When I Was an EMT, We Never Got in Any Trouble if a Patient Died, But if You Scratched the Side of the Ambulance They Would Fire You

Ron Riekki

When my wife asks me how my day went,
                                                           I just give her a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
She knows not to go any farther than that.
                                                           I have a bumper sticker that says,
“This is going to be a stressful career.”
                                                           I learned that we shouldn’t reach into pockets.
Instead we cut them off with shears.
                                                           I think there are two thousand drug addicts
in the region where I work.
                                                           I always forget to wash my hands for two minutes;
you’re supposed to sing.
                                                           It’s recommended that we go through
“Happy Birthday” twice.
                                                           It’s the same with CPR; we’re supposed to sing
“Another One Bites the Dust”
                                                           in our heads—it’s the perfect rhythm.
When we clean the ambulance
                                                           I’ve been told we’re supposed to wear a gown
and mask and gloves and
                                                           I know that no one does. Who has time?
95% of the people in this job—
                                                           I heard—don’t wash their hands correctly.
Shaking hands with an EMT
                                                           is like shaking hands with Death.
A kid was hanging from a tree.
                                                           I talked to the parents and he’d just got a D
on his report card. It’s
                                                           insane, this world.
If a patient says,
                                                           “I don’t want you to touch me,”
we’re not allowed to touch them.
                                                           “If a body’s over here and a head’s over there,
don’t do CPR”—my EMT
                                                           instructor used to say that all the time.
He also thinks it’s funny that
                                                           Illinois begins with “ill.” He calls it a sick state,
where every 3 minutes a person
                                                           is shot. He said after awhile you stop thinking
about other people. All you think is
                                                           I-I-I. Me-me-me. “That’s when you should retire.”




Nonfiction
Poetry

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When I Was an EMT, We Never Got in Any Trouble if a Patient Died, But if You Scratched the Side of the Ambulance They Would Fire You
Ron Riekki

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Fiction