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Randy Cassingham

Randy Cassingham’s Blog

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EMS Story Archives

  EMS Stories: a New Series

Indeed, This is True is a "weird news" site — Thought-Provoking Entertainment by social commentary, using "weird news" as its vehicle.

That's my full-time job, but I also volunteer in my community: I'm a part-time on-call medic.

Continue reading "EMS Stories: a New Series" »

  Ability Meets Need

I watched the news reports last Wednesday from Platte Canyon High School in the small mountain town of Bailey, Colorado, with a bit of dread. (It was nothing like Columbine: some drifter took hostages, and killed one of them -- a 16-year-old girl he didn't know. He then shot himself.) Not only was it a small mountain town in Colorado -- and I live on a mesa in Colorado just outside a town of just 700, and so it felt pretty "close to home" -- but I know the school well: I was a Red Cross volunteer during the summer of 2002, when Colorado was hit by so many wildfires in that area, and one of them started on the hill behind that very school. I was stationed there as a liaison between the Red Cross and the fire officials who set up a command post at the school. My job was to keep Red Cross Denver Headquarters up-to-date on where the fire was going so shelters could be set up for evacuees.

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  War on Drugs

I fully expect to be called "anti-police" for the lead story this week. One doesn't have to be "anti" anything to decry stupidity, or even to call to task organizations you fully support when they do something wrong.

Here's the story, from True's 17 December 2006 issue:

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  Ouray Ice Festival Photos

It's winter in Colorado. No, I mean winter! The temperature here this morning was -12.2F (-25.5C). The high today was 10.7F (-11.8C). This weekend, then, was perfect for the Ouray Ice Festival, held each year at what is likely the premier ice park in the world -- at the very least the best public park of its kind, the Ouray Ice Park.

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  Big Changes at TRUE Central

We've been totally swamped lately. It wasn't just the GOOHF water bottles, which were extremely popular and the huge quantity we were able to get sold out in about a month (but sorry: we really can't get any more, since the manufacturer discontinued them -- figures!).

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  School Bus Plunge (On Purpose)

I spent most of the day Sunday working at the scene of a school bus that plunged (buses always "plunge"!) over the side of a steep embankment on Ouray County's famous "Million Dollar Highway" below Red Mountain Pass.

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  Honest to Goodness Good Stuff



What Happened Later

Something fairly profound happened to my wife and me Sunday. I have a group of friends that I communicate with regularly via an e-mail list, and Sunday afternoon I shared what happened with them. One asked, "Great story. Will you be sharing it with your readers?"

Hm: good question. I said I was pondering it -- but I don't very often tell stories about my volunteer EMS experiences in my weird news newsletter, yaknow? Another piped up: "Do it. People need good news right now. Especially some of us who are getting nervous as 50-somethings around us are dropping. Mortality is weighing quite heavy on some. Good news, firsthand accounts of honest to goodness good stuff helps."

Continue reading "Honest to Goodness Good Stuff" »

  Tough Weekend

This week I've been dragging after a tough weekend. "Just" two ambulance calls, but they were doozies. I was just starting to make a late breakfast Saturday morning when we got a call for a rollover just 3 miles down the road.

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  The Life You Save May Be...

A special "extra" story this week. I've pulled it out separately because it doesn't "really" fit in with True's theme. While it is a bit weird, it's certainly not about someone doing something stupid.

Continue reading "The Life You Save May Be..." »

  Bonfire of the Gravities

I don't tell many stories about the ambulance calls I run on as a volunteer medic here in rural Ouray County, Colorado, but this one is worth telling. At 12:51 a.m. this past Saturday morning, my pager went off for an injured 16-year-old female, just a few miles from my house. It was in an odd location for a middle-of-the-night rescue, and as my wife and I got dressed, I was a bit confused.

Continue reading "Bonfire of the Gravities" »

  The Risks of Emergency Responses

I sometimes write about my fantastic experiences as a volunteer medic. Yet sometimes the experience isn't so fantastic. All emergency responders put themselves at great risk whenever they go on a call. This is a story of not beating the odds (but it could have been a lot worse).

Continue reading "The Risks of Emergency Responses" »

  Hours of Boredom Punctuated by Moments of Sheer Terror

It was one of those cases of serendipitous timing, and why I find EMS so interesting as an avocation. This morning, I jumped out of bed to help a helicopter land on the highway.

Continue reading "Hours of Boredom Punctuated by Moments of Sheer Terror" »

  "They're Landing On My Car!"

Well, that's the way it felt, anyway! For a brief moment.

Last fall I talked about helping a helicopter to land — in the middle of the highway in the middle of the night. Just got back from doing it again, except this time it was the middle of the day ...and I had my camera ready.

Continue reading ""They're Landing On My Car!"" »

  One Heck of an Evening

As you've probably heard in the news, Colorado has been suffering a lot of catastrophic fires this year. A few of them have hit too close to home.

