Remember the ten foot tall, five foot wide, shoulder length dark hair, handlebar mustache guy? Yeah him. He was my partner for a few years. About the time Mel decided to go to medic school. That was a trip. Rick was full of information. About a lot of things, hunting, guns, EMS, fire, and life. He did a lot of jobs before he was medic, and bore the scars of some of them. He had a scar on his chest just at the level of his collar that resembled a bullet hole. He didn’t talk much about it. I didn’t ask. Rick could drive like nobody’s business. He drove truck for some time, and had over a million accident free miles. He liked driving. He liked how he drove. He liked to tell you how to drive. That’s where we ran into trouble. I don’t mind suggestions, I don’t mind constructive critcism, but I don’t like to be told I suck at it. And he liked to tell me that. Not because I actually did suck at it, but because Rick didn’t always have the best way with words. This came to a head one day when he was being particularly nitpicky with me, and I’d had enough. I pulled over to the side of the road, shut the truck off, chucked the keys at him and informed him that if he didn’t like my driving, he was more than welcome to drive. I then proceeded to get out and start walking up the road. I was DONE with him.
I got about a quarter mile up the road when he pulled up behind me and apologized. We didn’t speak, with the exception of patient care, for three days. We worked four days on and four days off. This happened on our first day on, and he called me on our first day off, and we hashed it out like marginally reasonable adults. He never said my driving sucked again. He nitpicked other things, but he knew when I was approaching my limit, and knew not to cross the line.
I got a little payback though. Rick and I were caring for an elderly female with altered mental status. We had her comfortable on the stretcher, had the cardiac monitor on her, and he was preparing to start and IV. Rick was not a little guy, so he sat with his legs apart on the bench seat of the truck, with the patient’s arm across his lap. He had thr site prepped to start the IV, and had taken the catheter out of the cap, which he was holding in his mouth, as he often did. The patient was calm and cooperative at that time. He poked her with the needle, and all hell broke loose. Her hand, which was draped loosely over his thigh, grasped tightly between his legs. I had my back to him, when the catheter cap came flying past me, and i heard the patient shriek, and him wheeze my name. “Mel, she’s got me, shes’ got me.” The patient had his manly bits in a death grip. His eyes were bugged out and he’d gone into a cold sweat. I love my partner to pieces, but for just a moment, I wanted to ask him who sucked now… I released the patient’s hand from his groin, he started breathing again, finished the IV, and never started one with his legs open like that again. I think he thanked me. But I can’t remember.
Rick was a family oriented man. He cared for his father for a long while, and he passed away while we were partners. My husband and I went to the wake, out of respect for Rick and his family. This was incidentally the first time I met his wife, and the first time he met my husband. Rick met me outside the funeral home, shook hands with my husband, then took my hand, and walked me into the funeral home to introduce me to his family. Here I am, holding his hand, and my husband’s, and Rick says, “This is my work wife, and her husband.” Rick’s wife smiles broadly and says, “You must be Mel.” I am close friends with his wife to this day.
Rick championed me throughout medic school, and sometimes had to put his foot directly up my ass to keep me motivated. And he was so proud when I got through it with the top grades in the class, and awards for patient care. He was sad too. Because when I finished medic school, I would be leaving him to go off on my own as a paramedic with my own partner. He was my senior medic, and gave me the blessing to go out on my own and provide care. He took a gig on the flycar downtown, then some other paramedic shifts in other areas as his tenure grew. He had a hand in the education and training of a good many paramedics and EMTs at the premier provider, and elsewhere. He was a volunteer firefighter, avid shooter, husband, father, and papa. Rick was also a very brittle diabetic, who struggled hard with his weight. He decided on bariatric surgery, and that changed his life forever. He had a good many complications after the initial surgery, rallied to the point of almost returning to work. He then had a stroke. He rallied again, then suffered a cardiac arrest. He rallied briefly from that before succumbing last summer. Rick was such a constant in my world for so long. It doesn’t feel real that he’s gone. He was literally there from day one. I go on not only for him, but for his wife, his daughter, and his grandson, all of whom were everything to him. And he, was everything to them.
