...hours of mind numbing boredom, punctuated by minutes of mind-frying excitement....
It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. I thought if I got to the Firehouse early, I would get some calls in. I need about 7 more before I can sit in the front of the ambulance as EMS officer. Let me tell you, the fine citizens of the greater Anonymousville metropolitan area had a very safety-minded healthy day. The ambulance sat in the station.
Not really. Someone donated a house that is going to be torn down to our Firehouse to train in and, eventually, burn down. The squad and Truck headed over there for some firefighter training in rescue and recovery. J and I headed along in the ambulance with the Assistant Chief giving me his blessing to ride officer to the house. J and I weren't directly involved in the exercise but we did get some training done. We went over ambulance placement at the scene, radio protocols and usage at a fire scene and the whole communication process for the jurisdiction. At one point, a team of firefighters came out of the smoky house with a "baby." It was just a child size wad of sheets and medical tape with a splint for the arms.
"We found a baby!" McV said as he lumbered out of the building. "EMS, Here you go!" and the threw the "baby" at my feet.
Ah! I got to be in the drill. Fun!
Not much notable at the drill other than some of the more senior FF's from my station and a neighboring station kept looking over at me and smirking as they talked among themselves. Must be the "EMS only" helmet or the clean turnout gear. Ah well.
So, back at the station, with NOTHING going on. 2300 comes and goes and I'm still sitting there, watching some show on cable about building custom motorcycles. One of the FFs is a mechanic and bike enthusiast. It's kind of neat to see the creative process and to hear his well informed opinions on the bikes.
So at 20 minutes after midnight, I'm contemplating heading home when the call comes for the squad and the ambulance. Shooting, right around the corner in the low income housing complex. PD on scene.
B is driving and my old pal, S, is riding officer. The Squad is out ahead of us and when we arrive on scene, they're out first. About 5 police officers are there spaced out around the area. "Is the shooter in custody?" I ask the nearest one. With his eyes still scanning the nearby apartments and cars, he shakes his head. "Ok, Maddog, keep your eyes open." I say to myself.
There's a knot of firefighters over by a car. S and I get over there with our bags and we can't see anything. Big McV is there and I tell him to shine his light on the patient. Yep, evisceration. His intestines are sticking out and he's seeping blood. He's conscious and waving his arms and crying as we get to him. Big McV says, "I'm out....I can't do this, and hurries away"
Backboard, stretcher, ambo, dressing on the bowels, fighting with the patient, "I'm going to die!", "Not, yet, mister, not yet." O2 via non-rebreather at 15Lpm, blood on his head, check for other wounds. Nicks from birdshot. Birdshot?? DAMN! WTF? I suppose he's lucky, if it had been 00 buck shot, he'd have been a lot worse off. 00 buck shot is 9 .30 caliber lead balls in a 3" shell. OW!
Medics meet en route. All business. 3 EMTs trying to control the patient (H hopped in with me and S) and get vitals, 2 Medics trying to start IVs and keep from getting pinched. One of the medics has got the patient's hand squeezed between his thighs while he starts an IV. He winces and says, "DON'T PINCH ME!" but he doesn't flinch and he get the IV started.
This guy is cool as a cucumber!
No chance of a bp, I manage a pulse via SAO2 meter but he keeps flinging it off before I can get an O2 reading. Lung sounds? Well, He's doing a lot of yelling, "I'm dying! I'm going to die! Call my wife! He shot me!"
I'm at his head and I'm trying to keep him occupied. S is by the side that's open and he's trying to keep his guts from spilling out of the dressing all over the floor of the ambulance. at one point, we shift the strap of the cot so it doesn't slice his intestine. H is holding the IV bag (for some reason we have no IV hooks in our ambulance) and between the 3 of us, we're actually managing to cut his clothes off. I get a C-collar on the patient and we strap his knees together to keep him from kicking so much. This also take a lot of pressure off his abdomen.
"I'm dying, I'm dying!"
"Not if I can help it! Look at me" He opens his eyes. "What's your name?"
"Charles, My name is [****] and my job is to keep you alive, OK?"
He settles down a bit.
In fact a bit too much. He's fading in and out so, I start asking him questions. The other medic wants to know if it really was a shotgun blast and I ask the patient, "Did you see the man who shot you?"
"Did he shoot you with a pistol or a long gun?"
"Long gun. I'm going to die!"
I look at the medic who asked the question, "He's got some birdshot in his ear, looks like a shotgun to me." She shrugs and goes to work on the dressing as best she can.
At trauma, we leave a trail of blood all the way through the ER. I suppose we could have dressed the wound better, gotten it enveloped in a neat dressing like you see in the Brady book but, it was load and go. The FFs who got there first had already started loading him before S and I had a chance to do anything. It seemed to me they were just anxious to get him out of there. He's not spurting blood, just seeping everywhere. drip, drip drip.
Trauma ER is awesome. Everyone's on the ball and the patient is in OR by the time we get to decontamination with the stretcher. WHEW!
Lots of talking and reviewing the incident while we clean blood off of everything. On the way back we stop at an all night convenience store near the university. It's full of half-drunk, rowdy college kids. They don't make eye contact with us in our uniforms.
I look at them all, collectively and individually.
Big bags of blood.
So am I.
All of a sudden, all these kids, these annoying, drunk, well-fed obnoxious kids are so precious to me. I suddenly cherish every single person I see. The feeling stays with me. It's still with me 12 hours later. On the ride back to the firehouse, I can see the pulse in H's neck as she turns to talk to S and H in the front. Keep beating, heart, keep beating. We get to the firehouse and it's full of wired Firefighters. They're playing video games and trying to eat the pizza that was warming when we left on the call. It's a room full of vibrant life. Blood, bone, muscle, guts. I can't shake this feeling of cherishing every living person I see.
It's not a crazy feeling. I don't feel fear that each person can be hurt or killed or fall ill. Nor do I feel I have to protect each one. I just feel like the life in each thing is so precious to me. It feels good.
I love this.