Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Fix One Thing at a Time"

This poem is spillover from the April 21, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from Anonymous. It also fills the "Thorns" square in my 4-1-20 card for the Spring Fest Bingo. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem is mostly a theoretical discussion of messy medical details, along with fallout from past trauma for various characters. It's mostly positive, though, and nothing is going wrong at the present time.

"Fix One Thing at a Time"

[Monday, June 1, 2015]

"Thanks for coming out, Kedric,
we all appreciate it," Conrad said
as they walked through the farm.

"No problem," the paramedic said.
"Like a lot of folks in Ava, I still feel bad
about not spotting the nest of supervillains
in our county. So I do what I can to help
the centaurs now that I know about them.
Besides, I never get enough hours at work."

"Charlie's everywhere, kid, you just got
to shoot the ones you see and try not
to worry about the rest," Conrad said.

"Huh?" Kedric said, staring at him.

"Old war slang, never mind,"
Conrad said, waving him off.
"We got our hands full here."

"That we do," Kedric said.
"How are the centaurs doing?"

"As well as can be expected,"
Conrad said. "Right now, they're
all ruffled up because Turq heard
from some folks who want to turn
the compound back into a college
or something else useful."

"That's not a bad idea, but I
can see how some of them might
find it ... stressful," Kedric said.

"Yeah, they find a lot stressful,"
Conrad said. "We're trying to get
better access to health care, for them,
but it's patchy. Most of 'em still spook
at the bare mention of it, and even
the traveling farrier was dicey."

"You can only fix one thing at a time,
so don’t try and solve everything
at once," Kedric advised.

"Hmm," Conrad said,
eyeing Kedric. "You
ever think about working
somewhere else? You
mentioned that you can't
get enough hours there."

Kedric shrugged. "We have
emergency medicine education
in Springfield, which means a lot of
people competing for the same jobs,"
he said. "Where else would I work?
I don't want to go too far from home."

"Here," Conrad said. "Look around,
we already got most of what we need
to qualify as a Gentle Life community.
What we do not have is a support person,
which can be an Emotional First Aide or
a nurse or whatever the residents need."

"I have EFA and paramedic certifications,"
Kedric said. "Wouldn't they be better off
with a veterinarian, though? My training
only covers humans, not other species."

"Kid, almost nobody's training covers
soups of any shape," Conrad said.

"Okay, you have a point there,"
Kedric said. "You've talked about
having advanced first aid skills
by way of your military career."

"I know CPR for humans, sure.
I even took a home vet course
so I know it for pets and livestock,"
Conrad said. "But if one of my centaurs
has a heart attack, what the funky heck
am I supposed to do about that?"

"I ... don't know," Kedric said slowly.
"Let me think about that a minute."
He tapped his fingers on his thigh.
"Okay, Airway-Breathing-Circulation.
If you don't know the victim's anatomy,
first you have to identify their trachea,
lungs, and heart in order to help them."

"Or hearts," Conrad said. "Centaurs
have two hearts, human and horse."

"The ones I've treated do, but that
doesn't mean they all do," Kedric said.

"Good point," Conrad said. "Charlie's
such a hack, no telling if he used
the same pattern or different ones."

"Well, Ariel has wings and Kim Van is
a zebra, so we know he screwed around
with some variations," Kedric pointed out.

"Turn here," Conrad said, indicating a path.
"Let's walk and talk a bit more. Nobody's
going to mind if we're a little bit late."

Kedric followed him willingly. "You
have a beautiful place here," he said.

"Thank my wife," Conrad said. "This farm
was her idea for fixing what the war broke
inside my head, and eventually, it worked."

"It's good for the centaurs, too," Kedric said.
"Hopefully they won't have a heart attack, though."

"We could use a medic for other things as well,"
Conrad said. "What if they get into thorns?
We got wild raspberries and blackberries
all over, along with Chickasaw plums."

"You'd have a huge advantage over
dealing with a horse, because you could
talk to them and help them stay calm while
you disentangle them from the bushes,"
Kedric said. "Then just pick out the thorns."

"See now, that's a lot more likely to happen
than a heart attack," Conrad said. "We could
really use a medic here, and while we have
a farrier, we do not have a veterinarian.
Besides, the centaurs like and trust you
more than anyone except Ansel and Turq."

Kedric sighed. "What would you want
me to do, if I agreed to work here?"

"What you've been doing, helping them
figure out their bodies and taking care of
minor injuries," Conrad said. "Plus what
we're doing now, talking about emergencies
before they happen and trying to imagine
what first aid steps or techniques we need."

"I could do some of that," Kedric said.
"Maybe take a home vet course like you did.
Has that helped you put the pieces together?"