For Dawn, Rhinanna and Orion. 10/27/1961- 6/27/2021
I worked everywhere for a while. In the city, in the suburbs, days, nights, afternoons, wherever I could get a shift. I didn’t have a set schedule because I was new, and I was kind of a slave to the system. Then a new spot opened up in the southtowns where I was from. It was an odd shift, from like 10am to 10pm. But It was in an area I knew well. But my partner, I didn’t know. Never met the guy before in my life. I’d heard he was nice. I met him at Kenmore Mercy when he was getting off shift and I was coming on. I told him I thought I was going to be his new partner. He looked at me like he was as excited about that as getting a root canal. Maybe he was having a bad day too…
Mike was actually a hoot of a partner. There are two Mikes I worked with, He is the OG. We had more fun than should be allowed by law. I know more one liners, more fart jokes, and more silly songs because of him. He was present for a lot of my firsts as an EMT. My first childbirth. My first pediatric traumatic cardiac arrest. My first, and only, ambulance wreck. Not necessarily in that order. First heart attack, bad respiratory, overdose. He was shit magnet. He still is.
Our first traumatic cardiac arrest together was a pediatric cardiac arrest. His name was Cody. He was hit by a car. I’ll never forget his face. We arrived, the Fire Department already had him packaged, so we picked him up, put him in the truck, and took off for the hospital. Mike did everything en route. IVs, intubation, drugs. Nothing worked. I remember pushing blood into him at the hospital. I remember when the doctor called time of death. I remember looking my supervisors in the eye, and saying, “I can’t talk to you right now.” Because I didn’t want to cry in front of them. I walked out to the truck, and found that one of my coworkers had cleaned it. I restocked and put the stretcher away, and collapsed onto the sidewalk.
Mike sat down beside me. We sat with our head together for a long time. We didn’t cry, but just sat there, trying to make sense of why a seven year old died like that. But there are no answers to those questions. A supervisor sat with us. I’ll never forget what he told us that day. “Calls like these, are like a feather in your cap. You’ll always keep them with you. But you’ll move forward.” Thank you for that wisdom, Steve. We continued working that day. And the next. But I never forgot.
Mike and I *almost* delivered a healthy baby girl. Mom had several other children, and called after her water broke, we rushed her to the hospital, as she was not yet ready to deliver at home, and once we were in the elevator to labor and delivery, she made the announcement, “It’s coming!!” Y’all, when Mom says it’s coming, it’s coming. Sure enough, I do a quick check, and there’s head starting to emerge. We roll quickly and safely into L&D, and inform them Mom is ready to deliver, and she is quickly moved to a bed. They push Mike out of the room, and shove me and the stretcher out of the way, and into a corner, nowhere near an exit. So I get to unwittingly get to witness this miracle of life. Childbirth is messy. Babies look like little old people covered in white grease. Welcome to the world, Baby Lily. She’s probably a teenager now…
Mike and I took a routine transport from a skilled nursing facility to the hospital. Sun was shining, birds were singing. Lovely day. He was in thre back with the patient, and I was driving. We stopped at a light, and were a few cars back from the signal, waiting for the light to change.
“Hey!!” Mike yells from the back. “That lady hit us!” I put on my four ways, notify dispatch, and sigh. “Thank you, Captain Obvious. Are you hurt?” I ask. “No.” He replies. “Is the patient ok?” I ask. “She hasn’t said anything.” He replies. The patient was non verbal in a vegetative state. She was strapped in like a kid in a carseat. She was evaluated at the hospital for injuries, and was ultimately unharmed. I step out of the truck, and walk to the car behind us that has squarely struck us from behind. An elderly lady is sitting in it, looking perplexed. “Ma’am are you ok?” I ask. She looks at me like I have a third eye. “I don’t know what happened. I didn’t see you.” She replied. “Ma’am are you injured?” I ask. “No, I’m not hurt. But I don’t know where you came from. I never saw you.” She stated flatly. It was my turn to stare at her. “Ma’am, I don’t know how you could miss a big green and white ambulance, but here we are.” Police show up a few minutes later, and ask us to pull into a parking lot and get out of the roadway. Shortly after, my supervisor arrived.
