Kicked in the face several times, pinned under the stretcher, but that’s not the worst of it…

In the story below you will see one of the reasons why I get so frustrated as I travel the country. I scream from the rooftops how a person does not have to die, to be changed forever, from a violent encounter on the job.  Not to mention, what happens AFTER an assault, can be worse than the assault itself, such is the case of Q.

I met Quentain (Q) face-to-face for the first time recently. I can assure you he is all man. It’s strength physically is undeniable, his skill to handle “business” appears obvious. However, that is not what my human animal picked up on the most. I felt he was, and is an incredibly intelligent kind and caring person. He is the proverbial nice dog, that could become mean if provoked.q_image

It is obvious he processes information on a different level. Within the first few hours of getting to know him, I could tell he was wise by the questions he would ask. It was obvious he was able to pick up on the body language of the other people in the room as well. As the founder of DT4EMS, of course I have hidden agenda, to find and cultivate people that I believe could help spread the message of culture change. A few minutes into our knowing each other I begin to see Q as one of those people.

Q shared his story with the class. It was not unlike thousands I have heard before. The difference was context. His incident involved an intoxicated female. While loading the stretcher into the ambulance, the patient kicked him repeatedly in the face. In doing so, it caused him to fall backward, pulling the stretcher (wheels up) out and on top of him, as he fell to the ground.  It wasn’t until she had attempted to kick him again while he was on the ground, shins pinned by a patient-loaded stretcher, did he even begin to defend himself.  He tells of how he swatted with an open hand, simply attempting to stop her continued aggression.  

The part missing from what you are about to read, is the emotion written all over his body language, and the shudder that was in his voice as he told us what happened. The emotion was not fear. It was that of utter hurt, of a truly good person being called something bad. It is akin to a court calling, labeling, or convicting an innocent person of a crime.

As he told his story, and of what followed, I made judgments about him, and his incident, based upon my twenty years of researching violence in medicine. I concluded, his actions to be reasonable, his story to be plausible, and truthful.  Here is a man that could hurt me, and many others, if he wanted to be a bad-guy. There is the difference. He is not a bad guy at all. He is one of the good guys.

As he told me his story of what it happened, it broke my heart. My very next emotion was anger, pure anger! Here is a man that is, in my opinion, it generally good soul, now being labeled a threat to the public, by people who do not recognize the true problem. They do not recognize the fact that not every person is a patient, and criminals assault EMS, not patients. For a guy like Q, a supervisor, leader, administrator… the events after the assault were worse than the assault iteself.

 I meet a lot of people. My life has been spared several times thanks to me listening to my human animal. So to have the lives of complete strangers thanks to me listening to my human animal as a paramedic. My human animal tells me that Q is a good man. I am now honored to know him I am blessed he decided to become an instructor with us.- Kip

From M. Quentain Thomas:

“I feel like it took years to make a good reputation and a minute to damage it,” the TV veteran, 54, says the recently fired Thomas Gibson from, “Criminal Minds”. I can truly identify. 28 years in EMS with 16 years as a supervisor and 5 as an administrator/ EMS coordinator and the almighty Department of Health judged me as a threat to the public for reacting to an assault by an intoxicated individual while doing my job. No one ever thinks that it will happen to them. I am certainly guilty of that.

 I thought I was always aware of my surroundings and prepared for practically anything. But it does happen, and many times you won’t see it coming. A patient didn’t attack me, an aggressor did. All I had was about 5 seconds to react to an unprovoked ambush attack and those precious few moments sent shockwaves through my life.

It did not matter how much I had accomplished and how much I invested in making EMS better for everyone, the DOH looked at me as if I was the criminal. Despite the fact that my assailant was arrested for aggravated assault. Despite that fact that I was the only injured party as a result from this altercation. Despite the fact that no charges, either criminal or civil, were ever charged against me. Despite the fact that my attacker even admitted to and apologized for their actions. Maybe my choice of how to protect myself wasn’t the best but I only had seconds to react.

The DOH had months to analyze and determine what was best, but the truth is everyone is going to react one way or another during a violent encounter. Everyone has the right to protect themselves, especially if they did not initiate the altercation. It is not acceptable to be beaten or injured because the aggressor(s) are being allowed to hide behind the “patient” facade that the DOH wants to cradle upon them. Sure, they were a patient at one time, but once they decided to become aggressive and violently attack a first responder there is a CHANGE in RELATIONSHIP, and they are now a criminal. And it doesn’t matter whether they are sober, intoxicated or on drugs.

This is the message that needs to hammered into every administrators, regulators, managers, legislators and prosecutors brains! And if you don’t prepare and train the personnel that you are entrusted to manage and judge, then you, yes, you the administrators of the world are responsible if they do not react the way you feel is appropriate. “If you don’t train them, you can’t blame them!” You train them how to drive, administer medicines and equipment, how to do paperwork and some of you even train your personnel how to wash their hands. So why not train personnel how to handle violent encounters? And please don’t hide behind the perception that EMS shouldn’t be on a unsafe scene because no scene is truly safe. A scene secured by police can still turn unsafe in a seconds notice.

I think this ideology should be blasted and embedded into the Department of Health’s principles and ethics because ruining someone’s life because they were assaulted and deeming them a threat to the public because an EMT or paramedic chose not to be beaten up is absolutely insane. Sure there are a few of us that are bad apples and initiate altercations with patients, but when there is irrefutable proof that the first responder was not the aggressor the DOH needs to truly tread lightly. First responders do a lot of good in this world and I personally thank every one of you for your service. This is truly a personal issue for me and I would hate to see any other EMT/paramedic go through what I had (have) to endure. It’s amazing how a few seconds of your life can impact your entire career and future. A few terrifying seconds during an unprovoked assault against me sure did change mine.