Continue reading "One Heck of an Evening" »

  Randolph Mantooth: Still Active in EMS

The NBC television show Emergency!, which ran 123 episodes on NBC from 1972 to 1977, plus six made-for-TV movies that aired in 1978 and 1979, did a lot to make the public aware of professional Medics, playing a significant role in elevating the profession from mere "ambulance drivers." The show starred Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe as Paramedics Johnny Gage and Roy Desoto, running out of the fictitious Los Angeles County Fire Department's Station 51. It was the last show created by Jack Webb (of Dragnet and Adam-12 fame).

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  The First Paramedics

This article was originally written by Randy Cassingham for the now defunct site Every Medic, and moved here as that site was being shut down.

- - -

Military corpsmen go way back, providing special care to soldiers on the battlefield. Hospitals often provided horse-drawn ambulances, staffed by doctors. And we all know that funeral directors' hearses doubled as medical transport vehicles into the 1950s and 60s.

Some areas, notably Toronto, Ont., Canada, pushed for better cardiac emergency field care. There, Medic One was a single ambulance that had a "portable" defibrillator for cardiac calls. The machine was operated by a hospital intern, and it meant bringing the patient to the ambulance, since the defibrillator was powered by lead-acid car batteries -- it weighed 100 pounds.

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  Revenue-Virginius Mine Disaster


1) Preliminary Report In
2) Mine Fined $1+ Mil

I write This is True (and edit the submissions of the contributing writers) each Sunday. On Mondays I write the surrounding features, like the Honorary Unsubscribe and the True Tidbit of the Week. It's a fair amount of material, and it's almost always possible to get it done in two days.

But not this week.

Continue reading "Revenue-Virginius Mine Disaster" »

  OK Buddy, Where's the Fire?

As I was wrapping up writing last night at about 10:00 p.m., my pager went off. It was for the local fire department, for a report of a structure fire ...a little over a mile from my house. Kit was already in bed (she had a very early appointment for this morning), but I popped upstairs to look out the window. Once I got the shade open, she heard me utter “Holy %#:7!” — I could see flames licking 40' into the sky.

Continue reading "OK Buddy, Where's the Fire?" »

  Rescue Me

My Latest EMS Story started in a most unusual way: with my wife, Kit, loudly asking, “Randy?! Are you OK?! I’m calling 9-1-1.”

Continue reading "Rescue Me" »

  Sometimes You Lose One

I was taking Kit to a medical appointment in town (in the next county), and there was an ambulance call. Not for us, so we continued on. Then there was a second call. Also not for us, but that meant both ambulances are now out. We arrive at the appointment, and I go in with Kit — and my pager goes off. A third call, and it sounds really serious. I lock eyes with Kit. "If they don't have a third crew available, I'm the closest." And that's not good, because we are 20 minutes from the call, and that's with lights and siren. I don't hear anyone responding, so I told her I'd come back for her and dash out to my car. I get on the radio and ask Dispatch if anyone has responded to the call. "Negative." I make the decision to order up an ambulance from Montrose, in the next county, to take the call, and ask Dispatch to get them going. And I head toward the call, which is at one of our County buildings.

Continue reading "Sometimes You Lose One" »

  Mark Miller: We've Got It From Here

It Was a Hell of a Weekend. Our EMS agency has three full-time “Advanced Life Support” medics to run on calls with the ambulance crews, which are usually staffed by “regular” EMTs. That gives us a primary, a secondary (calls often come after long waits of nothing, and then we get two ...or three), and room for the third to have a day off now and then. On Friday, Kit and I ran a call that ended up taking three hours — and we weren’t even involved in the transport part! I can’t say what took so long, but sometimes it happens that way.

Continue reading "Mark Miller: We've Got It From Here" »

  Overlooked Heroes

I Was Hoping to Write a different Honorary Unsubscribe this week, but couldn’t because I couldn’t get information. Debbie Crawford, a 25-year veteran paramedic in Denver, died this weekend. The scuttlebutt is that her PTSD got so severe, she committed suicide — she could no longer handle the stress of the job. If that is indeed what happened, and I don’t know for sure because none of the media outlets in Denver has covered her death at all, that’s truly a tragedy.

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  Everyday Heroism

The Feel-Good Story of the Week comes out of Colorado. It starts, however, in tragedy: a family — a man, woman, and four kids — rolled their car over in Brighton, which is northeast of Denver, along Interstate 76. The father of the family was killed. I know, this doesn’t sound too feel-good, but stay with me.

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  A Short Personal Note

I'm a marked man.

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  "What Happened"?

In the Emergency Medical Services Biz,


What It's Like to be in a Police Motorcade

we don’t always find out the answer to the obvious question afterward: “What happened?” — how did it turn out? We just have to be content with doing our best in the situation at hand, turning the patient over to the hospital, and (usually silently) wishing them luck.

Continue reading ""What Happened"?" »

  Medical Mystery

One of My Most Memorable Medical Mysteries as a medic was a call from a man for his 50ish-year-old wife. On arrival I asked, What’s going on? “She’s just not herself,” he said. Has she been ill? “She had been talking to her doctor who thought she either had a kidney stone, or a bladder infection. She has an office appointment tomorrow.” Other than that, he said, she had no medical problems, and took no medications. Not a lot to go on, but I went in to see the wife, who was in bed.

Continue reading "Medical Mystery" »

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