Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Memories that won't fade

Why do the worst memories stick to you like chiggers in your butt crack? They don't get better on their own, and you can't dig them out no matter how hard you try.

I remember the first response at my first fire company. Auto accident, a young man drinking, no seat belt, his truck overturned, he slid out the window just as the truck settled on its roof, onto his head. Thirty years later and I can close my eyes and see him in the ambulance as though I am still standing there, his head was about two inches thick, blood was matted in his beard.

The worst ones drag on for a long time and it seems you fight, and fight, and when you are too tired to go on, or have tried everything in your power, its over and you lose.

The July Forth celebration here is huge. The tourists flock until it seems the islands will sink. Everyone is here for the sun and sea, the parties and street dance. Those of us who live here just endure until the week is over. Rescue is sometimes back to back, and other times, its the calm before the storm.

We got a call for a cardiac/drowning/respiratory emergency, at the extreme end of our island. That would be a quarter to a half mile past the end of the road, in deep sand. I rolled the ambulance and crew, the Suburban "Beach Ambulance" came behind. The LEO on scene started yelling hurry, never a good sign, particularly in holiday traffic. When we got to the end, I turned the unit around, parked it heading out, and sprinted onto the beach.

Have you ever see the TV beach shows with all the swim suit models doing CPR? When people are in the surf doing chest compressions it just never looks quite the same. The patient was literally half in the water as our people tubed her and set up the O2.

The "beach ambulance" isn't worthy of the name, all the gear is there, but not the room. We grabbed a back board and slammed the lady in the back, got CPR going. We looked really stupid to me when the unit wouldn't move in the sand. The driver was glassy eyed in panic about then, the only thing I could do was get a herd of men to push/ lift the Suburban and get it moving. I ran back to the waiting transport unit and beat him there.

The transfer was quick if not pretty and we were on our way. About two miles on we stopped to pick up county EMS and a Medic. We were close to twenty miles out, seventeen at best. Traffic was heavy, and pissed off when they got back on the road. In some places there are turning lanes, some places have three lanes, there are however ditches on both sides all the way to town. We made Stump Water General in sixteen minuets. I didn't hit anyone or cause any wrecks, no thanks to me.

The Suburban driver wasn't the only on getting a little frayed around the edges.

When we got to the ER they were waiting with everything they had. There were two very good Doctors and the senior staff. Everything that could be done was done, including a subclavian cut down and a pacemaker inserted into her heart. One of the Doctors, had me drawing up meds while the other was doing things I'd rather not know about.

When the pace maker was in place kicking her heart along, I stepped back and looked at more hoses than I had ever imagined. I didn't see them, I saw the sand in her open eyes. Not a grain or two, clumps, she would never blink.

One of our hero types was so gruff with the family they are still looking for him, to kick his fanny, as far as I know. I know I am not supposed to give the family news, I don't have the medical knowledge, but I had to show a little compassion and tell them something. They sent my crew gift cards later, to a local restaurant, just for the kindness.

The husband asked to see her, the ER staff said OK but wait. It took ten minuets or so to clean her up enough to keep him from going into shock on the spot. It still wasn't pretty.

The really bad part was her two boys had been in the water with her. When her aneurysm ruptured she went down like she had been shot. Her six year old held her head out of the water until help got to her.

She went out on Life Flight that day, four days later they said their goodbyes and let her go.

I can still see the sand in her eyes.

1 comment:

Ambulance Driver said...

I believe every EMT carries their own personal mental cemetery around with them, populated with the faces and names of people you wish you could have helped.

The names and images never seem to fade, but eventually you learn to make friends with the ghosts.