"A bit, but my experience is mostly livestock,"
Conrad said. "I don't have your time in grade
when it comes to treating human injuries."

Kedric tilted a hand back and forth.
"That's not a bad thing," he said. "If we
have different experiences, then we can
probably counterbalance each other."

"I don't mind sitting in," Conrad said.
"I've taught first aid stuff before.
You got any other questions?"

"What about pay, and a place
to stay?" Kedric said. "I could
drive back to Ava for visits, but I
wouldn't want to commute that far."

"The vehicle barn has four apartments
above it for hired hands," Conrad said.
"Room and board could come as part of
your pay, and the Victim Restitution fund
covers caregivers so that should match
your current pay at least, if not more."

"Then I'm willing to consider it,
and we can see what the centaurs
think about it," Kedric said. "Though
it's a pity you couldn't get Kite for this."

Conrad shook his head. "No, Kite is
a combat medic," he said. "She's willing
to visit sometimes, to help folks learn
about centaur bodies, but she'd get
bored on a farm pretty quick."

"Probably so," Kedric conceded.
"Shall we go see what the centaurs
think of your proposal, then?"

"Sure," Conrad said. "We can
pick up the heart attack discussion,
too. Hobart talks tough, but I know
that boy has some heart issues."

"I noticed that too," Kedric said.
He sighed. "All the centaurs have
some sort of challenges from
their slapdash assembly."

"We'll do the best we can
for them," Conrad said.

The two of them made
their way toward the area
reserved for the centaurs.

The farm was big; it could
spare them the space.

Besides, some of them
were already good workers.

Conrad gave a loud whistle,
and the centaurs began to gather,
with Arun and Pogonip in the lead.

"All right, folks, listen up, because you've
got some opportunities," Conrad said.
"First up, I invited Kedric to move in here
as our dedicated medic. What do you say?"

The centaurs shuffled and muttered,
but nobody voiced a clear opinion.

"Come on, kids, think it over and
then speak up," Conrad said. "I think
having a medic here is a good idea,
for a lot of reasons, but if it's going
to freak you out, that's not helpful."

The others looked at Lilita, who was
among the most skittish of them.

"It's okay with me," said Lilita.
"Kedric is nice to me. I might not
want to be around him all the time,
but there lots of places to go so
we're not tripping over each other."

"All right, then," Conrad said. "We'll
see if it pans out. I'll show Kedric
the apartments, and we'll look over
the Gentle Life stuff together."

"Meanwhile, Conrad and I were
discussing first aid," said Kedric.
"You know that my training is all for
humans, but I want to work out what
to do for you. Who wants to stay
and explore that with us?"

Several of the centaurs
backed away, but Arun and
Pogonip both raised their hands.
"We're in," the leaders said.

"Life is tough, but it’s tougher
if you’re stupid," Dodge said.
"Better to know what to do
when things go wrong."

Lilita, Miriam, and Kim Van
clustered together. "We'll stay,"
Miriam said. "Dodge is right."

"Yeah, me too," said Michann.
"I don't need a repeat of my hooves."

Kept in captivity, his hooves had grown
a long brittle edge that shed in ugly chips
once he started walking on rough ground.
He had metal shoes, now, but that
was still an unpleasant memory.

Hobart jittered around the edges,
neither leaving nor agreeing to stay.
That was fine; he could do whatever
he needed in order to feel safe.

Kedric waited until the centaurs
had arranged themselves into
a loose semicircle in the grass
before he began his talk.

"How many folks here had
some first aid training before
you came to the farm?" he asked.

Arun, Pogonip, Miriam, and
Michann all raised their hands.

Hobart hesitated, then said,
"Does it count if people talked
at me but I didn't listen?"

"Do you feel like you'd know
what to do if you or a friend
got hurt?" Kedric countered.

Hobart sighed. "Not really."

"Then no, it doesn't count,
and you should try again when
you're actually ready," Kedric said.
"It's totally fine if you just want
to hang around and listen for
a while before you get serious."

"I did ask Kedric a serious question
earlier, so that's what we'll explore
today," Conrad said. "How do you
handle a centaur with a heart attack?"

They all shivered and twitched at that.

"I don't know," Lilita said. "I didn't
wake up until after it was all over."

Conrad dragged a hand over his face.
"That rat-bastard really needs killin'."

"Has anyone taken CPR lessons?"
Kedric said. "That's a place to start."

This time only Arun and Pogonip
raised their hands. "My card's
expired by now, but yeah, I've
passed the class," Arun said.

"I can recertify you later,
if you like," Kedric offered,
"and you too, Pogonip."

"Yes, please," she said.

"Now, I've got first aid for
humans from the Army, but
I also took some for animals,"
Conrad said. "Anyone else
do something like that?"

Michann and Dodge
raised their hands.