“What the hell happened” He asked, his tone indicating I was at fault. My back is sore, my head hurts, and I’ve answered this question no less than six times at this point. “Well, you see it was like this.” I started. “I was sitting at the light, and I got bored, so I threw it in reverse, and backed into her.” Mike was handing patient care over to another unit, as was standard policy, and overheard my statement and started chuckling, as did the crew. I garnered an eyeroll from my supervisor and a heavy sigh. “So she backed into you?” He said. “Yes.” I replied, and walked away. We finished the police report and Mike had to drive us back to the station until it was determined whether or not I had to go downtown to be drug tested, as was policy back then. He started cracking jokes until I was laughing so hard I was crying. We filled out incident reports, and it was determined I was not at fault, the bumper was not damaged enough to take the truck out of service, so we just went back to work.
Mike and I worked together for the better part of three years. He watched me grow as an EMT. He taught me to be a better one. We became good friends. He preceptored me through Paramedic school. His new partner drove in such a way that I could legitimately sleep on the bench seat while he drove lights and sirens to a call. Mike would wake me up when we got there and let me know what we had. I dozed off on his shoulder standing in the hallway at Buffalo General waiting for a bed with a patient. Medic school was not for the faint of heart. I’m told it still isn’t. I moved to the Carolinas in 2015 and took a paramedic gig there. He followed suit in 2016. We live counties apart and hardly see each other. The last time we saw each other we went shooting. I shot up his target from my lane next to his. But if he needed me, I’d be there in a second. And I’d guarantee he’d do the same. He’s my OG.
I decided to go back to work. So I laced up my Doc Martens, which were my favoritest EMS boots ever, by the way, and off I went to OLV. If you know, you know. It took me about twenty minutes to find our “quarters” in the basement, which was a room, with a TV, timeclock, and two recliners. The first glimpse I got of my partner for the day was legs and boots. Really long legs. I went into quarters to clock in, which was pitch dark, heard a deep voice say “Hold on a second.” before I flipped the lights on, punched in, looked over my shoulders to see legs and boots peeking out from a dark blue premier provider jacket, which indicated they were a senior employee. Newbies like me had a light blue jacket that looked like it had been washed one too many times with a sack of rocks.
I left a breadcrumb trail from quarters to the garage, checked off the truck, and returned, to hear my partner snoring soundly to “Dances With Wolves” on the TV. I watched the majority of the movie before I took a brief snooze and we got a call. I finally got a look at my partner. He was tall, with wavy dark hair with a little white spot in it, and striking, slightly crazy eyes. We responded, got canceled, and returned to quarters. We ended up taking a few calls throughout the day, and there was nothing terribly exciting about them. He was funny as hell and easy going. Just, a little crazy eyed.
We wound up in Cheektowaga, at St Joe’s Hospital, parked outside their bay, covering. He was sitting in the passenger seat, working on his report on a clipboard. I was in the driver’s seat. This was before cell phones entertained the hell out of us, so we were just, ya know, sitting there. I was likely singing along to the radio. Until, I felt someone looking at me. I stole a glance at the passenger seat, and he looked away. Weird… I went back to singing. He’s looking at me again. I look his way. He looks away. What is wrong with this guy? I shrug my shoulders. Keep in mind, it’s my second day in EMS. I’m still sheltered. I wouldn’t have said shit if I had a mouthful of it. But this guy is seasoned. Salty, if you will. And he’s staring. At. Me. Now he’s not looking away. I ignore him. He leans closer, and closer. And screams at the tops of his lungs.
