Posted by: medicblog999 | December 4, 2009

So, what was it really like in San Fran?? (Part 1)

CoEMS

It’s been more than a week now since I said goodbye to Justin at his hotel. Things have been getting back to normal over here and the routine of work and home life has quickly jumped back into place.

The whole experience still seems a little unreal to me at the moment. Many people have come up to me at work and have asked what it was like over there and how Justin found it over here, but the truth is, I find it really hard to explain. How can I portray what 21 days of sharing practices, our lives and our homes was like in a quick conversation?

It just can’t be done…..which brings me to my next challenge.

How can I share everything that I have learned and the experiences that I had with all of you?

I was going to go down the route of picking specific jobs and discussing them, or sharing the meeting I had with Chief Hayes-White, Chief Howe and Chief Wong, but then that would miss so much more of what it was really like. I know that Justins posts over at ‘The Happy Medic’ will be much more structured into sections that he wishes to discuss, but that isn’t the way I write, as you will know if you have been reading my blog for a while.

I mean, what about how I felt when I walked back to the hotel from work after being told by Justin and his workmates that I should just hunch my shoulders, keep my head down and pretend I knew where I was going!! (Hey, I didn’t know what the good or bad bits were of the city when I booked my hotel!!)

So, I have decided to go down the day by day route and share my thoughts on things as they happened. I hope this is the sort of thing that want to hear, if not, just post a comment and tell me how you would rather I share my story. I will cover all of the comparison bits when they crop up as I go through my week, so you will get the juicy bits in chronological order!

As much as anything, I want to write a comprehensive record of the trip for me to look back on over the years. So, don’t worry, you will get ALL of my thoughts eventually, but hopefully this will satisfy all needs, including those of you who want the ‘whole’ story and those who just want the clinical and organizational comparisons.

Between Justin’s Blog and my own, you should be sorted!

Well, here goes:

DAY 1

On the 8th November, I finally left on a once in a lifetime trip to go to work as part of the San Francisco Fire Department for 8 days. It had been planned over the last 9 months and now here I was about to get on the plane and actually get to experience all that San Francisco and the SFFD had to offer. I was both incredibly excited but also very nervous.

What if Justin and I didn’t get along?

Sure, we had emailed many times and spoken on Skype more than a few times, but that was all the ‘courting’ phase. After we had lived in each other’s pockets for a few days, what if he decided I was a bit of a jerk, or I thought he was the same?

I could just cross my fingers and hope for the friendship that had started by a fluke decision to pick ‘The Happy Medic’ out of all the blogs I read to send the email to asking if he would consider doing a trip together, to continue on in person.

IMGP1389compressed

Coming in to land

After a 14 hour trip I arrived in San Francisco International airport, not really knowing what to expect from Justin. I had seen one photograph of him, but I wasn’t sure if I would recognise him. I also had the pressure of knowing that we would be filmed throughout the San Francisco portion of the exchange for an EMS documentary called ‘The Chronicles of EMS’, and the camera crew was going to be waiting for me at the airport. Sandra, my beautiful, had insisted that I take a nice shirt in my hand luggage, so that I could get changed whilst my cases were coming through, so that I didn’t look a scruff for my arrival on camera. So of I dutifully went to get changed in the toilets. I took my shirt out and it amazingly wasn’t creased to hell! It was one of my better ones, one that I hadn’t worn for some time, but I knew it would look smart.

Off with the T-Shirt and on with the crisp clean shirt……..Bollocks!!!

TO SMALL!! When did I put all of that weight on??

Oh, well back to the T-Shirt and out into the arrivals.

As I walked through the international arrivals door, I immediately noticed Justin, given away by the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) Helmet that he was holding up in the air that has now become so well known within the Chronicles of EMS crowd:

This quickly became and will always be my most treasured physical item brought back from the trip. How many UK paramedics have a ‘genuine’ SFFD helmet’ and individual front plate?  I couldn’t keep that exact one as Justin needed it back as it was his own personal issue helmet, however, on my final day in San Francisco, the wonderful Dorothy at the SFFD Training centre managed to find me an old ‘antique’ SF Fire Marshalls helmet which now has pride of place in my living room. How cool is that!

My best present!

My best present!

I didn’t even get a chance to say hello to Ted as he was already filming and starting to “Change the World!!’ with his wonderful vision of moving our Project into the Chronicles of EMS.

After Justin and I had walked off into the distance, we risked a glance around to check that Ted had finished, then we turned round and got to say hello properly. It sound cliché but it really was like three old friends meeting up after a short time apart, not three strangers meeting properly for the first time. The excitement was palpable and we knew that we were about to embark on something special.

Once I walked around to the wrong side of Justin’s car (Doh!), I finally got in the right side and off we went into the City. It was less than 5 minutes before Justin and I started quizzing each other ab0ut the differences in our systems. As we headed towards the downtown area, I was firing questions at him left right and centre…

“Does your service reach the airport?”

“Which ambulance service covers this area?”

“How many hospitals do you serve?”

“What happens if you want to see a GP (primary care physician)?”

This last one was the one that sparked a good little conversation. Justin informed me that if they wanted to see their doctor for a routine appointment, they would have to wait approximately 3-4 weeks. Their home doctor was not even in the area that they live in and was not very accessible. I then told him about how it works for me…

“If I call my GP, whose surgery is about 1 mile from my home, before 8.30 in the morning, I will be seen that day and usually before 12pm. I have never not been able to get an appointment on the same day”

I think this took Justin by surprise, and the conversation that followed was quickly stopped in its tracks by Ted, who was sitting in the back seat.

“Hey Guys, let’s leave that sort of things for when the cameras are on!”

That was us told!!

