Posted by: medicblog999 | December 30, 2009

Realising my dreams! Final day on Engine 13


Here we are, my last shift with the SFFD.

Back on Engine 13 for another 12 hour shift. It was the same crew members that were working on my first visit to Engine 13 (for the most part anyway), so I didn’t feel as awkward as I did last time.

Justin started off with the usual routine of checking the engine, and doing some house duties, before settling down for some breakfast and a cuppa. The usual banter abounded around the table and Justin had a chat with the Firefighter who was in the Tiller Cab on the ladder truck to ask if it would be okay for me to jump in the training seat at some point during the day, so that I could have a ride out on the back of the Ladder truck.

He said that it would be fine and that if they get called out, just to come and find him, then I could get in!

Champion! Ever since I first set eyes on a Ladder truck, I wanted to have a ride on the back of one. I know it is probably a boy thing, but I just thought that it would be so cool to be able to say that I had done that. Agreed, it had nothing to do with critiquing each other’s system, or bringing about possible change. This one was all about me!

After breakfast, it turned out that I had another surprise in store for me. It hadn’t been organised due to me being there, it was just a fortunate piece of timing in my visit. Justin had arranged for me to work at Station 13, as it is joined with the Fire Boat. If the Fire Boat is sent out on a job, then the Fire Fighters from Station 13 would move over to the Fire Boat and man that.

Ever since we started talking about this trip, Justin had mentioned that I may get the opportunity to go out on the Fire Boat. How cool would that be! Out on the boat, in the Bay, maybe even going up to the Golden Gate Bridge. That would surely be the icing on the cake for my trip, on a personal level anyway.

However, once I arrived, it seemed that it wouldn’t be happening. Don’t get me wrong though, I had more than enough wonderful memories of this trip to last my lifetime, and even though it would be a little disappointing, it really wasn’t the be all and end all of it.

But……It turned out that the Fire Boat was doing a bit of a P.R thing that morning. It was taking some children out for a trip on the bay whilst it was going to do a depth check around the edge of Treasure Island. That meant that the Engine 13 crew had to go down and man the boat, and the Engine 13 crew on that day also consisted of……ME!!!!

IMGP1721We headed down to the station and said hello to the kids and their parents, then moved onto the boat and got into our jackets for the trip out. The plan was to go into the bay, then head over to Treasure Island and back, or so I thought anyway.

Justin and the rest of the crew were busy doing their duties on the boat as we moved away from the dock, so me and Chris (the Dridge) moved onto the bow of the boat to take in some of the view.

It was a beautiful clear day. The bay was still, and the temperature was just nice.

As we started to move off, I suddenly had a thought….What if I was going to get sea sick? I hadn’t been on a boat like this before, and so didn’t know how I would fare with the motion. Oh well, too late now and anyway, there was no way in the world that I was going to miss this trip.

We headed away from the station and moved up the bay along by the piers, and then out into the centre of the bay. By this time Justin had joined us at the front of the boat and we spent some quiet time just looking out over the bay and back at the city. I looked over at Justin

“and you get paid to do this mate??”

“I know, it’s a hard life, but someone has to do it!”



The boat kept moving along towards the Golden Gate Bridge, and I started to get a little bit excited thinking that I might actually get under it.

“Are we going to go all of the way to the Bridge?”

“I don’t know, I don’t think so”

We kept on moving onwards, with the bridge getting closer and closer, until it was obvious that I was going to get my wish and pass under the centre of the Golden Gate Bridge. And then came another moment of realisation about what the blog has brought me.

There I was, standing at the front of the SFFD Fire Boat, powering towards the centre of the Golden Gate Bridge, with my new mate, and part of an Engine crew. It’s odd how things happen if you want them to.

We moved under the centre, then turned and headed back towards Alcatraz, going around the island, before moving onto

How many British Medics have had that view?

How many British Medics have had that view?

Treasure Island for the boat to do its own work for a short while.

