Sunday, December 20, 2009

Medic life on the rigs

This was originally a 'GCS joke' (uh, more on that later) blog, but then I was hit by the absolutely brilliant idea of spinning it into an update as well. On rig medic life. So, here goes. Hold onto your chair. Ahem.

It's been two months since the day I first hit the rigs. It started with a call from (insert company's name here - oh right, no I won't) to come up for 'orientation'. Orientation? Does that mean I'm hired? Just like that? While most other companies were performing interviews, this one just wanted to test you out in the field and see what you were made of - that was your 'interview'. I drove up anyways to chat money and hours with them and set up an actual orientation date. First things first, I obtained my H2S; hey, I was even 'taught' CPR by a firefighter! Turns out these firefighters are not just doing CPR fast because of adrenaline, they are being taught to do CPR fast.
"Faster, faster!" the man yelled, snapping his whip as we did CPR. Right, sorry, there was actually no whip snapping. But moving on.
Sweat flew and eyes bugged as we did our best to keep up to the beat he was drumming out. Actually, to be honest, no sweat flew either, but my eyebrows did raise at his request.
"100 beats per minute! FASTER!"

Later, he explained that CPR should be done according to the beat of the song "Staying Alive". This is also what we are taught as medics, so it made sense to me. It helps to think of the song when you're doing CPR because it gives you a steady beat to work off of; you do not end up rushing your CPR (and thus making it inadequate) due to the adrenaline rush you experience in that type of scenario. But Staying Alive is not the 200 beats/minute that he was enforcing like some drill seargent.

Anyways, it provided a good (albeit internal) laugh for me. Firefighters. *sigh*.

My orientation consisted of paperwork and a 4+ hour Petroleum Safetey Training course. Thrilling. Since my employer did not have the time for a 'truck' (etc) orientation, he/she promised to do it when I was next in to work. In a few days.

I arrived the morning I was to work, to be - to put it simply, shuttled into a truck and pushed out the door. No orientation. Is this a diesel? Is it Ford? Dodge? How do I work this radio-looking thing? AND HOW DO I GET TO THE SITE?!

Well, 8 hours of driving later, I finally arrived on site. I won't mention the part where I got lost. It was rather embarassing, until I realised it was not my fault - the directions were faulty. Just imagine an entire network of roads with signage galore, none of which you comprehend in the least. Roads leading everywhere and you have no idea where the fuck you are. Oh, and you do not have cell service for much of it. Yay! Because there's nothing else I'd rather be doing, than losing myself on rig roads! We won't mention either that I am not calling my kilometres on the radio because a) I have no idea how the radio works and b) I have no idea how or what I am supposed to be 'calling out' anyways. I had a good laugh on my way in though as I passed the 70km/h signs denoting that radar was present and would be enforced. Meanwhile I am using 4Low to get myself back onto the road I slid down as I rested on the edge to let an oncoming truck pass. I couldn't imagine someone travelling 70km/h on this road or anywhere near this pace, and the thought of police tramping through that muck...well that just made me giggle in joy at the prospect.

My first night in camp I was rather stressed as I tried to remember names of important guys, take in new information critical to my survival out there, and shelve further info that I wuold require later. By morning however I was feeling pretty confident and was getting along well with the crews in camp.

To say my first week in a camp was bliss is an understatement. I slept, I ate, I slept some more...and I was spoiled rotten. Apparently a ratio of 20 guys to each chick in camp is a favourable one for the girls. The guys were on their best behaviour and treated me like royalty (I was even privvy to special-made coffees and treats!). Hehehe. Oh yea, workin hard and livin the life. What I found to probably be the most amusing, was my befriending one of the guys that the previous (male) medic really disliked. While sitting in our truck, donning our PPE, the medic warns me in a grave tone that the guy we are about to meet is a 'real asshole'. But, we have to meet him and the man in question has to give me a company-specific and site-specific orientation. I waited an entire week and never met the 'asshole'. In fact, he was kind enough to take me on two rig tours and show me my way around, explaining everything on the rig down to the littlest detail - details I did not require to do my job proficiently, but details I was personally curious in myself. I'm a bit of a curious cat and love to learn how everything works. I actually admitedly really liked him, to my great amusement. Man, I love being a chick!

All in all, my first week was a success and resulted in a nice, fat paycheck. I was disappointed to leave the rig crews I had befriended, however a week and a half (or so) later I returned, though this time just for the weekend to relieve the medic on site.