The rest of the 20 minute trip to my hotel consisted of me smiling and looking out of the windows, saying over and over again…

“I can’t believe that I am actually here and we are actually doing this!”

We got to the hotel and it was a quick unpack whilst Ted and Justin twittered and updated face book and tried to gain a decent Wi-Fi signal (there’s a WHOLE other story!) A quick change and it was off into the city for a drink and to plan the week.

I can remember listening to Ted and just thinking ‘what a great guy, but a bit over the top!’

Now, hopefully Ted won’t take offence at that, but the amount of times on the first night that he said:

“Hey man, we are going to change the world”, or ‘This is going to be huge”, or he told us of some other plans he has for the filming , I just kept thinking that it would be great if this happened, but how likely is that?

Little did I know the power of Ted and the soon to be growing Chronicles of EMS Team!!

We got to Gordon Birsch Brewery just after dark. If you don’t know it or didn’t see it on the live Tweet up, it’s situated just below the Bay Bridge and just opposite the home of the SFFD Fire Boat. It was a beautiful evening, the bridge was lit up, I was with two of my new friends and life was really great. Now came my big test though…

“What do you want to drink Mark?”

Why is it that I can’t just order a pint of lager in San Francisco? Do you want a pale, or a red, or this, or that????

I don’t know, I just want a lager!!

The choice was made for me, we sat down to the first of quite a few beautiful burgers and even nicer Garlic fries!!

The conversation continued on with the plans for the week.

I was going to meet the other camera man, Chris, the following day when we get to the Headquarters building of the SFFD for our meeting with the Chief of Department and Chief of EMS and it quickly became apparent that virtually the whole time I was going to be there was to be planned out and organised like a slick military machine. Ted had his priorities of what he wanted to catch on film and Justin had his plans for what he wanted me to see and experience. I on the other hand, was just happy to go along for the ride and soak it all in.

This was going to be a once in a lifetime journey for me, and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

After a couple of hours in the bar and a couple of pints (I was really starting to feel the jet lag then), Justin and I said our goodbyes to Ted and headed back to Justin’s car so that he could give me a lift back to the hotel so that I could get some rest before ‘The Project’ started in earnest the next day.

However, my mind had other ideas for the night!

If you have read my blog for a while you will know that I have had problems with OCD some time back, well it decided to rear its ugly little head again for one night only!!

I suddenly felt very isolated from my family. Why was I all the way across the Atlantic? I didn’t have to be here, this was all my own doing? What if something happened to my family when I was over here and I couldn’t get back in time? What if something happened to me and I didn’t get to see them again? I am a simple paramedic from the UK, what the Hell am I doing in America??

I spoke to Sandra on the phone for a few minutes (very expensive!!) and she tried to put everything into perspective for me, which helped, but in the end I didn’t get to sleep until about 4am.

Maybe the jet lag had something to do with it, but it wasn’t the start to trip that I had hoped for!

BUT…I quickly got myself sorted out. How many people around the world would love to have an experience like this one? I am doing myself, my family and my readers and followers no good, by being stressed about things. I decided there and then that I was going to embrace this trip with everything that I have. I was going to be a SFFD Paramedic for a week and I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way, most of all my own hang ups!!

This was going to be a truly AWESOME trip!

Coming in the next post –

Day 2 – The Meeting with The Chiefs and my thoughts and impressions of the hierarchy of the SFFD

My First trip to an Engine Company and meeting some of the Fire Fighters

A meeting with the Major??

Justins walking tour of the City.

Thoughts and preparations for my first Ambulance shift.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. I'm weird, I know, but I noticed immediately (before reading it) that you now have a leather fireman's helmet. That is a treasure, fore sure. I think I will very much enjoy your way of telling the tales of The Project.

  2. I KNOW!!! You should have seen Justins face when Dorothy brought it out!I'm a very lucky chap! And I really do treasure it (a bit geeky I know, but there it is)

  3. Mark, Keep posting just as you have. The beauty of the relationship between you and Justin is that you ARE different, we get a point of view from Justin that we might not get from you and the same is true in reverse. There is something special about this whole deal, so go with your instincets, you are doing a fantastic job.

  4. Geeky? Not at all. I own three leathers. Two for using, and one just to look at.

  5. I have just read Justin's and yours first post about the project since your break and am so looking forward to the rest. I thoroughly enjoyed following the Project as it was going on and admit to a bit of withdrawal over the past week! This is a wonderful journey on which you are taking us, not only EMS professionals, but also the general public such as myself.

  6. I have just read Justin's and yours first post about the project since your break and am so looking forward to the rest. I thoroughly enjoyed following the Project as it was going on and admit to a bit of withdrawal over the past week! This is a wonderful journey on which you are taking us, not only EMS professionals, but also the general public such as myself.

  7. I didn't manage to read all of the posts whilst you guys were doing your thing in each others countries, but I am looking forward to reading the two accounts of your trips, especially as they are written in a very different way!

  8. Mark, this is the stuff I was really waiting to read. The full “nuts and bolts” of your visit. What you thought, how you felt… this is great stuff! I be waiting for each installment of this blog series.

  9. Mark, this is the stuff I was really waiting to read. The full “nuts and bolts” of your visit. What you thought, how you felt… this is great stuff! I be waiting for each installment of this blog series.

  10. Mark, this is the stuff I was really waiting to read. The full “nuts and bolts” of your visit. What you thought, how you felt… this is great stuff! I be waiting for each installment of this blog series.

  11. Mark, this is the stuff I was really waiting to read. The full “nuts and bolts” of your visit. What you thought, how you felt… this is great stuff! I be waiting for each installment of this blog series.

  12. […] was it really like to meet the San Francisco fire chief? Find out in a two-part tale. (999 […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: