The TV Show Emergency! and the biggest Nerdgasm I’ve Ever Had
January 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the television show Emergency! Those of us of a Certain Age spent our Saturday evenings from 1972-1979 watching the latest episode. For me personally, Saturday night meant Emergency! and then bath time.
Emergency! wasn’t just a television show. It had a profound impact on how emergency medicine as it existed. Many people who grew up watching the show were inspired by it to become EMT’s, paramedics, fire fighters, and/or doctors and nurses.
The show was about Firefighter/Paramedics John Gage (played by Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (played by Kevin Tighe) who are with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The show mainly focused on their rescues, but interspersed with the rescues was another sub plot, usually humorous, to offset the seriousness of the rescues. The rescues followed the formula where Gage and DeSoto would get the call and they would go out to the scene. Then they would assess the situation, get on their big orange Biophone with Rampart hospital, and under a doctor’s supervision, stabilize the patient, hook them up to either D5W or ringers lactate, and then accompany the patient to the hospital.
Some fans were caught up in the adventure of the various rescues, while others were lusting after Randolph Mantooth.1 I can’t say the same for me. I was that dorky little kid who was fixated on such things as the building that housed Station 51 looked a lot like my elementary school or that Henry, the laziest dog in the LA County Fire Department was the same kind of dog as my grandparents dog, Missy, with one major exception. There was also the fact that the kitchen appliances in Station 51 were the same color as the ones in my house. And I was also a little fixated on how Kevin Tighe looked like one of my uncles.2
The entire series is available on DVD. I own every single season. It’s been a kick to watch it again, especially when I see things like the price of gas in the stock footage. There have been more than a few times where D and I would watch an episode, an amount of money would be mentioned and then we’d look at each other in amazement because Roy DeSoto was able to buy all the ingredients to make Beef Bourguignonne for only $93. Then one of us would cry out, “Quick! To the inflation calculator!”4
The other thing I get a kick out of is how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Those things we complain about society now, like parents not parenting their children or people not taking responsibility for their actions, were right in front of us in 1972. Things like that tend to get lost in the fuzzy halo of memory.
But this post isn’t my warm and fuzzy memories of that show. This is about something I experienced because I am a fan of this show.
On March 7, 2011, I had a little accident. My husband and I were returning from our mechanic’s where we dropped off our car for a tune-up. D dropped me off at home before heading to work. He made the fateful decision to stop at the foot of the driveway instead of pulling into our apartment building’s parking lot.
I stepped out of the van and happened to step on a thick sheet of ice. March is the time in the upper Midwest when the snows melt during the day and the resulting liquid refreezes at night. Because that winter had been very snowy, large piles of snow sat just off the edge of the asphalt and when the snows melted, the water ran down the sloping driveway and pooled into a section that had cracked away and sank a bit. When I stepped on this sheet of ice, I slipped and landed on my left arm. Hard. I looked up behind me to see the top of D’s van over the snow banks as the van sped away. D never saw me fall.
I was both stunned and paralyzed. The pain was so great, I knew I couldn’t use my left arm to help me get up. I mustered up enough will and adrenaline and awkwardly got up, careful not to slip again. I carried my purse in my right hand along with my keys and I held my left arm close to me because it hurt a little less when I did that. At this point, I wasn’t sure if I actually broke it, dislocated it, or really bruised it badly.
When I made it to the building and then inside to my own door, I did what I automatically do when I have to unlock my door, I switched my purse from my right hand to my left. I am right handed, which in the case of this accident was one blessing. I didn’t have far to go as our apartment was on the ground floor and right in front. As soon as I switched hands, the purse dropped to the ground. My left arm was alarmingly slack and I could not hang on to it.
I knew that I this wasn’t a just an “oops, I’m such a klutz” type of injury. This was much more serious than that.
I took the last of the endorphins in my system, entered our apartment, made a bee-line to the closest chair, which was the recliner, and collapsed into it. I was done. Spent. I wasn’t going anywhere.
I sat in the chair with my winter coat on, holding my left arm close to my body. I began to feel warm. Very warm. It was about 70 degrees in the apartment. I thought I would try and get my coat off. I managed to get my coat unzipped, but when I tried to sit forward to start to take it off, I didn’t get very far. The pain was so extreme, I couldn’t shift my body enough to get my right arm out of my right sleeve without wanting to cry.
My nineteen year old son, T, was in his room, unwinding after a night on the graveyard shift. I called out to him to see if he could help me get my coat off. By now, I was sweating and gritting my teeth against the pain. I tried to sit ahead in the chair again, but no luck. The pain was too much.
I knew then that I had to get to the hospital as soon as possible. So I asked T to give me the phone so I could call 911. He handed the phone to me and then he said, “I can take you to the walk in. It will save you some money.”
Yes, he takes after my ex in that regard. Always trying to save a buck. But he gets a pass because he’s still young.
I thought about it for a moment. I entertained the notion for moment. You see, I had just quit my job and D and I decided to pull the trigger, cash out, and move to South Dakota. So money was an issue.
Pain is amazing. It is incredible how pain trumps everything else when you’re trying to make a decision.
I called 911. Then I called my husband to tell him about the fall and that I called 911.
It didn’t take long for the ambulance to show up and the paramedics to begin treating me. It was at that moment when I slipped into a fuzzy and warm and heady place in my mind.
The paramedics were both female. I don’t remember their names. But I do remember the care they took to make sure I was calm and in as little pain as possible as they helped me get my coat off. They were able to put on a temporary sling and then they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the ambulance.
It was then when one of them contacted the hospital. The other was driving. There was no Biophone, but rather a two way radio. And when I heard the lingo, I felt that first little wave of pleasantness.
