A few months back I was working with the Reverend, a paramedic in our company known for his religious manner (not in a pushy, down your throat way - he just happens to be a deacon and sits quietly, reading his Bible sometimes - real nice guy.). Rev and I were out of our usual coverage area and out in the boonies. It had been kind of a slow, grey day and we were dozing at the station when we get a call for a traumatic injury - the caller hung up after making the report, so right away I'm thinking this is either really bad or really crap. The weather is turning nastier and the roads are damp from a rain that fell about two hours ago.
We head priority to the call, a few small towns over, towards the river. Pulling up into the town of the call I'm not impressed - a lot of boarded up buildings are in view, like a bad zombie movie. As we drove through this ghost town I say to the Rev, in the most ominous voice I can muster -
"....and the two medics were never heard from again."
We crack up as we turn on the street. We actually see a person now, a grizzled old black fellow drinking on his porch. He raises his brown-bagged can in salute as we pass, and I return it with a wave. The call is tracking all the way at the end of the road, and though I thought the houses could not deteriorate any further they are getting progressively worse. The road turns into dirt and ends in a field, and I swerve to avoid a fleet of puppies that surrounds the unit.
I put us out over the radio and am walking to get the bag out of the back when I hear a screen door slam shut behind me. Here it comes, I think. The zombies are going to eat my brains. When I turn around I see a woman coming down the step (yes, step, not steps - two of the three were broken so she had to do a hop step to get down) and walking towards the unit. I slip my gloves on as Ron walks from the other side with the monitor and ALS gear.
"I'm Medicmarch from XXXX. Did you call for an-" I start, but the lady cuts me off.
"I called ya'll, I need to go to the hospital, I'm hurt bad".
Let me interrupt the narrative here to paint you a better picture of this lady. She is no distress at all, with no injuries I can see, standing there with sandals on in her yard, holding a pair of what looks to be some kind of boots and a small wallet in her hand. The only thing bad about this lady that I can detect, is her smell, the acrid smell of burnt baking soda and unwashed clothes and dirty skin.
That's when I feel it - a slight buzz in my nervous system. It feels like an aura has surrounded me, cool and lush, and I can see the future. I can see Rev asking the lady what's wrong and I know that whatever she says, it's going to be a gem - a diamond of stupidity that's just going to clunk out of her like a cinder block hurled into mud puddle.
"What's bothering you, ma'am? How can we help?" asks the Rev, and the sun has broken down through the clouds and he is bathed in a beatific light. He is a healer, here to make right what has ailed this poor impoverished woman. He is the White, the Holy, and all that is good in the world. Flower petals fall from his boots as he walks.
The lady looks from the Rev, to me, and then back at the Rev. The wind blows. A pair of dirty puppies nibble my boot string. Somewhere, a bird cautiously warbles a double note, high and low, like a cuckoo clock.
Then, it happens. She says it.
"I stubbed my toe."
The light from above The Rev is abruptly cut off as another cloud darkens the sun. The bird that was singing is now just a flutter of wings. I watch his face as his eyebrows knit together above his head like two Siamese twins deciding they liked it better together.
"What? What did you say?" asks an incredulous Rev.
The woman points to her left big toe. We follow the finger and look down at the lady's foot. No where do I see anything that even remotely resembles injury - no swelling, redness, deformity, bleeding, hell, she doesn't have a chip in the nail. The puppy grows tired of worrying my boot lace and trots over to the lady and begins to lick her ankle.
"I stubbed it in the living room. It hurts real bad. I want to go the hospital." The lady is firm.
The Rev looks at me and then back at the lady. I, for my part, am dumbfounded. The Rev and I are thinking the same thing: this lady called a unit from across the parish to come priority to her house because she scuffed her foot against whatever she uses for a coffee table. The lady looks at us impatiently.
"Ya'll gonna bring me?" she questions.
The Rev is still back at the first turn.
"Wait a minute, wait. You're telling me that you called us because you stubbed your toe? You called an ambulance because you stubbed your toe. An emergency ambulance, all the way out here, because you stubbed your toe." I can see The Rev trying to find a logical answer to this unwanted puzzle that the Lord decided to put in his lap. He asks the question that is burning white hot in my mind, the one right behind "Are you f---ing crazy?"
"Have you ever stubbed your toe before?"
The lady looks at me and Rev again, and says, I swear to God, "Yes, but it's been a long time."
The Revester looks at me in disbelief.
"Your call," he tells me, his shoulders slumping.
He then looks at the boots in her hand. "What are those for?" He asks.
She glances at the boots. "In case I have to walk back."
TR glares at her, two thousand years of Bible study encouraging him not to lose his cool and go absolutely ape shit on this lady.
"Gonna be awful rough walk back on that stubbed toe. You got your cards with you?"
She pulls out the medicare and medicaid, the gold and platinum cards, and hands them to me.
"I got my cards, ya'll have to take me. I knows the laws. Ya'll gots to take me."
"Sure thing, ma'am," I say, sufficiently recovered from my shock. "Where to?"
She requests a hospital an hour and a half away.
"Sorry" says Rev. "We've got to bring you to (Bandaid Station X) - the closest hospital. If you're hurting that bad you need to be assessed immediately."
She already knows this, I think. That's why she has those walking boots.
He walks to the cab as I load the lady into the back.
Epilogue: As I was taking the lady's blood pressure a banana spider the size of Delaware climbed over the shoulder of her sweatshirt, and, in a kamikaze display of defiance that I'm sure was the talk of the town for insects for weeks to come, jumped directly onto my left cheek. I screamed like a tiny little girl and did a front flip across the bench seat while slapping my face like it was on fire. Very brave, and very professional.
As I look down at the smeared remains of my Arachnid Attacker and look back up at the lady, I realize that not every day in EMS is one to write home about.