Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fighting a Fire with Fear

The A to Z Challenge takes us on a journey through the month of April. We write Monday through Saturday and take Sunday off. Hence, 26 days and 26 letters of the alphabet. Come in and see what snippet I'm sharing with you today.



                    FIRE

Every year, at the hospital, all employees had to complete a safety in-service. We had to put a fire out on a patient! We used manikins and actually fought a 'real' fire. We had to learn to use the fire extinguishers. They set the in-service up in the parking lot. They built fires. They handed us the extinguisher and we put the fire out. It wasn't like watching a film. We put out the fires. And spent the rest of the night at work smelling like smoke. Everyone hated it. Everyone complained. But a night came when everyone was glad we had practiced putting out fires. And evacuating areas both laterally and horizontally! I will never forget that night.

I hadn't been at work very long. A lot of the evening shift people had left. But there were still some on the floor, finishing up their charting. Just a normal beginning of a shift. I was on the phone with my teen son, who was checking in that he had just gotten home. The fire alarms were sounding. Not unusual. They often tested them. Sometimes they malfunctioned. The fire doors had closed. I received a call from the nursing supervisor on another line. I put Justin on 'hold' and took her call. She yelled, frantically, into the phone, "I need you on 5300. We are evacuating. Fire". I could hear the panic in her voice.

So I ran. We were on the 5200 area. Just a few steps away. I burst through the fire doors and turned the corner to 5300. I stopped at their closed fire doors. The area was filled with a dark black smoke. My first thoughts were, "they really want me to come in there?" Without a second thought, my training took over. I pushed through the doors and got down low. I was looking for the bright orange stickers that were telling me which rooms needed evacuated yet. I began to open doors. Soon the firemen arrived. There were huge fire hoses everywhere. I was told what rooms to avoid. Room 5306 was where the fire was located. All other rooms were to be cleared. A total of 22 patients to be removed. 

I went into each room and found a washcloth and dampened it with water. This was to cover the mouth and nose of the patient being taken out through the smoke. After everything was over many of us realized that we should have covered our own mouths and noses. We had dark black soot  inside our nostrils.


Those who were able to walk were taken out first. We lined them up in the areas away from the fire. Then came those who were not able to walk. They had to come in their beds. Or we had to carry them. I was thankful all of those firemen were there to help us lift those heavy beds over the fire hoses.

Patients were being lined up in corridors away from the fire area. They were supposed to be accompanied by their medical record. This didn't always happen. One patient stopped me and pointed to another patient who was profusely sweating and was confused. Thank goodness she was able to tell me "diabetic". Orange juice was found and another patient stayed with her. 

Eventually, the entire area was clear of all patients. The lady in room 5306 was taken to ICU where she later died of her smoke inhalation injuries. She had been smoking, in bed, with her oxygen on! Very sad. Many people's lives were endangered. Patients were saddened and many were angry. But 22 lives were saved that night!

A couple of days later we gathered to critique our rescue efforts. Those orange dots did NOT work. People were still in rooms where the dot was placed. This was supposed to indicate the room was empty. New systems were devised. It was strongly impressed on staff how important to get the medical record to accompany each patient. The staff was debriefed and allowed to vent.

Lessons were learned. And fire was fought with fear!! Have you ever had to help with a fire evacuation? Or another kind of rescue effort?


43 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh! What a scary experience! Now really, that lady smoking in bed with oxygen on. So sad, but the jeopardy she put so many people into. Isn't it interesting that you immediately knew what to do with your training after those first initial thoughts; well trained and good listener!

    No thankfully haven't been in such a situation (and pray I never am!)

    betty

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    1. I pray that you never are either, Betty. Yep, it was just like with CPR. The training kicks in and takes over. Thank goodness!

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  2. Patients can sometimes do the most idiotic things. Oh, Paula, that was an harrowing tale and a good outcome thanks to proper training and bravery.

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    1. I don't know about the bravery part! Just did my job! Thank you Zippi

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  3. What an awful experience. I guess it doesn't happen as much now with all the smoking bans. I've had training on fire fighting and evacuation procedures from when I worked in a school but never had to put them into real life action although we did have regular drills. I did set my chip pan alight once though. No harm done but the chip pan ended up in the rubbish bin and I never got another one!

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    1. We had a smoking ban in the hospital at the time this happened! Just goes to show that not everyone follows the rules!!

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  4. What a terrifying thing to happen!

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  5. What a tale, Paula and well done on your bravery - going into that smoke filled corridor must have been terrifying. Although, we practised fire-drills with children at school we never actually had a real fire and the only time we had to evacute school completely was when there was a gas leak - we vacated to the nearby university and used one of their massive sports halls to house all the children for the next two hours until given the all clear - we spent a lot of time singing I seem to recall!! - Shucks maybe I could have used this story for my letter G???
    Loving your A to Z :)
    Pempi
    A Stormy’s Sidekick
    Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

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    1. It was terrifying. And took days after to calm down. Yes, what a great G-post your story would be!

