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Everybody’s Got a Diagnosis

Verbatim conversation from last shift:

Patient: “My arm was kind of numb and aching from where I was sleeping on it, and it scared me.”

Ambulance Driver: “Okay. So why all the jerking and flopping around, and the catatonic act?”

Patient: “I have conversion disorder. That’s how I deal with fear, pain and stress.”

Translation: “There is nothing physically wrong with me, but I have such poor coping skills that I react to the slightest emotional distress or physical discomfort by flopping around on the ground like a Tazered fish and making a spectacle of myself. Once I have garnered a sufficient audience of concerned friends and onlookers, I will fake a catatonic state until the ambulance arrives, whereupon I will react to the skepticism of the paramedics by suddenly awakening and declaring my symptoms resolved.”

Nowadays, they have official diagnoses for such conditions; convenient pseudo-scientific nomenclature that absolves people of responsibility for their actions. “I can’t help it, it’s a medical condition!”

Back in my day, we just called it “Being a pussy.”

I think the U.S. would be a better place if our next President would appoint Chopper as Surgeon General. He’s got the cure for what ails us:


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  • Suz

    I think I like that guy!

  • Canuck MD

    Yep, I love Chopper. North America could do well by importing Chopper’s life philosophy – I’m sick of pharmaceutical driven namby pamby personal responsibility absolving ICD codes.

  • Notworth

    So, PTSD that soldiers have? Just a case of “harden the fuck up”? Non-malingering Conversion disorder is most often found years later in people who have been the victim of abuse. Usually sexual, almost always as children. In severe cases they have actual, non epileptic seizures. A cornfirmed diagnosis is done through witnessed seizure study done via EEG. That is a neurologist conducted test confirming he validity of the sx. A mocking male enters her bedroom at night, condescends her, and she didn’t trust you with all that? Odd.

    Learn twice, talk once, Sparky

    Hope you chuckled hard at that likely former rape victim tough Guy.

    • Anonymous

      “A mocking male enters her bedroom at night, condescends her, and she didn’t trust you with all that? Odd.”

      Close, except that the patient wasn’t a female. Or in a bedroom.

      And the only one I’m chuckling at is you.

      • Notworth

        Oh, well why didn’t you say so? Buggering boys is totally ok. Nevermind then. Btw, hows your boy?

        Some people are beyond the reach of education. As I said, Not worth my time.

        • Anonymous

          Ahhh, straw men, misrepresenting statements, and righteous indignation; all time-tested weapons of the blog troll.

          I’m certainly glad I’m not worth your time. This might get tedious otherwise.

          I’m not afraid of debate, or even good old-fashioned arguments, but I don’t engage in pissing contests. I don’t claim to be perfect, nor do I deny the fact that sometimes, I can act like an asshole.

          But my point is, I didn’t act like an asshole to the patient in this post. Whatever behavior you believe I displayed on the scene is purely you projecting emotions based on a few sentences you read in a blog, not based on anything like facts or something you witnessed.

          You think I’m insensitive, fine. Think what you will. If you’d read more of the blog, you might think otherwise. Read a few of the Greatest Hits in the sidebar, and see if you have the same impression.

          Heck, read this one for starters.

          The title of the blog is A Day In The Life Of an Ambulance Driver. All of my days go in here, even the ones that paint me in an unflattering light.

          I make no apologies for being human.

          You want to judge me based on one blog post that pushed your buttons, I can’t stop you. I’m sure there are other blogs out there you won’t find so offensive.

          If all we’re going to do here is engage in a catfight, I suggest you go find them.

          • Anparadox

            Your my hero :-)

  • mediclyssa

    To be honest I’m ashamed to have someone like this to represent my profession. If you think this is what we are about then I guess I’ve been doing to wrong line of work.

    • Anonymous


      You’re not in the wrong line of work, Melissa. I don’t claim to be perfect, and last night was one of those. I have my days when I’m less than sympathetic. I try not to, but they happen.

