Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We’re Fat. Are You Surprised?

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I won’t be shocking most of you by telling you we as a nation are obese. I work rotating 12hr shifts. On any given day, I hear dispatch send two or three units a day to get the bariatric stretcher. When we have any emergency that involves an obese patient it eats up our resources.

We call the bariatric stretcher the fatillac. If you run three bariatric calls in one shift, we call it a fat trick (a reference to the hockey term hat trick).

I was recently involved in a call where the patient weighed over 500lbs. It took myself, my partner, and four firemen to carry this man down three flights of stairs. We had to stop at each landing and rest. I don’t even want to think about what that call would have been like if it was a cardiac arrest.

Every day I work, I transport patients whose health problems are caused by their weight. Bad knees, back pain, type II diabetes, difficulty breathing, cardiac problems, cellulitis. All of these are largely caused by obesity.

Many of you probably don’t know what cellulitis is. Cellulitis is a skin infection. It generally causes a great deal of swelling. It smells terrible. When a person is morbidly obese, they lose their ability to keep themselves clean. Combine this with the wounds and poor healing qualities associated with type II diabetes and you have a real risk of getting this infection. Let me add one more piece of the puzzle. If you are obese and suffering the effects, you will end up in the hospital. This is where you will most likely come into contact with the types of bacteria that cause cellulitis.

Many people who are morbidly obese are on disability. The irony is not lost on me. I get my salary by running calls, but I have taxes taken out of my paycheck to pay for the call that I’m running… Did that last couple of sentences make any sense?

More than ever before, we share the cost for each others health care. I’m not going to get into the politics of that here. But I do want to express my feelings. I feel we more than ever have a national responsibility to take care of ourselves. We can’t keep sticking each other with the bill.

I didn’t realize my blog was going to get so preachy. Next post will be a good EMT story. I swear!

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