Kevin Hazzard's new book is A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back. From his interview with Terry Gross for Fresh Air:
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR, and if you're just joining us, my guest is Kevin Hazzard. And we're talking about the 10 years that he spent as an EMT and then as a paramedic. So he was the one who - sometimes he drove the ambulance, he was the guy who showed up in the ambulance to administer emergency medical services. Now he's written a memoir called "A Thousand Naked Strangers." "A Thousand Naked Strangers" - were most of the people who you had to meet naked?Visit Kevin Hazzard's website.
HAZZARD: A lot of them are. These kinds of things never happen at a convenient moment. You know, there's no really good time to get a car wreck or to get hurt. And so especially people at home, you know, they're - you catch them in all kinds of compromising positions. And then there's just a huge range of people that, for whatever reason - you know, whether it's mental illness or, you know, just had way too much fun last night - find themselves out in the street partially or completely naked and need to be dealt with in one way or another. So there's - yeah, literally, there are many people naked. But metaphorically, you know, also practically all of them are.
GROSS: A lot of people have do-not-resuscitate orders. And if you're working with somebody in a nursing home or a hospital, you have easy access to those papers. But somebody could have a DNR and have cardiac arrest at home. And they might be alone; they might be with people who don't know whether they have a DNR or not. So what are you supposed to do as a paramedic when you're in that kind of situation where you don't know?
HAZZARD: Cross your fingers. I mean, if you think about it, Thanksgiving - you can't even get all your family members to agree on whether they want fresh or canned cranberry sauce, right? I mean, the simplest decision in the world, and you will get four brothers who will fight to the death because they all have a different opinion. And then, add to that now that decision is what to do if mom drops on the floor. And a lot of times, it kind of depends on who the first person is to arrive, whether - you know, does she live with one of the sons who wants her to be revived? Does she live with one of the children who doesn't? You know, even if there's a DNR that has been signed, oftentimes people can't find it. So then you have to say, OK, we don't have, technically speaking, a valid DNR, so we have no choice but to work. And the family will get angry with you, and say, no, no, no, that's not what she wanted. But you can't prove to me that's not what she wanted. And how do I know that you don't have a sister who's on her way right now who knows that there's no DNR, and who's going to come flying through the door and wonder why we're not doing anything? And I actually got stuck in a parking lot one day. We brought a - it was a man. We brought him out, his wife was with us. You know, they were elderly, and she was beyond being able to talk to us just because she was in such a panic. She said, call my son. So we call her son, and the one son said, he's got to be worked. And the other son, who lived down the street, was adamant that he not be worked, and there was a DNR, the wife just was incapable of finding it, understandably. So we're in the parking lot, and the son pulls up, and he's blocking our ambulance. And he's screaming at us to stop doing what we're doing. We're literally doing CPR on a man in broad daylight in the morning, and he's saying, stop, stop, stop, I have the DNR my hand. What do you - I mean, there's no class that prepares you for a moment like that because now you have to decide, do I leave this guy in the street? I mean, how do I take him off my stretcher and put him back on the floor. You know, it really puts you in an awkward position.
GROSS: Yeah, what did you do?
HAZZARD: Well...[read on]