      The difference is, although I may sometimes think the patient’s problem is BS (and who doesn’t in EMS, and fairly often?), the patient never realizes it, because I conduct myself with professionalism and courtesy on scene.

      I use my blog to say the things I can’t/won’t say to a patient. Keeps me sane that way.

    • Limegreenmedic

      You’re a rookie, ain’tcha?

      • Anonymous

        Play nice, now. Debate and argue all you want, but leave out the name calling and personal attacks.

        • Anparadox

          Hey now! I’m a rookie.. that aint name callin until I’m past that point;) lol

    • Garvin734

      I think you are probably in the wrong line of work. Perhaps you should consider a career as a LCSW or therapist that way you can hand hold all the spoiled, pampered adults of the world that never learned to function under the stress & annoyances of every day life and coddle them some more in a less time sensative environment with out wasting the time of paramedics that actually want to save lives & treat the sick.

    • Mad meg

      why should you be ashamed of someone who can tell the difference between conversion disorder and malingering? and who can treat both with sympathy? when you have come across a few of these yourself you will have a better understanding, this IS exactly what it is about- dealing with the crap and coping with it after the event- not during. Maybe you are in the wrong line of work if you don’t understand that.

  • A different look…

    I’ve read your post and reply s to comments here and I figured I’d make you aware of a few things. Over the last 10 months I have lost my ability to work, drive, be alone when I bathe, light a candle, cook alone, get groceries, visit my family, go up the stairs without panic for fear of a fall, be debt free because of loss of income and insane hospital bills,stop driving an ambulance, stop volunteering with abused children, or enjoy a walk outside alone. If you think there is anyone that would give up all these things and more for 5 minutes of your time and endless hospital bills, you need to retire. I am 25 years old and am now completely dependent on the availability of others. I have have a conversion disorder. I didn’t even know such thing existed until it happened to me one day at work. I spent a week in the hospital with many doctors looking over me until one found what was going on. I promise you that I would give almost anything to go back to a shitty job, or to walk a mile in the snow, or drive an ambulance again to help someone who just needs someone to talk to because they live alone and family is too busy for them. I say all this to urge you to think before you post and if you do feel that you need to post something like this, make sure that you admit in your post what you just did in your reply yo Melissa.

    • Anonymous

      I’m sorry you’ve had to go through so much.

  • ilovemyjob

    Thanks for the chuckle. A bit harsh, but I get you. Let’s face it, some people waste medics’ time, hospital beds and taxpayer dollars for BS and it’s not right…especially when ambulances and medics are scarce and people are having true life-threatening emergencies out there. Not saying this was or was not the case at your call (I wasn’t there so who am I to judge)…but really people, lighten up a little!

  • Limegreenmedic

    I used to have a saying here when I was an EMT: “Taking the ‘love’ out of BLS”…meaning the L, leaving BS. That was my code phrase to the hospitals when I once again had to bring in a pseudo-sick patient, usually with a terrible case of SNOAD, and had to treat them like there was really something wrong with them. Luckily, my acting skills were up to par, as I’m certain yours were as well.

    If you’ve been in EMS any length of time, you will find something that pushes YOUR buttons…mine was system abusers. We called ‘em “frequent flyers”. I am right there with you, furious with these SNOAD wussies tying up an emergency unit while a family of four dies at the scene because no units are available.

    Make no mistake, we don’t abuse the system abusers the way we think we should. But sometimes we need to vent. Those of you with an overdeveloped case of “offense-sensitivity” need to Harden The Fuck Up.

    And “Quit Being A Wussy” — Ken Titus

    Thanks for the chuckle, AD. Those of us out there who have been there and done that know exactly where you’re coming from. Those who have not never will. So let ‘em whine; We’ve got a job to do and it doesn’t include kowtowing to those who don’t do what we do.

    And for those who say we should retire? Careful what you wish for. Go ahead, jerkwad, call 911 and find out all the Medics you offended or annoyed just RETIRED so you can sit there for an hour bleeding to death because of no units available.

