, recognize a serious situation, develop a treatment plan, and see it all through in mere minutes (granted I can't do all the fancy smancy stuff that medics can... but still). All that while bouncing down the road. The more I am challenged and the more I meet those challenges the better I feel about my abilities and the more I love my job.

The rest of the day I have been steeped in paperwork. Call after call has gone out today. Nothing else serious and most not even being transported to the hospital. Just paperwork. We did have an attention grabbing accident though, where a school bus hit a parked car. Unfortunately my camera has died so I was unable to snap any photos. There were no injuries... thank goodness. I have enough paperwork.

...speaking of which... I should probably get back to that.

Monday, February 2, 2009

How to Get Over a Cold. My Way.

It seems as if everyone around me is sick. People are calling out of work left and right. My patients in the ambulance are all complaining of the same general symptoms... not feeling well, lethargy, fever, cough, head congestion, and the occasional vomiting and diarrhea. With all those nasty things floating around in the air it would be no small feat that I would catch the symptoms, which of course I did.

However, I take a much different approach to being sick than some. I absolutely hate over the counter medicine and rarely take it. Even when I had bronchitis last year I hated to have to go to the doctor and didn't until I could barely breath. For someone in the health field that advocates seeing a doctor and seeking medicine I surely don't follow my own advice.

Instead I use a theory I learned in college... how eating well, moderate activity, and a full night's sleep will be a better immune system booster and cold fighter than most medicine. Lots of fruits and vegetables. I follow the "color rule", where the fruits and veggies must be as many bright and varied colors as possible. That means a good variety of vitamins and minerals. And rather than resting on the couch all day I try and be up and mobile, even if it hurts or I don't want to. While exercise temporarily lowers your immune system for a couple hours, it boosts it incredibly over all. When it comes time to sleep I always try and get a good eight hours. It really isn't impossible. I actually have no idea how people can't manage get at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night (except, for example, when I am working and am out all nights on calls). I once read that the average American only gets 4-5 hours of sleep a night. I would die.

All that seems so simple... eat well, exercise, and get a good night's sleep. So simple that it sounds cliche, but its true. That cold I managed to contract was gone in the matter of just a day or so, while others around me were crippled for the better part of a week by it. They took medicine after medicine and called out of work day after day. I swear by my method... by all means go to the doctor if you need to, but before you go spend tens of dollars on medicine you might just want to try eating healthy, a little activity, and a good night's sleep. It really works.