As you can guess I have a treasure trove of stories from my time on the FD. I'll tell a few of the better stories here and if you're interested I can always share more.
"What is the Grossest Thing You've Ever Seen?"
Without fail the first thing people ask when they find out you were an EMT is, "What is the grossest thing you've ever seen?" There are lots of stories that fit under the gross category, but I don't even have to think about this one. One story stands out above all others.
I was a very green rookie and had only had my EMT certification for maybe 6 months when the call came in. The police department was asking for assistance. They had discovered a body in a mobile home and needed us to come verify they were dead. The police never declare somebody dead and even though this guy was very obviously dead they needed us to confirm it. It wasn't a good sign when they told us we should probably bring along some of the fire air packs.
Did I mention that it was the middle of July and the mobile home wasn't air-conditioned? Did I also mention that the reason the cops were called was because the occupant hadn't been seen by his neighbors for several days and a foul odor was emanating from the residence? Yeah...we already knew it wasn't going to be pretty, but hoped the air packs would at least spare our olfactory nerves.
There are only three times when an EMT can declare somebody dead in the field.
1. If rigor mortis has set in. Rigor mortis can occur shortly after death, but will eventually subside.
2. If the body is dismembered. E.G. the head is missing or something.
3. If lividity has occurred. Lividity is what happens when your body stops circulating the blood and gravity causes it to pool anywhere the body is touching the ground. It looks like a big bruise and the blood will even ooze out of the pores in the skin if you press on it.
In this case we were checking for number 3. We arrived on the ambulance and the experienced paramedic turned to me and said, "Suit up, rookie, you're going in with me." We donned our air packs and made our way into the dimly lit mobile home. The poor bastard was lying on his back just in front of his couch. I felt a twinge of sadness that somebody could spend nearly a week without somebody missing them.
We positioned ourselves on either side of the body and prepared to pull him forward at the waist so we could check his back for lividity. He was a pretty big dude who looked even bigger because he was a tiny bit bloated. The paramedic counted to 3 and we pulled on his upper arms to lift him. He came about 2 inches off the floor when....well....
Have you ever had roast chicken? You know how the skin on a roast bird just kind of slides off the meat? Yeah...that happened. With a sickening smacking sound his skin separated at each shoulder and started to slide down his arms. We both immediately dropped him and the paramedic jumped up and said, "Yep he's dead. Lets get out of here until the coroner arrives." I high-tailed it outside and ripped off my mask. I was sweating not just because the mobile home was an oven, but because I was on the verge of purging the contents of my stomach. Swear to God, but the coroner strolled in without any air pack eating a fucking sandwich when he got there.
The stories aren't all as gross as that one. Some are sad. Others are inspirational. Still others are scary. Want to hear more? Ask me anything in the comments and I'll write up more stories if you're interested.