They’re using the lingo! Squee!
She hooked me up to various monitors and my vitals were collected and relayed back to the hospital.
She said BP!!
I’m being hooked up to the EKG machine! YYEEEESSSS!!!! Wow, that machine sure looks different than the ones on TV.
She said respirations!!
My pulse is good!! WHOO-HOO!!
Possible fracture of the humerus!! More jargon!!!!! OMG, I’m gonna diiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee!!!!
My nerdgasm came in a series of waves after each of these occurrences, one after another each one just a little more powerful than the last.
The paramedic, and I wish I could remember her name, then started my IV. As I watched her put that catheter in my hand and hook me up, I was able to see that she was hooking me up to a bag of D5W.
D5W!! Just like on TV!!!
That was enough to send me over the edge. My nerdgasm at that moment hit me like a sledgehammer of pleasure or some other cheesy euphemism found in romance novels, bad fan fiction5, or bad erotic fiction.
It wasn’t just any nerdgasm. I just had multiple nerdgasms!
I was riding high on the crest of my nerdgasm when the paramedic asked me if I wanted something for the pain. “All I’m allowed to give you is morphine,” she said.
“No,” I said. “I’m fine.”
I’m in the back of the ambulance on a stretcher with a possible broken arm, and in the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life6, and I’m turning down drugs????
Seriously, WTF was wrong with me????
A ginormous, explosive, powerful , toe-curling, needing-a-cigarette-even-though-I-quit-smoking-seven-years-ago nerdgasm. That’s WTF was wrong with me.
The nerdgasm ebbed, but I was not done. After I was in the ER, the attending physician saw to me and ordered x-rays. They shooed D out of the room, but he stood in the doorway and he was able to see on the screen how messed up my arm was. When the attending doctor looked at them, he summoned the orthopedic surgeon and I never saw him again.
Then I received the verdict. My arm was broken in three places, part of the bone in my upper arm was split like a piece of firewood by a chisel, and I would require surgery to fix it. The arm was splinted up and I was taken up to a room to wait for my time to go into surgery where they would put plates and screws into the bones to set them.
For the record, I slipped on the ice at around 6:30 in the morning. I went into surgery at 5 pm. That was nearly 12 hours I spent lying in bed and hooked up to an IV with D5W and morphine and hitting that button like a mad mofo because ten minutes I had to wait between doses of morphine was too long. The shot of morphine didn’t last ten minutes. I was not allowed anything to eat or drink. My mouth was dry and all I was allowed to do was to swab it with a sponge dipped in water.
The time between being taken down to the OR and having my surgery was a fog because they took away my morphine drip and I went back into that fuzzy place in my head to not feel the pain, but I have a vague recollection of feeling nauseous because I hadn’t eaten since the previous day. They wheeled me in and the last thing I remember is an oxygen mask going over my face.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery room. I was loopy and unfocused and mentally fighting off the last of the anesthesia to get my bearings. Moments of clarity were fleeting. It was during one brief moment of clarity when I noticed that I was hooked up to a bag of ringer’s lactate.
My nerdgasm was there. It may have been dulled by every substance I was currently doped up on, but it was there.
When I was alert enough and deemed fit, I was taken back to my room where I noticed two things. The first was that it was now 8 in the evening. Three hours had passed. The second was that my husband was sitting in my room…watching Emergency!
It seems that when I was under the knife getting my arm fixed, he ran home to get one of our box sets. The TV in my room also had a built in DVD player.
I went home the next day. For the next two weeks, I was in a splint cast and as the pain lessened enough for me to stop taking hydrocodone every four hours and my mind cleared, I thought back to those multiple nerdgasms and felt more than a little embarrassed. Here I was, a 41 year old woman, and mentally acting like a thirteen year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Over medical terminology and equipment, no less7.
I realized that while I was having a teenybopper moment over what was in my IV bag, I was having these thoughts for a reason. It was a coping mechanism to help keep my mind off of the horrendous amount of pain I was in.
Earlier this month, on the 6th, I had surgery on that same arm. It was to remove some of the hardware that was put in when I broke the arm. There was a screw in my elbow that was beginning to work itself out of my arm. I could see the end of the screw poking out and it was dangerously close to breaking skin. A few times, fluid would build up in the elbow and then leak out. It was gross. This time, I had outpatient surgery.
After the admittance paperwork was done and a game of hide and go seek with the veins in my hand ended with the nurse finally wrangling that vein long enough to start my IV, I settled into the easy chair with my Kindle waiting for the appointed time. When the nurse left, I looked up at my IV bag with a smile. I said to D, “Hey, look…” I pointed to the bag of fluid. D smiled at me knowingly.
I was hooked up to ringer’s lactate.
Just like on TV.
1I was too young at the time to be lusting after anyone. I was two years old in 1972 and not yet potty trained, much less able to comprehend the meaning of the word “lust”. (up)
2I have another uncle who looks like Chuck Norris. Well, back in the 1980s my uncle looked like Chuck Norris. (up)
3$9 in 1972 dollars works out to be $46.37 in 2010 dollars (the latest year available) (up)
4Author’s embellishment. The conversation went more like “$9??? That’s it??” “I wonder what that costs now?” “Google inflation calculator and see.” (up)
5I know that not all fan fiction is bad. Some of the best written stories I’ve ever read was fan fiction. But I’ve read enough of it in my life to know that there is a lot of seriously bad fan fic floating around the internet. (up)
6This includes 16 hours of back labor and I wasn’t having multiple nerdgasms while giving birth, either. (up)
7However being in my forties doesn’t stop me from laughing at fart jokes. (up)