It has been another three weeks since those jobs and I am now up at a new rig. The call from my dispatch came with a warning concerning this rig:
"Don't take what these guys say to heart, okay?"
"Well, they've run off all medics I have put in there. They even ran off the VP of our company when he went in there after so many unsuccessful medic runs."
"Oh." I narrowed my eyes. Did I mention I am highly competitive? This sounded like a challenge to me. No one had ever lasted long with this rig crew...but I was going to. Just watch me. Muahahaha, MUAHAHA-...right. Back to the story.

So with only slight trepidation, I packed my bags and headed up to our company base, in (oh wait, yea, not giving out that information either). I was to attend a two-day 'pre-scrub' (a bunch of meetings and orientation ++ prior to the job starting), of which 99 percent of the content did not apply to me - the 1 percent that did...I already knew, from being on this company's sites before. The second day of meetings centered around a 4-hour discussion of well casing sizes. Which sizes are to be used and in what ares of the well, what type of material is to be used, etc etc. I figured this would take maybe all of - oh, let's exaggerate here, and say ONE HOUR. Nope. Four. Long. Hours. I tried to pay attention to it, however it just didn't apply and was not even useful information I could log away for some later date. So I spent much of my time staring at the wall. I am all seriousness here. I literally stared at the wall. I am continually astounded at the amount of patience I have stored up for times like these. At least I was well paid. All the guys seem really nice and are willing to joke and play around with me. I think I like this rig, but what happens at the office might not be what happens at the rigs...

Day three was to be spent driving out to another of my company's locations prior to driving out to the rig site the following morning. I arrived at the shop to find them not in the least prepared for my departure. An hour and a half later, I was finally suited up and ready to go, truck in hand. 45 minutes on the road I get a call from dispatch.
"Can you do me a huge favour?"
Alarm bells ring and my normal 'without-even-thinking-twice-yes' becomes a "uh...yea?"
"Where are you?"
"About 45 minutes away."
"Can you turn around? Please."
Oh no, a pleading voice. I can't resist a pleading voice! I sigh as I hit a turn-around exit.
"There's another employee who needs to go up to (place) as well, and we were hoping you could take them?"
"Yea," sigh, "I'll be there in about 45 minutes."

Almost two hours later, I am BACK on the road, headed to (place). Cuz nothing sounds better than 10 hours of driving!! At least my passenger was good to drive a couple of hours from our destination, because by that point I was pretty dead tired.

I arrive at (place) and call the company's rep, HR. HR tells me, in a slightly-stressed voice, that they have been trying to call my boss all day (since well before I left for place) but have been unable to get a hold of her. The rig move is not taking place for another few days - it has been delayed. So I call dispatch. I notice that she had tried calling me only a couple of hours ago.
"Yes, I know it's been delayed, I called you earlier just to let you know, but we wanted you to go up anyways."
And what? SIT??! Are you PAYING me to sit here and do nothing?!! Oh, right, no, no you're not.

The night before I am supposed to go out to supervise the camp move, I call to confirm. The camp move is still on. The next morning I wake up bright and early and am ready. Only problem, is that the staff is not yet up and the main gate to the compound the trucks sit in, is locked. Of course I had no idea it was to be locked, or else I would have made previous arrangements. But it is. I sit, and I wait, and finally I decide I cannot wait any longer, so I wake the staff up. We get everything figured out, I run my truck in the -20-something (practically balmy considering previous temp's were sitting at -44 plus windchill) for 5 minutes, and take off. Of course, at those temperatures, 5 minutes is not sufficient to defrost anything. Did I mention there is no snow brush in the truck? Oh, well, there's no snow brush in the truck, which serves as an added annoyance. I finally make it to my meeting spot with the rig consultant, and we head out to the actual rig and camp sites...2 hours away. I follow them through the twisty, windy roads, and do my best to refrain from looking down when the slippery road drops off in sheer cliffs at times. At one point, we had to descend into a valley, then back up the other find a truck unable to make it up the hill. Finally the truck is helped up the road and the road is made a little more passable. My hands were quite sweaty by the end of the drive and I felt exhausted from the mental stress.

I spend the day in my truck, watching the men set up camp, and catching up on some reading. All in all it was not a bad day and was another show of my newly-found seemingly-unending patience. I skitter back home that night to sleep another night and pass by a couple more 'sitting' days. So far, so good, and everyone seems far (cue creepy music).

