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EMS workers retrieve a patient in North Houston. buildings at either end of a 40-foot concrete slab, the station is easy to miss, but serves one of the largest and poorest EMS districts in Harris Countyan area that spans quiet blue-collar neighborhoods, gang turf, government housing projects, and urban colonias. “Out here we are their medical services,” says paramedic-incharge Laura Powell. “This is not a healthy area. We have a lot of older people, a lot of low socio-economic people, a lot of very sick people. We also have people who just need a ride to the hospital to get their prescriptions filled, and there’s no one else to take them.” Ambulance crews out here answer a high volume of trauma callscalls for rapes, beatings, stabbing, shootings, car-jacking, psychotic episodes, and drug overdoses. In recent years, with its open fields and wooded areas, the district has also been something of a body dump. But with a large population of the elderly and uninsured, the bulk of calls are for cases where neglect and non-compliancenot taking medications, or following dietary and lifestyle guidelineshave exacerbated existing illnesses to the breaking point. “You do see sick people who probably shouldn’t be sick,” Powell says. “You end up doing a lot of patient education. You see things while you’re at a site, and you say “Oh, by the way”though sometimes you’re thinking “Oh, my God!” Late on Sunday afternoon, the crew of Medic 92 from the Isom Road station takes a 911 call phoned in from a McDon ald’s by the freeway. When they arrive, a sandy-haired woman with a collapsing ponytail is slumped alone over a plastictopped table, her arms folded tight across her stomach. Derrick Samuel and Jeremy Manago, the crew of Medic 92, crouch down beside her. “What’s the matter?” Samuel asks. She clenches a hand low on her abdomen. “I got a pain. Down here. So bad I can hardly….” She breaks off, wheezing. “How long has that been going on?” “A couple of days. Iit just got so bad….” “OK,” Samuel says. “Let’s see if we can get you outside.” Samuel puts a gloved hand under her elbow. With Manago at her other side, she gets shakily to her feet. Every step makes her wince and pant, and it’s a slow walk out to the ambulance. Her face is tight with pain; only once she is settled on her back in the stretcher does she open her eyes again. Samuel palpates her belly gently with his gloved palm. “Does this hurt? And here?” It seems to hurt everywhere. He asks if she has ever had a urinary tract infection. No, she says, but she has had kidney stones for seven years. “I pass one at least once a year,” she says. “Not less. More, sometimes.” “Have you noticed any blood in your urine?” “A tinge. It was pink, pinkish.” “How long?” continued on page 16 11/5/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7