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“A Geriatric’s 80-Pound Kettlebells”

by, Eugenia Klopsis

Apr. 9, 2007

The weather’s too cold for spring, and I actually see a few snowflakes when we get a call for an EDP in Sheepshead Bay. “Imagine that,” Bronson says, ignoring the call. “Snowflakes.”

I read the computer screen: “An 85-year-old male, combative, yelling and throwing things.” I read further and note that PD was also called.

We arrive at a small wooden house and are let inside by a Russian family: a middle-age couple and their two teenage sons. “It’s my father,” the man says in heavily accented English. “My grandfather,” one of the sons says in perfect English, while sitting at the kitchen table with a high school calculus textbook open in front of him.

“He’s acting irrationally,” the other son, a strapping young fellow in fashionably distressed jeans, says.

“Does he have a psych history?” Bronson asks.

“No,” the calculus son says. “Heart trouble, asthma, and bronchitis. High blood pressure.”

We go into the living room, where the man is sitting on the couch. He looks younger than 85.

He’s about 5 feet-6 inches tall, barrel-chested, arms like iron bars, and no neck. “He’s built like a brick house,” Bronson says. A nasal cannula attached to a cylinder of home oxygen jars the image of robust health. He appears calm, staring out the window. I ask if I can take his blood pressure. “Da,” he answers, wheezing a little. I inflate, then release the BP cuff. His pressure is high. Bronson and I stand there trying to figure out what to do. He needs to go to the hospital for his breathing.

PD arrives. As I’m explaining to one police officer what’s going on, the other cop points to the corner and says, “Whose are those?” Under a table are two cast-iron things, like solid black cauldrons with thick handles.

“What are they?” I ask. Kettle bells,” the cop says. “What’s a kettle bell?” I ask.

The cop explains that they’re workout weights, like dumbbells only macaroni-shaped, and are used by the Russian military for strength training and conditioning. The cop inspects them and whistles in awe. “Eighty pounds each,” He stands up. “Whose kettle bells are these?”

The family points to the old man. “He uses them every day,” the fashionable son says.

The cop whistles again. “I only use 35 pound ones.”

“Because you’re a weakling,” his partner says, and then sighs. “Wanna EDP him?”

“No,” Bronson says. “Let’s just take him to the ER.” He unfolds the stair chair.

“He’s gonna get upset,” the calculus son warns.

“Tell him it’s just for his wheezing.”

The son shrugs, and talks to the old man in Russian. The man immediately starts ranting and raving, screaming and yelling in Russian.

“Toldja,” the son says.

The old man stands up and throws his medicine bottles off the end table. They skitter to the floor and he stomps on them, smashing them.

The cops look at each other. “EDP him,” one says. The other looks warily at the kettle bells. Any man who can work out with those things is going to be a challenge to handcuff, geriatric or not. The cops attempt to cuff him. Bronson jumps in. I stand there with the handcuffs, waiting for my moment. Finally, they all sit on him while I fumble with the cuffs. It’s a lot harder than it looks on TV. “Got ‘im,” I say, as they snap shut.

We’re all sweating, but he’s not even damp as we load him onto the stair chair. But he’s wheezing audibly now. Bronson says, “Call for medic.” They come as we’re trying to get him out the door, which he blocks with his iron like legs. They can’t do an EKG or listen to his lungs, so they decide just to take him to the ER. “If he craps out on the bus, we’ll work him there.”

Even handcuffed, he fights us every step of the way, straining against the stair chair, kicking the doors of the ambulance. He wraps his legs around the stair chair to prevent being moved to the stretcher. But once we get him on the stretcher, he just lies there, apparently defeated.

I think of the 80-pound kettle bells and keep my distance.

(Ms. Klopsis is an emergency medical technician on an ambulance in Brooklyn)

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