stag·na·tion

1 - the condition of being stagnant; cessation of flowing or circulation, as of a fluid; the state of being motionless; as, the stagnation of the blood; the stagnation of water or air; the stagnation of vapors

2 – in acupuncture: a pattern of excess that occurs when the smooth flow of Qi is stuck in an organ or meridian – the primary symptoms are pain, soreness, or distention, which characteristically change in severity and location

3 – in western medicine: the retardation or cessation of the flow of blood in the blood vessels, as in passive congestion or occlusion

“My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes

Officer Leung arrives at the Chinatown police sub station early every morning. He has a personal sense of ownership in that he opened up the station sixteen years ago and he’s been walking the streets of Chinatown ever since. After checking last night’s crime reports he sets out on his morning rounds of getting out to interact with the community. He’s a familiar face to the locals and he can’t walk more than ten yards at a time without saying hello to someone. Being a native Cantonese speaker he easily communicates with the locals and they feel the ability to approach him with everything from neighborhood concerns to telling him about the birth of a son.

It’s an experiment in community policing that started decades ago and is only now beginning to take hold and show results. Many people living in ethnic enclaves of our mostly urban city seldom venture outside of their comfort zone. They may have a mistrust of police and authorities and an inability to easily communicate in English. Because of this they are many times the victims of crimes that go unreported. The community policing model is an attempt to put a familiar face on the authorities and give the people in these areas the ability to thrive in a safe environment. Officer Leung is that face in this community and he loves his job – he feels he gives back to his community every day.

Chinatown is in the midst of its morning wake-up routine: produce trucks double parked and offloading fresh goods, vendors stacking baskets of fruits and vegetables partially in the sidewalk, succulent looking roasted duck and pork hanging in windows. Quickly following the produce trucks are the professional recyclers – men in small pick-up trucks, stacked high with cardboard, providing a service to the vendors and a small income for their family.

Jin has been doing this for years and he knows all of the vendors on his street. As he methodically breaks down the cardboard boxes and stacks them in the back of his truck his shoulder continues to hurt from the strain and the cold morning. He’s thankful he wore extra layers of clothing as it’s a cold day but he seems to be working up a sweat faster than usual today. as each layer of cardboard gets added to the pile in the truck the strain on his shoulder increases. Finally he drops to one knee, holding on to the side of the truck, and grimacing in pain as he sees Officer Leung stop next to him.

I really don’t like running Code-3 through Chinatown. The public cliché about Paramedics and EMTs is that they are adrenaline junkies who love to drive fast and live for the blood and guts of a gory scene. In truth, just about every co-worker I know is really happy when a call gets downgraded to Code-2 and we get to shut down the lights and drive slower. We get far more satisfaction from a complex medical call than a bloody trauma.

But running Code-3 in Chinatown is its own special kind of hectic. Putting aside the normal stereotype about Asian drivers, the real problem is the one way streets with delivery trucks double parked on either side and the intersections where pedestrians can cross in all directions at the same time. It’s a very confusing place to drive – much less Code-3. Fortunately, my partner is handling it pretty well and I just have to help keep an eye out for the random jaywalker.

When we pull up to the scene I open the door and I’m hit with the smell of Chinatown. It’s not unpleasant yet it is unique in the city. The fresh pastries from the Chinese bakery have a sweet smell that blends well with the roasted meat from the next storefront. Layered on top of the food smells is pungent odor of Chinese medicinal herbs that waft from the herbalist’s store. All of this mixes in with the closest and least appealing smell: burning brakes from our rig.

I walk over to the officer and the man sitting on the curb. “Hi Officer Leung, what’s going on today?” Over the years I’ve seen Officer Leung walking the Chinatown beat. He’s a refreshing fixture of the Chinatown landscape.

“Not really sure. Jin collapsed while stacking his truck. He said his shoulder hurts and he saw a doctor for it yesterday but it’s worse today. He only speaks Cantonese but I can translate for you.”

“Okay, how about we move into the rig so I can check him out. Ask him to have a seat on the gurney. Thanks.” The rig has plenty of room and Officer Leung is able to sit at the foot of the gurney without getting in the way. He’s easily able to translate all of my questions pertaining to the onset of symptoms as I try to figure out what’s going on and my partner sets up the monitor to take vitals for me.

Jin has the skin signs that scream MI: pale/cool/diaphoretic, wincing in pain, holding his left shoulder, respirations coming in small gasps. My priority is to set up the 12-lead and have a really good look at the heart. Yet as I open his shirt I’m surprised to see evidence of trauma – he has bruises all over his chest. I’m a little confused as this was presenting like the perfect MI; I remove his shirt so I can fully appreciate the bruises.

As I step back to get the overview of his condition it all comes into focus. He looks as though he was just attacked by a giant squid. He has maybe a dozen circular bruises on the front and back of his left shoulder – they look like giant hickies. Turning to Officer Leung, “Can you ask him to clarify, did he see a doctor yesterday or an acupuncturist?”

After a quick exchange of Cantonese I can rule out the giant squid theory and replace it with the likelihood that he is the recent recipient of fire cupping. It’s an acupuncture technique where a piece of flash paper is lit inside of a bulbous cup which is quickly placed on the skin. The fire sucks the oxygen out of the interior of the cup which then pulls the skin into the cup as it creates suction. The result is a number of circular bruises on the skin that look like a giant squid attack. The theory is based on the principlel that stimulating areas along a meridian will release the stagnation of energy and restore normal circulation. It’s a treatment that’s been around for millennia yet as I look at the results of the 12-lead ECG printing out of the monitor I can see it’s not the treatment he needs right now: ***ACUTE MI SUSPECTED***

 

 

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