After they had checked their depth and distance from the shore and other maritime stuff, we were off again this time heading over to the Bay Bridge and going under the centre of that one to and passing under the new section that was getting built. Then on to the home of the San Francisco Giants Baseball Team. We slowly nudged into the small dock area beside the park so that we could actually see through the side windows and onto the field itself.
Justin said that in a match day, this part was full of boats as if someone hits a home run, the ball could come over the wall and land in the water where we were!

Eventually though, it had to end and we started back towards the fire boat house again. We had some awe inspiring views of the city on the way around the bay, as well as the bridges and Alcatraz.

I looked over at Justin

” mate, you have a tough job! I could get used to doing this every week! ”

” So could I, I have only been on the boat twice in my career and have never been all the way up to Golden Gate Bridge before. When we come out on it, it’s usually only for about 20-30 mins ”

In total, we had been on the boat for close to 2 hours. It made it even more special knowing that it was a special time for Justin too. It was great to share it.

Once we were back at the dock, I said my goodbyes to the Captain of the boat and gave him my honest sentiments…

“Thank you so much, you have given me memories that I will never, ever forget”


Back to the Engine and back to the fire house.

We managed to get back for another HUGE lunch, and then we had a little bit of a quiet time where we had the opportunity to do some more filming with Ted and Chris.

I sat back patiently whilst I watched Justin do his walking piece to camera which you can now all see at the end of the trailer, the bit where he says the whole “working shoulder to shoulder “bit.

It was at that point, as I was watching him that I realised just how good he was on camera. The whole “THAT is the Chronicles of EMS speech” all just came from his head and the way he delivered had me wondering just how amateur I would look on screen next to him!!

If the Chronicles don’t develop into what we hope, I can easily see Justin fronting some mainstream EMS reality show!

That afternoon was also a bit bitter sweet. At one point, Ted had an airline company on the phone waiting for me to say that they could come and film in my service back in the UK. It really was that close to going ahead, however, unfortunately my service said no and the UK side of things was then postponed. I say postponed, because I am still working really hard with my PR manager to try and get things turned around. The trailer has gone a long way to show the quality of what we are putting out and I am still hopeful that the management team may still change their mind.

After the email, things took a very definite down turn as far as motivation and excitement went for a while. It really did feel as though we would only be able to show half of the story, which I guess it is (so far), but then the focus of the team changed to making sure that the pilot was the best that it could be and we would worry about the UK at a later point.

More filming ensued including my walking piece to camera outside of Station 13. About 10 takes later and a very patient and supportive Ted later, we got what we wanted, although it wasn’t a patch on smooth Mr Schoor.
I’m much better at the conversation and discussion pieces than the scripted bits (honest).

There were a couple more fire calls and another medical call during the afternoon, which again reinforced the fact that most of what we do (medical job wise) is pretty much the same including trying to get a nursing home member of staff to give a true and detailed history of the person they are supposed to be ‘caring for’.

Just before we were due to leave, we got turned out for another medical call, this time for a motorcycle RTC. We didn’t get much details of it, however as we pulled up on scene we could see the patient lying in the middle of the road on the section usually used by the street cars.
First look at the scene showed that it appeared the patient, a middle adged woman, had been riding her moped and as she came to stop at the junction her front wheel slid which resulted in her toppling off the bike. There was minimal damage to the bike and it appeared to be a slow speed accident with a low mechanism of injury.

The Crew of Engine 13 literally sprung into action. It was a very slick and speedy assessment and packaging of the patient. Helmet removed, spine manually immobilized, then C Collar in place and log rolled onto the board. At some point I saw Justin and Willa do a head to toe trauma exam too. However, what I didn’t hear or see was anyone do a C-spine check to clear the neck and then possibly negate the need for the board and collar.

I walked over to Justin’s left side and bent over and w
quietly said

“Does he actually have neck or back pain”


“Then why are you collaring and boarding him?”

“Because if I don’t, I will get sued”

And there, my loyal readers is my concluding statement from the trip and possibly one of the main causes of frustration amongst medics in SFFD and probably the whole of the USA!

The Ambulance crew took over care of the patient we jumped back onto the engine and returned to the station.

