I occasionally find myself traveling in remote locations, so I recently took an Emergency Medical Technician course at my local community college in order to gain some semblance of a clue as to how to respond to a medical emergency.
The practical portion of the course called for working a number of shifts in both the back of an ambulance and in the emergency room, and the level of costly self-destruction that I saw was appalling.
Contrary to the denizens of the ER on popular TV shows, none of my patients threatened to infect the hospital staff with some nasty new bug previously unknown to science, and very few had sustained any serious trauma, much less something truly interesting (such as the patient who stumbles into the ER with a hatchet embedded in his skull).
Instead, we regularly confronted the inevitable result of years of self-destructive behavior.
Twice I was called to the home of a 300+ pound behemoth who had fallen off the toilet and couldn’t get up (the spouse called 911). Neither of these patients consented to be taken to the hospital, so our “treatment” consisted of lifting them up, helping them dress and moving them back to their living room recliners – while maintaining what microscopic shred of dignity was possible in such circumstances.
To no one’s surprise, these patients were diabetic, as were the vast majority of other people who found their way into the ambulance or the ER.
Diabetes, however, was rarely the patient’s only problem. When summoned to a residence, EMS crews always ask what medications the patient is taking, and more often than not, a family member would return with a Walmart bag stuffed with prescription containers.
Try not to think of who is paying for these medications (Hint: it isn’t the patient).
As others have pointed out, none of this is remotely sustainable. It is a shame that most of my younger classmates (eager consumers of popular brands of sugar-water) didn’t seem to be paying attention.