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  6. Mine involved having to ride out my motor cycle with my daughter on the back and a blown rear tire. She was maybe ten years old. I yelled hang on, and every time the bike went over I pulled it back up until I could safely stop it. I still don't know how I did it, except I had my daughter on the back and didn't want her hurt. What a trouper, she hung tight as a tick. Fear and instinct were the motivators.

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    1. Oh my gosh, Joanne. I can't imagine!

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  7. You have a gift for telling a story. I felt I was right there. I have goosebumps! I've never supervised an evacuation, but have always been the "head count" chaperone, making sure everyone is with the group. Not the same, or close, at all.

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    1. Thank you so much, Red. That means a lot to me!

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  8. What a story! Good thing you had the training. I am certain there are families of the 22 rescued patients who are still very grateful. Sounds like a frightening situation, though.
    When my daughter was very young, we had a fire in the apartment building where we lived. It was on Christmas Day night. The fire started in the basement apartment with a cigarette in a couch. Everyone was gone from the building except me, my daughter and the smoker. I did have to carry my daughter out with a damp cloth over her face to protect her from the billowing smoke. As for other rescues . . . yes. I was a life guard and have rescued several swimmers of various ages who were in trouble. And once, I did the Heimlich maneuver on my daughter . . . on the I-35 in Iowa.

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    1. Oh my! I have only done the Heimlich once throughout my entire career. And it was on an old lady at the nursing home. An entire top half of a hamburger bun flew out of her throat!!

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  9. As a police officer I often was heard to say, God bless all firefighters. I know I would run into a burning building to save my children but I tremble to think what I would do if faced with the decision to go in to save others. I like to think I would......I don't know.

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  10. Interesting blog!
    And thank goodness you had had that class. I admire those who go into fire - and do what needs to be done....

    R

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  11. Wow! Your incident sounds truly frightening! Thank goodness you were all allowed to vent and ensure that corrective measures were put in place. Did the gravity of that situation sink in right away?

    We, too, have to undergo yearly emergency training and put out a real (little) fire ... but I suspect I'm speaking for the majority when I say none of us have no desire to actually use it.
    We have to be CPR certified as well, but thank God there have always been others who've responded to on-site emergencies. Deep down, I'm most afraid of doing something wrong.

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    1. No, it wasn't until the whole thing was over that I actually realized how serious the situation was. And then I had to go back to my own area and take care of my group of patients. It was a very stressful night.

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  12. This sounded like a good fiction but because it's a true story, it's even more interesting. Thanks for sharing this story.

    Thanks for dropping by! http://myatozworld.blogspot.com/

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  13. This sounds absolutely terrifying. I know someone who smoked while using oxygen. I was amazed he didn't explode in a sheet of fire.
    Finding Eliza

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    1. It was terrifying. I am so surprised, though, how our training too over

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  14. What a riveting story! You are a very good story teller, my friend. I haven't rescued anyone, but my husband went into a burning house and rescued two old men once. One of them died, the other survived. And it seems to me my husband smelled of smoke for a very long time.

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    1. Thank you Inger. That means a lot to me! That smell of smoke seems to seep into your pores!

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  15. Fire freaks me out. Think I shared the french fry story in an earlier post, but anyhow, you are my hero for handling that! I've lived through some pretty gnarly hurricanes in the south, while working as a nurse. Distinctly un-fun as a DON let me tell you. Kudos again.

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    1. Thank you Lisa! Being the DON and making all the decisions would be much harder. I was only a soldier doing what I was told!

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  16. OMG, that is soooo scary! I can't imagine being in the midst of all that terror! Fire is my biggest fear. You were very brave. That's sad about the woman dying but good grief, she really did a stupid thing! How did she still have access to her cigarettes? I guess she's the prime example of "Smoking Kills!" Sad.

    On another note: I've always marveled at how good looking fireman are. It's like there is a mandate that all fireman be handsome. Tell me: were all the guys in uniform good-looking? It's a theory I'm working on. :)

    Thanks for sharing your very scary story!

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. I didn't feel very brave at the time. It was very scary. I didn't notice the firemen that night to be honest. I just know they were really strong. And I am the mother of a cop so I think it is cops who are very good looking!! LOL

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  17. I've only been in fire drills. Not actual events. Scary.

    Did you remember to take your son off hold?

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    1. Nope, didn't take him off hold. He said he hung up after a bit because he surmised the clanging fire alarm was more than a malfunction. I called him back much, much later! He had gone to bed. He wasn't that worried!!

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  18. What a frightening situation! It's amazing (not to mention life-saving) how ingrained some of that training can become. I have not been involved in anything nearly this dramatic, with so many people in danger. I did once revive our family dog with mouth-to-snout resuscitation, but that pales in comparison obviously.

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    1. I don't think it pales at all. Thank you!!

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  19. What an awful thing to have to experience but good to hear that all those fire training sessions do help.

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  20. You did great! Yes a mask or something would have helped you not to inhale all the junk in the smoke...there are some real toxic chemicals in todays world and once they are on fire it is bad to breathe the fumes. We were both trained on the Local Volunteer Fire Dept and I was an EMT. Fires are never any fun....usually not much is saved:(

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