I hit the driver’s door so hard I broke two nails and split my knuckle. I skipped the running board completely and went sprawling over the sidewalk and into a snowbank. He full on horse starts laughing. I turn around and look at him wide eyed. He stops dead. “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?” I ask. “YESSS!!!” He exclaims. “I got you to say your first swear word!!” “That doesn’t explain what the hell that was!?!” I reply. “Primal scream therapy. You should try it.” He explained. I lit a cigarette shaking like a leaf and shook my head at him for about ten minutes. He giggled like a school girl.
Every year, on my birthday, he recommends primal scream therapy. He preceptored me through Intermediate class. We worked together many many times over the years and have many great memories. He’s a nurse now. I would be so relieved to see his face over me in a emergency. He is an amazing human that taught me many things about not only being a good medic, but not taking yourself too seriously. I love you, friend.
So I got drop kicked out into the real world, and sent to DeGraff to work on a Paramedic truck. Y’all, I barely knew where Amherst was, I sure as hell didn’t know where Tonwanda was… BUT, my scheduler assured me my partner was cool and would help me out. Oh ok, I hope so, because I don’t know where I am. It started out well enough. Dude bought me coffee at the local coffee shop. He smoked a lot. I smoked a lot.
Then we got our first call. He drove to it. Pay attention Mel. Turn right, turn left, ok, down this street, that street, ok. We worked a little awkwardly on scene. I lifted fine, loaded the patient no sweat. Now it’s time to go back to the hospital. Radio transmission, check. Drive to the hospital. One correct turn, another correct turn, turned the wrong way, the back of the truck bellows at me. “YOU TURNED THE WRONG WAY!!” I cower and whimper. “GO DOWN ANOTHER BLOCK, TURN RIGHT, TURN LEFT, THEN TURN AT THE NEXT LIGHT AND THE HOSPITAL WILL BE ON YOU RIGHT!!!” I whimper again. We make it there without any further errors. I park and go to the back doors, pulling my gloves on, and open the back doors. A voice booms. “CLOSE THE DOORS!! I’LL OPEN THEM WHEN I’M READY TO COME OUT!!” I grow a set, stand back, glare at him and shut the doors abruptly.
Thirty seconds later he bursts out the back door, scowls at me, we unload the patient and go inside. We hand off the patient with no issue and I take the stretcher and remake it. He says nothing. I say nothing. We return to service. Maybe Dude’s having a bad day. He smokes. I smoke. We go have lunch. We take another call. He navigates me and we get there in one piece. I say thank you. He grunts. Call goes uneventfully and I handle patient care this time. He drives. He hits every blessed pothole in Erie County on the way back to DeGraff. Hand over patient. We get an emergency transport later in the day to the city. He throws a fit, then grills me on how to get there. I go through the route in my head and KNOW it, but he keeps confusing me with east and west on the 290. He starts yelling and I’ve got all I can do not to cry. We go get the patient and off we go, all wee-woo wee-woo, blinky-blinky flash-flash to the city with a critical patient.
Lo and behold Y’all. we make it the receiving hospital in one piece. He still bitched all the way back that I drove like his grandma. We got out 30 minutes late. I cried all the way home. I told my husband I wanted to quit and never go back. He told me to give it another day. I didn’t want to. I dialed 6 numbers twenty times to call Kent and quit. I didn’t want to go back ever again.
I never worked with that medic again. He scowled at me everytime he saw me for years. Then we crossed paths again when I was doing observation as a paramedic student in ambulance dispatch for the city of Buffalo. He had taken on a role as a dispatcher. He didn’t recognize me at first. But I knew him and I steered clear and killed him with kindness. It was about halfway through my observation that it dawned on him who I was. He apologized. He WAS having a bad day that day. He honestly didn’t think I would make it beyond a year, let alone become a paramedic. We talked for a long time that day.