    Fucktards. Go make yourselves a REAL emergency or leave us the hell alone.

    • A different look…

      You clearly need to retire. I’m glad I don’t have to depend on you to save my life. I’m sure you wouldn’t know what a true emergency was if it slapped you in the face. I assure you that you are not God’s gift to EMS and that when you leave, there will be someone to take your place. Always has been always will be.

  • Lord Luapssor

    Ronnie Johns is one funny man. Love is Chopper impersonation, which is based of an Anustralian hit man lol.

  • Anonymous

    LOL- Sounds like ‘one’ of those days AD…

  • Aussie

    So what Chopper would likely prescribe is a blow torch to the extremities or a bolt cutter to remove the metacarpals, possibly ask the patient to cut his own ears off.
    Chopper Read was an exceedingly nasty person. Criminal hit-man and extortionist.

  • Anonymous Medic

    Good grief people! Lighten up. Anyone who has actually done 911 longer than a year can completely empathize here. The level of BS and abuse that paramedics take is high. The vast majority of paramedics out there are hardworking professionals. I seriously doubt that Ambulance_Driver is an asshole to his patients. This is just a way of staying sane when dealing with day after day of bullshit and tragedy.

  • Canuck MD

    Good grief. It’s starting to look like a fibromyalgia tete a tete in here…

  • Nrooker

    Technically its not “pussy” but “pussi” short for pusillanimous which means to be faint hearted or cowardly. Truth. regardless those pussi’es are a pain in the butt

  • LawDog

    It truly amazes me that so many readers of Ambulance Driver’s blog live and work in a place where no one ever fakes medical symptoms and syndromes.

    Where is this wondrous land where every patient is completely and absolutely truthful at all times? Where?

    And — to my mind even more miraculous — this fabled realm where no fakers, frauds, attention-seekers and junkies dial 911 at will, this blessed and true Utopia is staffed by professionals who can read four paragraphs of one post written by a man de-stressing on his blog and immediately, instantly and with no chance of error know everything there is to know about that man, his job performance, his psyche and his family.

    Lo! What a wonder it must be to live in such a land!

    If you would but answer two questions from this mere mortal?

    The first being … are the clouds pink there?

    The second question: does unicorn poop stink when you scrape it off your shoe?

    • Sandro Rettinger

      Man, I wanna log in as a different user just so I can “like” this post a second time.

    • Anonymous

      And now y’all see why LawDog is my blogdaddy.

      That was masterful, brother.

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  • Rogue Medic

    I do not see any refusal to treat this patient.

    I do not see any refusal to transport this patient.

    I don’t see any refusal to behave professionally toward this patient.

    I don’t see any problem, except with the criticism by those inserting their own interpretations after they make up some facts that are not in the post.

    You have some overly imaginative and possibly paranoid readers.

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  • Emtpche

    Wonder over here from Rogue Medic’s blog to view the above. I have been in EMS for the last 21 years. I have witness a many strange, sad, fun and extermly irritating things in that time. To have a place were you can come and express, or vent, is a great thing. No where in this post does Ambulance driver suggest that he denied treatment or transport. Nor does he indicate disrespect to the pt. I am a bit taken back by some of the comments folks have left….sad is all I have to say.

  • Soyrizo

    I developed conversion disorder this year. And I laughed because as a former paramedic, it was funny.

    Conversion disorder is real, absolutely. But you don’t get a free pass. The patient in question needs to own up that they have a fair amount of anxiety and deal with it appropriately, not call an ambulance when there is nothing emergent going on.

    • Anonymous

      And that is exactly what i told him, that he needs to develop better coping mechanisms, and educate his friends on how to deal with his symptoms when they occur.

      The fact that he doesn’t do those things, and that his friends tell me he does this in public quite often, tells me that he likes the attention.

      • Rogue Medic

        If he wants attention, he could always get a blog. ;-)