Scott McConnell, RN, BSN, CEN, NRP, EMS-I, shares a memorable experience he had in the field during his long career in EMS.

A story from in the field

Early on his career, Scott answered a call in Philadelphia. When he arrived in the field, a young woman told him she and her mother, who was visiting from out of town, had had an argument three weeks prior. Since that time, the mother had hauled up in her room, and refused to leave the bed. Even as a young EMT, Scott knew before he headed in the door this was a case where the patient would need both physical and psychological care.

The scene that awaited Scott and his partner in the house was unpleasant to say the least. For the past two weeks, the patient had not performed any activities of daily living (ADLs). That included going to the restroom. So, as Scott and his partner entered her room, they encountered a stench so strong both of them immediately vomited. Both of them were wearing N95 masks and the other proper PPE for the situation. Scott reacted fast enough, and got his mask off before vomiting; his partner, not so much. It’s been almost 30 years, and Scott has yet to encounter a stench so strong in the field again.

With that out of the way, they proceeded to care for the patient. Taking her out of the bed, the placed her on a stretcher. As they removed her from the position in which she had laid for two weeks now, they heard a sound, almost like suction, from the skin leaving the sheets and biological material underneath. Once they had removed the woman from the bed, Scott and his partner could see she had left a body shaped imprint, filled with fecal matter, roaches, and maggots. We told you this ‘in the field’ story was a gross one up top, remember?

Getting the patient the care they needed

When they arrived at the hospital, the ER refused to admit the patient until Scott and his partner had decontaminated her. Fortunately enough, once she was clean, the woman’s only real physical issue was dehydration. Unfortunately, it was clear she need much more psychological help.

When you’re in the field as an EMT, EMS, or paramedic, you will, at some point, go into call where the patient is suffering both physical and psychological distress. Knowing how to work this patients is exceedingly important.

To learn more about dealing with psychological and behavioral emergencies in the field, check out our Live Individual ALS L-11 and Live Individual BLS-L8 courses!