Thursday, August 16, 2007

- Ejection

Man that was a good game...wish I could've gotten a few more minutes of sleep. Well, at least I'll make it to work on time. If I'm late again they'll fire me. I can't believe that trooper gave me a ticket back there.

Where are my smokes? Fuck! Where'd they go? Oh...on the floorboard over there.

I think I can reach em....stretttchhh.....


"Well, shit. I'm out of ideas."

Best Partner Ever and I are gathered at the foot of the highway on ramp, with other representatives of the local first responder cadre: some BackWater Parish VFFs, a couple of Backwater Parish deputies, and a Trooper. The Trooper kicks his tire in disgust. He has just been denied clearance to halt traffic on the interstate long enough for us to sneak down the wrong way and come up the other side.

The problem is that along this stretch of Interstate there is nothing but water for seven miles - we are near the beginning of the bridge and the accident is somewhere in the middle - but the bridge is so narrow at a choke point over Bourbon River that the 18 wheelers, stopped in both lanes the whole way down the roadway to the accident, do not have room to pull off to either side. This time of night is prime driving time for truckers and they line the interstate the whole mile and a half to the crash site. Our ambulance will not squeeze between them. The night is too foggy to allow use of the choppers, and no one can tell us if traffic is getting through the accident site. If it isn't we can send up a unit from the other side of the bridge, in the wrong lane, to come and pick the patient up. And If it is going through, we can stop it. But to do that, we have to get on scene.

I look at BPE. He and I are thinking the same thing.

"OK," I state decisively. "We Hoof it. Troop, start trying to get those trucks out of the way so we can get the Rescue Rig up there if we need it."

We load everything we think we might need on the stretcher. I chunk the suction underneath the head.

The call had come in thirty minutes earlier. A pickup truck had strayed too far to the side of the interstate past Bourbon River, clipped the side at 70 miles an hour, and began flipping. Luckily, the truck did not flip over the guard rails into the swamps 30 feet below, but the driver wasn't wearing his seatbelt, and is thrown out of the front window at some point during the rotation. Luckily, since he was ejected and it seems no one else is in the car, we can afford to wait on the rescue rig. It's a gamble.

"You ready?" I ask BPE. I know right now he has to be regretting taking up smoking. I know that I'm regretting taking up cheeseburgers.

He shrugs. "Fuck it. Let's go."

We start jogging with the stretcher between us, up the incline of the Bourbon bridge. It's a good quarter mile up to the top, on an incline. At least we'll be OK coming down the other side, I reason. Let me tell you something, folks - there's a reason the treadmills have an Incline option. I'm feeling the burn. Drivers and Passengers that we're running by gasp as they realize who we are.

We are both sweating pretty well by the time we get to the top. People have suddenly realized that there is an emergency now, but can't still can't pull of to either side.

We crest and then start down the other side. Back at the bottom of the hill one of the VFFs has manged to get his metro in between a small gap. It's another quarter mile down the bridge, back onto the elevated interstate and I can finally see that traffic is stopped completely - the truck is lying diagonally across both lanes. I grab my cell phone and call dispatch, and tell them it's clear to send a unit up the other side.

We go maybe another half mile before we get to the crash. It is a mess. The patient is lying on his back, and an off duty deputy is holding c-spine. "He started breathing funny about 2 minutes ago." As he says this the patient lets out a great snoring respiration.

BPE and I've only been working together for 3 months, but we are like a well oiled machine. I slap a collar on the patient. Against the tops of my fingers, I can feel a massive head wound. I finish hooking the Velcro and open my hands as BPE tosses me a BVM. He readies his intubation equipment as I hook the BVM up to hi-flow and start bagging the patient. He has not breathed since the first snoring respiration on scene. I slide out of the way as he scopes the airway and looks in. He asks for pressure and I give it. He slides the tube in and gets no resistance. The ETCo2 shows us in. I slap pads on him and we have a bradycardic rhythm at 50, with a slight pulse. BPE does his trauma exam. We board the patient, BPE confirms good lung sounds. He feel some creptius on the ribs, but it's not interfering with anything yet.

All of a sudden there are flashing red lights and I see another crew pull up. They are from out of the service area. We load up and the out of town medic jumps in the back with BPE and they start working the guy. I get behind the wheel. We are thirty minutes out from the nearest hospital and 40 minutes out from the one that can take care of him the best. I hear the familiar CHUNK of the defibrillator. The patient has tach'd out on us. I slam the gas, leaving the out of town EMT to get all our gear. A supervisory unit is going to bring up our unit as soon as the traffic clears.

We bring the patient, who has started to move against our straps and headbed, into the ER. As we wheel him in I grab his hand and squeeze it, and tell him everything is going to be OK, that he's at the hospital. Faintly, he squeezes back.

Unusually, the state troopers have all of the patients information - he had been pulled over coming through Smokestack City for speeding, and the ticket was found on the floor inside the vehicle.

We hand off and go outside. In the unit there is blood everywhere. It takes the 3 of us an hour to clean everything.

* * *
We visit the patient about 3 weeks later. He is still in the ICU and has not come around. We ask to see him, but the staff will not let us. "The case is under litigation. The family is suing the state for inadequate response. That they refused to close traffic down."

I remember how angry the trooper was when he was denied his request to shut everything down.

Later, a doctor who realizes who we are tells us that he has a 1 percent chance of ever getting back normal neurological function. He had coded a few times and they think he might've had an anoxic event.

* * *
A year later I am in the lobby of small nursing home/hospital up in the northern part of the state. A nurse recognizes my name. "Did you transport my son?"

She tells me the details and the call comes rushing back to me. Apparently she remembered seeing my name on the run report they received.

We talk about the call. Apparently the dad was a lawyer and was really upset at what happened but then dropped the case when they received our run report with the details of the call.

My palms sweat around my coke as I ask her the question.

"Did he make it? The doctors didn't give him much of a chance, last I heard."

She smiles, and tells me to walk down the hall with her. She brings me into a room.

Our patient is lying in a bed. He looks at me.

"He can't talk, but he can understand everything you say. They said he's been slowly getting back some function."

I walk over to the patient and grab his hand and squeeze it.

He squeezes back.


1 comment:

Brittany Burgunder said...

This gave me the chills. You have a gift for words and certainly a gift in medicine and touching others lives. Well done! :)