It was getting close to my finish time (as I was not allowed to stay past 8pm at the house) I went round and thanked everyone for their hospitality and kindness and went to collect coat from the engine bay.

As I was walking over the tones went off again, this time just for the ladder truck. I heard Justin as the tiller driver if I could jump on and too my great Joy he said yes!!

This was just a code 2 run (no lights and sirens). I had already been told that I wouldn’t get to travel in the training seat on a Code 3 call, so this was just perfect timing.


Yeeeee Haaaaa!

I jumped into the seat and off we went through the darkened streets of San Francisco. I wonder of anyone spotted or even cared about the strange guy dressed all in green sitting on the side of the ladder truck, but you could have easily spotted me due to the big grin I had on my face.

The crew just had to free someone who had been locked in a building then it was straight back to the house. But that was enough for me. Another tick was placed in my ‘fantastic one of experience book’ from this trip.

Back at the Fire House, I gathered my things then checked which street car was best to ride to get me back to my hotel. Once I knew which direction to head in, I was off.

It felt really quite strange walking away from the Fire House, knowing that in essence, that was the end of my experience with the SFFD. I wasn’t quite ready to just finish off and go back to the hotel though. I wanted to get as much of the city as possible so I decided to walk the couple of miles back through the city instead, stopping off in union square, and then heading up past the strip joints to my hotel!!

I got back at around 9pm, but found I had multiple messages from Mr Kaiser, asking me to meet up for a drink. I was shattered, I had to pack and get ready for tomorrow. I really didn’t fancy going for a drink, I just wanted to crash out and…….RING… There goes my mobile again.

“Hi Chris”

“Hey man, you gotta come out for a drink with me and Gina. We came all this way to see you!”

The guilt trip worked, and to be honest, I did want to see them both again before I returned to the UK, so I quickly got changed and headed out again.

We met up at their hotel, then just went round the corner for a drink in another Irish Bar (there seems to be alot of them around in San Francisco!) I again, had difficulty ordering a pint of lager, but finally managed to get what I wanted. We found some seats and had a chat for a short while, but two things became very quickly obvious.

1)  I was ABSOLUTELY shattered. It had been a very long week and things were catching up with me, plus I knew that once I was up, it was going to be for the next 35 hrs!

2)  This was Chris and Gina’s honeymoon, and they were obviously feeling very loving and I started to feel like a gooseberry!!

After about 30mins, I had to say goodbye. I still had the walk back to the hotel and I’m sure that Chris and Gina had many more perfect strangers to strike up a conversation with (Private Joke!)

It was a privilege to have met them both, and I can’t wait until the opportunity comes up for us to all meet up again.

Finally back to the hotel, clothes off and into bed.

Sleep came quickly and before I knew it, it was the day I went home…….

But before I go for today – I just had to share one photo to show just how excited Ted Setla (Producer/Director of The Chronicles of EMS) gets :



  1. What?! No mention of our secret-squirrel mission to get you your first experience with Chinese dim sum? Shoddy blogging, I say!! LOL

  2. Have no fear Willa, that part has been written with Photos! It's just I was already at 2500 words. I'm thinking of a 'stalking Willa' post, maybe tomorrow if I have time, where all will be revealed !!!

  3. Agreed! He's picking and choosing here. Come on Mark, the food was authentic as you can get outside of China, maybe even more so! At least Ted put some of it in the trailer.

  4. Agreed! He's picking and choosing here. Come on Mark, the food was authentic as you can get outside of China, maybe even more so! At least Ted put some of it in the trailer.

  5. What?! No mention of our secret-squirrel mission to get you your first experience with Chinese dim sum? Shoddy blogging, I say!! LOL

  6. Have no fear Willa, that part has been written with Photos! It's just I was already at 2500 words. I'm thinking of a 'stalking Willa' post, maybe tomorrow if I have time, where all will be revealed !!!

  7. Agreed! He's picking and choosing here. Come on Mark, the food was authentic as you can get outside of China, maybe even more so! At least Ted put some of it in the trailer.

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