"I've taken a few of
the afternoon classes
for pets," said Dodge.
"I've also read a lot of
books for farmers."

"Got plenty of those
here," Conrad said.
"Help yourself."

"Now, there aren't
many classes that cover
soup care," Kedric said.
"So we have to improvise,
splicing together parts from
human and animal versions,
plus some extra ingenuity."

"Like how?" Dodge said.

"With a human or a horse,
you know the basic anatomy --
where the windpipe, lungs,
and heart are," Kedric said.
"With a centaur, you have
to figure that out as you
go along, unless someone
wants to map it earlier."

"We should do that,"
Miriam said, even as
the others skittered back.
"We need to know things
about ourselves, even if
finding out is scary. I'll help."

"I'll do what I can too,"
Kedric promised. "We don't
have to do it all at once."

Arun waved his hand.
"Is it different for when
the human heart stops
or the horse heart stops?
Or does the same thing
work on both?" he asked.

"Different," Kedric said.
"Can you lie on your back,
flat, like a human would?"

They all shook their heads.

"So you need a different method,
which is more advanced," Kedric said.

"We don't have a dummy," said Conrad.

"I wasn't expecting to do this talk today,
and besides, they don't make CPR dummies
shaped like centaurs," Kedric pointed out.
"You still need to check airway, breathing,
and circulation. But for chest compressions,
you need to brace the victim's back against
either a padded surface or another person."

The centaurs looked at each other,
clearly trying to figure out where to push.

"You know, the cheap dummies are
just a head and a chest," Conrad said.
"If we could figure out how to make
a horse half, we could put together
a centaur dummy for later lessons."

"I could source retired dummies that
we could disassemble for spare parts,"
Kedric said. "We'd need stronger springs
to construct the horse body, though."

"I got wagon springs and such,"
Conrad said. "Bellows too."

"Then yeah, I think that we could
make a centaur dummy," Kedric said.

"I used to do science fairs, biology stuff,"
Arun said. "I could help with that."

"I like intense sensations, so if you
need someone to haul heavy things,
then I'm your guy," said Michann.

"Great, it's a plan," Kedric said.
"Getting back to our current topic,
it takes more force to pump blood
the bigger the victim's body is."

"CPR for horses is dicey stuff,"
Conrad added. "The best ways
aren't for novices, but there are
a couple other options. One is
sitting on the chest and bouncing."

"That will work for human helpers, but
not for centaurs," Kedric pointed out.

"Yeah, that's true," Conrad said.
"The other way should work for
all four-legged victims. You 'fan'
the legs open and closed around
the lungs like you're pumping on
bellows, which you basically are."

"Like trotting?" Lilita said, frowning.

"No, that's forward and back. You
need in and out," Conrad said. He
pulled out his phone and poked at it.
"Here, this is how the move looks
when you're doing it on a dog."

The centaurs crowded around,
murmuring amongst themselves.

"I remember that," Dodge said.
"One of the classes had a dummy
shaped like a dog, and we all got
to try doing the moves on it." She
mimed cupping her hands around
a muzzle. "So how would we
breathe for another centaur?"

"Well ... you probably can't,
not all the way," Kedric said.
"You should be able to ventilate
the human lungs, but the horse lungs
are bigger and farther away, so they're
more likely to need special equipment."

"Is that equipment anything we could
use here and should add?" Conrad asked.

"Some of it might be," Kedric said. "I'm
rated for pretty advanced stuff on humans,
so let me ask around and see if the vet gear
is familiar enough that I could handle it."

"Sounds good," Conrad said, making
a note on his smartphone for reference.

"Internal stuff might pose a challenge,"
Kedric said. "There are specific positions
for humans to make sure the airway is
open and blood can flow. I don't know
those for centaurs, and it's an issue."

"Could we ask Alicia?" Lilita said.
"She was nice to us, and she
can see inside our bodies."

"Healer," Conrad explained
to Kedric. "Sure, we can ask."

"Maybe also ask if any superpowers
contraindicate CPR," Kedric said.
"A healer might know that, and I
sure don't. I've just heard rumors."

"Lightning Powers, or anything
like that," Conrad said. "Zapping
might help or hurt, don't know which."

"Or blow out the battery," Kedric said.
"I've seen that on the news with tasers."

"Isn't there some kind of adapter?"
Conrad said. "Seems I heard about
something in my last renewal class."

"Yeah, you can get a set of adapters
to run on household current," Kedric said.
"That would be a better idea than trying
to rig up a connection to a car battery
for restarting the horse heart. We
can put that on the list too."

Conrad tapped on his phone.
"All taken care of," he said.

