Damn, I was just about to go to bed.
Halfway to the bunkroom to wake up the next guy on watch, the tones went off. I shook the sleep out of my head as I spun in place and headed to the desk. I didn’t catch the dispatch, so I grabbed the printout and read it as I grabbed the intercom mic.
“Engine, engine. Medical local, for the…”
I paused as my eyes finished the page a split second before my voice did. Dammit.
A hysterical wail cut through the air to my left, now audible only because we had turned our sirens off. I grabbed the medical bags and started in that direction (it’s usually not a good sign, but it ain’t a bad locator beacon, either).
As I had pretty much expected, there were three things present inside the apartment:
- some bored-looking cops;
- a hysterical family member;
- a motionless body.
As I passed the first, deftly avoided the second, and approached the third, one of my hands found a place near the side of her head and tried to position her airway—the other snaked up beside her neck and felt for a pulse.
I recoiled slightly; she was as cold as the sidewalk outside, and about as flexible. Rigor was setting in, so I turned to my crew (who, wonderfully, had grabbed a BVM, oxygen, and a tube kit out of my stuff) and gave them the curt headshake reserved for TV characters who have to stoically answer the female lead’s tearful rendition of “Did he make it, doctor?”
“Just the monitor, guys.”
I still feel strange running EKG strips on obviously dead folks. I mean, in certain DOA situations, our patient is exhibiting obvious “signs incompatible with life” (decapitation, dependent lividity, rigor mortis), and yet… we must prove it.
So, we put EKG stickers on cold limbs, palpate depressurized arteries, and take pink and red pictures of motionless hearts.
I folded the paper up and turned to leave. By this time, the screaming daughter had left, replaced by a much calmer son with a thousand-yard-stare.
“Excuse me.” It was barely a whisper.
“So, what’s the situation?”
“Well, she’s been down for too long, so… there’s unfortunately nothing we can do for her.”
I kept it simple. I’ve tried the other route, and it doesn’t usually work out so well in these situations. So, I swallowed all the typical, feel-better phrases that I’ve heard used countless times before. They sound like bullshit, and they feel acidic in your throat.
“So, she’s gone?”
I stared for a second.
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, okay.” His thousand-yard stare turned from me, scanned the room, and stopped on Mom.
I left without a word, seeing his back still turned on me and his head slowly nodding.
We run our strips, and we go home.