He went on to become a nurse. But everytime I saw him after that day, he greeted me with a hug and kiss and invited me to tell EVERYONE about my first day of work. We still keep in loose contact via social media. We are both avid dog lovers. He holds a special place in my heart for helping me develop the thick skin I needed to survive twenty years in this profession. Thanks for that, Bill. I’m glad you had a bad day that day.
I worked an EMS / Security gig at an industrial plant for a while, and met a few great people while I was there. Some of which I’m still friends with. One of which, I married. The big thing about security, is you’re not supposed to develop relationships with the employees you’re providing security for. At the time, I was friends with my husband. They were not fans. So I began looking for another gig. I decided upon the premier provider of health and safety solutions. If you know, you know. They’ve changed names since I moved on, but I’m still going to do a Will Smith and keep em out of my mouth, so to speak.
I took my written test at an office on Delaware Avenue in the city of Buffalo, at a break room table after a night shift at the plant. I was so tired I kept falling asleep answering the questions. There were lines on the paper where I had dozed off. My interview was nerve wracking. I knew NOTHING about how to actually BE an EMT. A very kind, patient, but formidable man named Kent offered me a job, and promised me I’d learn.
Oh, I learned all right.
I learned how to lift a stretcher from the ground into the back of a truck. I learned how to write paper call reports. I learned how to talk to patients. I can’t hold a casual conversation with normal people to save my ass, by the way. I learned how to drive an ambulance. Then, I was sent to my Field Training Officer. In Amherst. I didn’t even know where that was. I’m from the Southtowns, and sheltered. Going to the “the city” was a big deal for me. And there was no such thing as Google maps. we had a map book. I did not take to that very quickly. Once I got it though, I got it.
It was about mid February when I slid, literally, into Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital crew quarters for the first time, looking for a tall skinny fellow by the name of Jim. I didn’t find him right away. I found another guy dressed like me, that was about ten feet tall, five feet wide, with shoulder length brown hair, a handlebar mustache who looked perpetually angry, and gruffly introduced himself as Rick. He scared the life outta me. He informed me that Jim was his FTO as well. I considered quitting right then and there, and was concerned I might die before the day was over. He grunted “follow me” and we went off to either my death or the truck, I wasn’t 100% sure.
I met Jim shortly after. Dude could wheel an ambulance half asleep. He had a chill way about him I envied, then copied. I recall later in the day working a cardiac arrest. Of course, I had no idea it was a cardiac arrest right away, until I saw Rick doing chest compressions, his hair flying wildly over his shoulders and him barking orders at me that I didn’t understand at the time. Jim calmly had me take over chest compressions, and I experienced that for the first time in my career. On my first day of training, no less. Later in the call, we were riding to the hospital, with a volunteer agency, and I was carefully ventilating the patient. The crew member with us was standing beside Jim, giving the report to the hospital over the radio, as the person driving braked sharply for a light. The crew member began to fly forward, and with hardly a look up from his medication administration, Jim grabbed him by the belt, and sat him down. He paused long enough to smile and wink in my direction.
I knew immediately that was the kind of medic I wanted to be. If, of course, I ever became one. If, I survived today.
We had another cardiac arrest that day. I started chest compressions that time. I cracked my first set of ribs. Ick. I went home exhausted, and questioned everything I’d ever learned. Did I really know any of it? Was I really cut out for this? Was I fooling myself? But I came back the next day. And the day after that. And the one after that.cThere were many firsts in my days with Jim and Rick. The first time I drove with the lights and sirens, I caused a minor wreck. The first time I used the radio, I called out the wrong number. I first time I read the map myself, I took us around our asshole to get to our elbow to the call. But it got better. Sort of. I still call the wrong number on the radio from time to time. I still don’t always take the most direct route sometimes. Bsck then, we didn’t have cameras in the truck, so there was a lot more latitude on what we could get away with. More on that later…
So, where are we now? Well, the ten foot tall guy, he was one of my favorite partners, my first “work husband,” best friend, and champion throughout my entire career in EMS. Sadly, he’s now an angel. Jim? He’s a supervisor that’s seen me through some tough calls at the premier provider. And I’d like to think that we worked so well together because he knew where I started and what I grew to become. And I’m so proud to have known both of them.
