December 31, 2009:
Today’s the day I’ve been looking forward to for two weeks! Not only will the Second Quarter Practical Exam be over, but a very long and strenuous week will be over as well. I am looking forward to the weekend and “sleeping in” (my kids laugh at this – sleeping in for me means getting up at 0600 instead of 0300 or 0400!). But, not to get ahead of myself, the day would be challenging, and there would be time planning out the weekend AFTER the exam was over!
The morning was devoted to practical skills, and we broke into three groups of seven recruits each. One group worked practiced placing 12-lead EKG leads on a patient (a common skill in Saint Paul’s system, where firefighter/EMTs go on all medical emergency calls). A second group practiced with the hydraulic stretchers and the chair stretchers used on our medic rigs. The third group ran the Second Quarter Practical Exam for final grading. Radio communication between the groups and the instructors kept us rotating on time to a new skill station every hour or so.
The 12-lead EKG and the stretcher stations went off without too much difficulty. Each of the groups was led by one of our classes paramedics (our recruit class has three certified paramedics). The leader of my group was Brian M________, the tall, lanky axe man of Flat Chop notoriety. He’s a good medic teacher as well! He easily led us through the stretchers and the subtle nuances of dealing compassionately with both medical patients and their family members.
An then, all too soon, it was time for the Second Quarter Practical Exam. I wasn’t really too worried about the exam, but I mentally reviewed each step of the process as I waited to begin, because missing any of the critical criteria meant an automatic failure. Then – just as I was “next up” for the exam, we had to break for lunch! So, for the second day in a row, I’d hurriedly down a hasty lunch and run the exam on a full stomach. I ate lightly....
Following lunch, I took up a position in front of the drill tower door, anxious to finish the exam – anxious to BE DONE. I mentally reviewed the steps of each station again in my mind. One of the best pieces of advice we’d been given for these exams was to focus on doing one step at a time – do it, do it quickly and proficiently, and move quickly to the next station. Don’t get flustered, and don’t get ahead of yourself by worrying about 2 to 3 steps in advance – focus on the task at hand and do it quickly and well....
I started the rotary saw....it ran smoothly and without hesitation in the frosty air (about 10 degrees outside!). The saw bit briskly into the rebar rod that was securing the drill tower door. The stopwatch started timing the second the sparks started to fly from the rebar......Seven minutes and counting!!
The rebar was quickly cut.....I shut off the saw and walked briskly to the engine to pull the fan and electrical cord towards the drill tower door.....fan on and positioned – now, move to the hoseline and ready it for hoisting!! I quickly tie the clove hitch and safety knot around the hose, and loop the rope through the nozzle’s bail, holding up the finished product for Mr. Deno to approve by a tacit, “GO!” I drop the hose and rope, remove my helmet and gloves, and don my facepiece, pull up my Nomex hood, and replace both helmet and gloves. I go on air, and step to the door of the drill tower. I am doing well, and feeling good, so as I hoist the hose bundle to my right shoulder (so I have my left hand free to hold onto the stair railing), I shout out a cocky challenge: “Try to keep up with me, Mr. Deno!!” Of course, he keeps up all too easily!