Luckily for me, the days pass by rather quickly and include a couple of day-jobs I take in. Easy stuff like switching out trucks at other rig sites, or dropping of supplies. Plus, I supervise (safety-wise) the camp move (for the same rig I am to work for) for a day. So I still earn some decent money, even for 'sitting' for 4 full days. Bonus, I also see plenty of moose and deer outside in the backyard of the place where I am staying - booya!

Finally it is camp day. The rig consultant gives me the option of coming in the day prior to the rig move, or coming in the early morning the day of. Uh, night owl here, I'll come in the afternoon prior. Plus, I earn an extra day of pay - no brainer decision here! This time, with my renewed rig-road confidence, I taunt the roads on my way in. I make it in safely to settle in my new 'home'. The consultant seems pleased to see me, and over dinner so far everyone is pleasant.

I am up the following morning just shy of 6am and spend the day idling in my truck nearby as they set up the rig. It's a bit fascinating to see a rig - and particularly this one, as it is a little unique - be set up from the ground up. The next couple of days pass easily and quickly with movies, some self-study from my medic books, and jokes with the consultants and anyone else I have the pleasure of being in contact with.

As I sit, I am in a shack on site (going back to camp for lunches and each evening) typing this up. Behind the shack I am cozied up in, sits a breath-taking forest lay spread before us. Meadows laden with several feet of snow lead up to a treeline that continues on for miles. The trees, tall and skinny Christmas trees, are frosted with a layer of snow as they sway in the light winds. Beyond the forests, hills rise and fall to eventually lie in defeat at the feet of towering, snow-encrusted mountains. It's an absolutely inspiring panaramic view. I can honestly say I could now probably drive the twisty, windy road from camp to lease with my eyes closed now. The road, which lines the western provincial border, silently cuts through meadow and forest alike and includes a bridge that gaps a frozen brook below. It is a beautiful place to be. The lease itself lies within a territory of land that keeps relatively warmer temperatures than the rest of the province, in fact, its temperatures approximate those in a town several hours off, the next province over. It is also a place though where several feet of snow can hit over a matter of hours. As I speak, snow drifts quietly by.

I sit facing the front of the shack, with my computer at the feet of a window overlooking the rig itself. Men swarm around either on foot or in various machines. Huge cranes tower over the lease. Each day, each hour even, visible progress is made. The rig has already grown an easy 30' taller just today. The derrick lies on its side on the ground, ready to be booted up tomorrow. It is an interesting sight to observe; I love the business of the place.

The best part is that I think I am starting to earn my way into this rig. I spend all day in a shack teasing and prodding the consultants, safety tech, and other members that cross my path. Soon (once the rig 'scrub' is completed), I will be spending my days instead up in camp, but you can bet I'll be back down here visiting often. I think I might almost be sad to leave here come the 23rd! Luckily for me, I can spend my January here as well as most of March if I want it (which I will, I could use the moula). Then I can return for June/July/August. So, looks like I might be here to 'stay', at least for a little while ;)

In the mean time though, back to my original reason for posting. So here I am, self-studying, and I figure I should re-study the GCS - a scale we use to rate the level of consciousness in a patient (minimum of '3', completely unconscious, and maximum - fully conscious and oriented, '15'). So I write it out on one of my many cue cards. And it occurs to me, these could be used to rate men! Like for example, under 'motor', for a patient to score a 6, they have to 'obey commands'. See where I'm going with this?? Yea, that's right, you medics out there know what I'm talking about. *Ahem*. Yea...too much time here. It was really funnier in my head, too...

UPDATE: Turns out the rig I was previously warned about turned out to be just another great crew - even they don't seem to know where the rumour arose of medics being run off. Who knows *shrugs*, but I am glad to have been posted there! After my previous-mentioned hitch there, I was home for a bit then returned for another 3 weeks with them. In total though, this last hitch I spent 4 weeks away from home - the first week being spent with a wirelining crew and another oil and gas company consultant. The three spent with 'my' rig proved to be uneventful and allowed for a lot of catch-up sleep (yay!), hehe. The boys are all great and each consultant has also been fab to work with. Unfortunately the road leading to the camp and rig site is falling away (into a canyon, to be more specific), so the rig has been shut down early :( I have since left for the Olympics and am hoping to get back on with the same crew and rig this summer, when they fire back up...we'll see!!

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