Seven Questions for Rob Diamond

The veteran Las Vegas paramedic and firefighter on earning the respect of doctors, treating an unruly Ted Binion and handling cat calls.

By Matt Jacob

paramedic_rob_diamond_by_anthony_mair_WEBYou’ve been a paramedic for more than 20 years, including 16½ with Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, so you’ve dealt with your share of doctors in hospitals. Do they respect what you guys do?

I would say that most do. But when we take a patient into the emergency room, you have to kind of earn that respect. When I worked in Virginia, we used to have to do hospital rotations in the ER, so as the doctor got to know you and know your capabilities, they would be more apt to respect your opinion when you came in and said, “Hey, I’ve got this problem with this patient.”

But there are a lot of doctors in Las Vegas, when you go into the ER, they kind of give you their ear but they don’t necessarily hear what you’re saying.

How frustrating is that?

After you’ve been doing it as long as I have, you get to where you expect it. But part of the problem is that some patients give more information to a doctor than they do to me, and then the doctors think, “The paramedic didn’t get all the information from this patient.” It’s not necessarily [true]; when you get to the hospital, it’s funny how sometimes the patients’ stories change—you think you’ve got all the answers to all the questions when you go into an emergency room, and then the docs or nurse will ask a question, and the patient will answer it in a totally different way than when you had them in the back of your rig.

What are the most common calls you answer?

Depending on where you are in the city, the common calls change. In Summerlin, the common call would be falls, cardiac arrest, lift-assists. Down here at Station 4 [at Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway], it could be a drug overdose. You go anyplace near the interstate, you could get all kinds of traffic accidents. So there really isn’t a common call. And that’s kind of why I love the job, because no two days are the same.

What’s the most memorable, only-in-Vegas incident to which you responded?

Prior to Ted Binion’s demise, he had been taken into custody because he went to a convenience store and [shoplifted]. When the employee said, “Hey, you have to pay for that,” Mr. Binion gets upset, goes home, gets a shotgun, comes back and points the shotgun in this guy’s face and says, “Now do you know who I am?” And the guy says, “Yeah, you’re Ted Binion. Take whatever you want.”

Of course, [the employee] calls Metro; Metro goes out to Binion’s home, they arrest him, and in the process Binion gets [disorderly], and they pepper-spray him. Well, we often get called out to do eye-washes, and I proceed to flush Binion’s eyes, and he looks up and spits right in my face. Now, there are two things you don’t want to do to me: Don’t spit on me, and don’t bite me. Of course, I reared back and said, “Do that again and I’ll knock you out.” He looked at me and said, “I didn’t do it on purpose.” I said, “Sir, you did it on purpose.”

How stressful is the job on a day-to-day basis?

I would say this is probably one of the highest stress jobs out there. A lot of what we do you’re doing under stress, and sometimes you’re doing it with a lack of sleep. And we as paramedics don’t just do paramedicine; we’re firemen, as well.

Recently, the department has put a lot of pressure on medics to do more transporting within the city; I’m sure you’ve heard the chief talk about his new goal of wanting [Las Vegas Fire and Rescue] to handle 75 percent of the [city’s paramedic] calls by the end of next year. … So the stress that the department puts on us is one thing; the stress of always doing the right thing for the patient can take a toll; and then the fact that you’re away from your family so much. You might have things going on at home, but because you have a job that you can’t just say, “Sorry, boss, I’ve got to run home,” that adds additional stress.

What’s the best hospital in town?

If you’re talking about a place that has great snacks after we’re done [with a transport], Centennial Hospital. If you’re talking about being sick and dying, it would depend on what you’re sick and dying of. As far as just getting general care, they’re all about the same. But if it’s a trauma call, UMC is the best; they save lives every day at that place. If you’ve been shot or been in a bad traffic accident, you better hope they’re taking you to the Trauma Center.

How often have you been called to rescue a cat stuck in a tree?

[Laughs.] I can say I’ve only had one. Kids will often ask me that, though, and the answer I always give to them is, “Have you ever seen a cat skeleton in a tree? That’s because the cats always manage to get down.”

When I lived in Virginia, we had a fireman die doing a cat rescue—he went up there and the cat jumped at him, and it caused him to come in contact with some power lines and ended up electrocuting him. So, risk a lot to save a lot; risk a little to save a little. And I’m not saying the cat doesn’t need to be rescued, but like I said, you don’t see too many cat skeletons in trees.