"Okay, quick review," Kedric said.
"If someone goes down, call it in first
and then go to help them. I'll come as
quick as I can, and you know a healer too.
Try to figure out what's wrong. In case of
a heart attack, use the human steps for
the upper heart and horse steps for
the lower heart. I'll work out more later."

"Today, we're mostly just brainstorming,"
Conrad reminded them. "A lot of this is
new territory, so we're working it out as
we go along. It'll take a while to gather
new equipment and information."

"Meanwhile, Conrad also raised
the issue of minor injuries, like
what to do if someone gets
tangled in thorns," Kedric said.

"Again," Dodge said wryly,
looking at Kim Van.

"I didn't know they had
thorns!" Kim Van said.
"I thought they were fruit."

"Chickasaw plums tend
to have thorns," Conrad said.
"You okay now, Kim Van?"

She nodded. "Dodge got me out."

"We'll make that tomorrow's topic,
then, and I'll let you know when I
have more details on how to handle
centaur emergencies," Kedric said.

"All right then, that's enough hard work
for now," Conrad said, flipping his hands.
"You kids go stretch out your legs."

Most of the centaurs scattered,
trotting into the pasture, because
it was hard to stand still for long.

Kim Van lingered, drifting close
to Conrad. "Sorry I didn't say
about the thorns," she whispered.

"It's okay," Conrad said. "Your friend
got you out, and you look fine now.
You tell me things whenever you're
ready, and don't push on my account."

"Okay," said Kim Van. "I'll try."
She wheeled and trotted away.

"They're getting better," Kedric said,
watching the centaurs exercise.
"They're less skittish and they've
got more energy to move around."

"Ayup, I see it too," Conrad said.
"Not all better yet, but improving.
Now we just got to hope we can
get ahead of the curve on first aid
before anything goes bad wrong."

"We're on it, and that's the best
that we can do," Kedric said.

"Breaking new ground,"
Conrad said. "It's all rocks
and roots first, but it's worth it."

"Yeah, it is," Kedric said. "We'll
just fix one thing at a time, and
it'll come right in the end."

"From your lips to God's ear,"
Conrad said, patting his shoulder.

It had worked for him, though.

* * *


"You can only fix one thing at a time… so don’t try and solve everything at once."
a good Paramedic

This is Conrad's farm outside of Bluehill. The tall red barn houses the horses. The garage for farm equipment is the brown building broadside below it. Left of the driveway, the small gray car garage is just barely visible behind the house. In front of the house is part of the garden space, primarily holding bushes and berry canes. The pond is a long, lobed catchbasin that rambles along the base of the ridges above it, and the ducks are kept close to the pond.

The garage for farm equipment is the brown building broadside in the picture. Its second story holds four apartments for the hired hands. The lefthand staircase is the external fire escape, and has a book nook beside it. The righthand staircase goes down from the loft apartments to the main floor of the garage, and has a lounge area beside it. The top of the cross holds a ping-pong table. The bottom of the cross holds exercise equipment.

This poem really started with a post in which various medics discussed how to treat a centaur with a heart attack, and my critique of some of the mistakes they made. So the links to various first aid techniques are in my critique.

Charlie (usually uncountable, plural Charlies)
1. (military slang) An enemy; the Vietcong; short for Victor Charlie.

Victor Charlie
1. (US, military) VC
• (VC): Vietcong, Charlie (diminutive)
In the US military phonetic spelling alphabet for VC, which in turn is an abbreviation of Vietcong, which is a diminutive of the Vietnamese language term for Vietnamese Communist.

Go Home Charlie -- when a supervillain kills someone for being too awful for even the other bad guys to tolerate. While often thought of as concerning abusive telepaths, those are actually quite rare, and there are plenty of other offenses that have caused supervillains to turn around and frag someone supposedly on their own side. A milder version entails turning the offender in to the authorities, such as SPOON or the police. Most lawkeeping organizations wish to encourage this kind of assistance and thus grant the delivering supervillain a stay of pursuit ranging from the rest of the day to 24 hours.

Gentle Life is an organization for people with PTSD or similar situations who want to treat their condition with lifestyle changes. It works very well for those who want a peaceful place to concentrate on healing, although not so much for those who keep wishing they could get back to their old activity level. Gentle Life mostly features farms and artistic communities far out in rural areas, although they have some cohousing locations for suburban or urban dwellers. They concentrate on building a support network in the community and making happy new memories. Art therapy, music therapy, organic farming and cooking are typical offerings. Some of the farms also work with abused animals or do other animal-assisted therapy. Tranquil Table and Todos Santos are among the Gentle Life communities.

Time in grade is a requirement for a specified amount of time that an employee must spend in a grade before they are eligible for promotion (5 CFR 300.604).

Chickasaw plums grow wild and usually have thorns.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, safety, weblit, writing
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