In Remembrance Of Richard R Nelson. I love and miss you, Bear Bear.
We lived on a section of road in the once small town of Hamburg, NY that was known for car wrecks. It was a two lane curve that went along the golf course, by some really big fancy houses, which ours was not one of, that came down a nice hill out of the village, and by a huge pond across the street from our house. The hill, curve and relatively decent road was conducive to people exceeding the speed limit, and rolling over, and otherwise crashing in the vicinity of our front yard.
I can remember from at least age ten calling 911 at least annually to report a wreck in front of our house that involved fire, EMS and police response. Then going out into the roadway to tend to the victims until the appropriate first responders arrived on scene.
I was about 13 when a friend of my father’s rolled his one-ton pickup over out front and I rushed to the phone once again, with a little more urgency this time, as it was Daddy’s friend in there and he was hurt badly. There was another car involved too, and she didn’t look so hot either. I was little, so Daddy had me shimmy in the busted truck to check on his friend. He was awake, so we just talked while we waited for the Fire Department to arrive. Boy, were they mad when they found me up in there… I didn’t know then what I know now.
I got my ass chapped pretty good by the fireman, and so did Daddy. Daddy pretty much told em to go pound sand, but I got relegated to the role of bystander after that. They cut both people out the cars, and alnded two helicopters in my yard. Yes, I had a big yard. It took hours for the wreck to get cleared and the road to get reopened, but it didn’t take long to get the victims out, in the birds and on their way to the local trauma center. Both of them survived.
That day planted a seed in my mind. All the lights, sirens, helicopters, tools, noise, and chaos was taken in by an impressionable teenager. That teenager took a first aid course in 11th grade, and an EMT class in 12th grade, and took her EMT test in January of 1997.
Boom. NYS EMT #223004 was hatched. I still hold my NY cert because NY keeps recertifying me despite the fact I moved away seven years ago. I got my NY AEMT-I and started stabbing people for fun in 1999. I became Paramedic Levitsky in 2002, shortly before I married a man 32 years my senior. I met that guy working EMS and security at an industrial plant. He’s pretty cool. He got me a horse a few dogs, a house and a big ass truck. More on him to come, I promise.
Funny story. I’m STILL married to that poor guy. It’ll be 20 years this August. I hold Paramedic certifications in 2 states, technically 3, and a National Registry Certificate. And a whole bunch of Technical Rescue shit. Aside from the marriage, all of that stuff and a $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee at the Quiktrip.
But seriously, who knew that the wreck that happened all those years ago would have such a profound impact on my life, that to this day, I can recall in almost perfect detail every part of it. Shit, I can’t remember whay I did yesterday. I can see faces, feel the wind from rotor wash, the crunch of the debris under my feet, the reflection of the lights, and the sounds of the all the apparatus lining the roadway surrounding the incident.
That wreck, that destruction, created a new provider.
So, I’m gonna do this. I’m starting this blog about my life as a paramedic and horse owner, and the trials and tribulations that go along with it. I’m going to try to go in some sort of order, but there may be some EMS related stuff, and some horse related stuff, and maybe both! Who the hell knows…
There will be cuss words too. I cuss A LOT. It’s a gift.
Oh, and the sarcasm will be rampant.
It might make you laugh. Or cry. Or both. Or not. My mom always said I should write a book about my experiences in EMS and horses, as I have a way with words. My friends and family may beg to differ on the “way with words” thing, but, I’m going to give it a whirl.
This is for you, Momma.
Next actual first blog to follow soon. Stay tuned.
Welcome to my page!! Blogs to follow!!