Like a Fish Out of Water

"Unit X has a county run"

The disembodied voice echoes through our ambulance bay where we've been sitting for the last 45 minutes, stewing in our own sweat, pondering the idea of setting up a kiddie pool there. Surely it would help morale... Yeah, that's the argument we'll use with management! The board in dispatch has been blessedly quiet today.

A swell of adrenaline courses through me. We haven't done a large amount of 911 runs lately, and while I love my regular patients, my dialysis patients... Every once in awhile you need something different. Add to that the fact that I'm working with a Medic, and I'm positively giddy.

Yes, I have my geeky moments, and I'm not ashamed to admit this was one of them.

Myself and Medic Partner for the Day make our way to our truck. It's quite warm outside, and we chose to leave our truck run with the air on. I jump in the drivers seat and key up the mic.

Epi: "Unit X is on the air..." I pause and wait for dispatches directions. Medic Partner grabs the map book as neither one of us are familiar with the part of town we're in.

Mom Dispatcher: "Unit X, you have a county run, Code 3 for the county, 410 Morris Ave, that's 410 Morris Ave, cross of Jackson. Code 3 for the county."

Epi: "Unit X to dispatch, we're clear on Morris." I look over at Medic Partner and ask him if he's familiar with either street. I know I'm not. He's furiously flipping through the mapbook.

Medic Partner: Looks like it's over the river and through the woods. Head for the bridge... Three streets after the light make a right. Look for the big red truck."

I flip the lights on and Medic Partner takes control of the siren. Have I ever mentioned how much I HATE driving with the lights and the sirens on? Riding as a passenger, no problem, but when I'm driving... It seems like every idiot within ten blocks decides to cut me off. Cursing is not out of the ordinary. Medic Partner beats me to it.

Medic Partner: "WHAT... WHAT??? WHAT... IS... HE... DOING???" (followed by a thirty second rant I can't type out, but trust me, he's former Marine... It was impressive.)

When the second pickup truck in a row decides to cut in front of me and hit his breaks, Medic Partner loses his mind completely, picks up the PA mic and strongly suggests that the truck in front of us get out of the way.

I think I might love Medic Partner.

This disembodied voice returns.

"Dispatch to Unit X"

Epi: "Unit X, go"
Dispatch: "PD's on the scene. Please stage and wait for further information."
Epi: "We're clear on staging"

Four minutes later we are two blocks away with the lights off. With our 911 runs we are never given a nature of the call, we pretty much go in blind, meeting a Firefighter on the way in who gives us a quick rundown: Nature of the call, vitals, etc. We sit and wait. We wonder what we're about to walk in to.

Medic Partner: "It's a domestic. I guarantee it."
Epi: "No, let's go with gang fight. I'm willing to bet Chipotle on a gang fight."

The truth is, it could have been a gang fight, or a domestic, or a heart attack, or a police chase or any other number of emergencies. We were in one of those neighborhoods.

Dispatch: "Dispatch, Unit X"
Epi: "Unit X, go"
Dispatch: "TPD has cleared the scene, continue on"
Epi: "Okay, Unit X is clear, continuing on."

We drive the next two blocks in silence. I pull our truck up in front of the Engine. A firefighter instantly meets us. I roll down my window. The heat hits me in the face.

Firefighter: "We have a domestic... She's pretty banged up. Bring the stretcher."

My heart instantly sinks.

Medic Partner: "DUDE... You TOTALLY OWE ME CHIPOTLE!!!!" He does a dance on the way to the back of the truck.

I take a deep breath, grab a pair of gloves, and head out. The excitement is gone. I hate domestic calls. I hate them. I hate them. I hate the fact that Medic Partner is excited over free lunch. I hate the fact that I was excited over a county run.

I make an attempt to clear my head. We walk into the house with our cot and assorted bags. I'm not prepared for what I'm walking in to.

To my left, what used to be a large aquarium, toppled over to the floor. I try not to look for it's former inhabitants. I picture them flopping around on the floor. To my right an overturned end table, broken glass, and blood. Then I'm forced to look at my patient.

She's sitting on a white couch, surrounded by splotches of blood. Her eyes are starting to swell, my guess is that in an hour she won't be able to see. She's bleeding from a multiple lacs... on her forehead, on her cheeks. What looks like a claw mark stretches across her exposed chest. Her pink shirt ripped and covered in blood. A large lac to her forearm is already bandaged and dressed courtesy of the Fire Department. She's sniffling and rocking back and forth... Blood runs into her eyes. She wipes it away, smearing it across her face. It looks like war paint.

I try to move but I can't. It's completely silent in the room. I look at Medic Partner who seems to be soaking the scene in.

Then a cry breaks through the quiet. There's a baby in the house. Five grown adults jump out of their skin at the same time.

I look instantly at Medic Partner. "Was that a baby?" I look at the Firefighters and ask the same. Medic Partner and the Firefighter look at our patient. They all want to know the same thing...

The Firefighter interrogates her: "Are there children in the house? You said you were alone!" Medic Partner asks the firefighter where perpetrator is and the Firefighter shrugs. "PD cleared the house, that's all we know." They take off down a hallway to find the baby.

My heart starts racing again. I instantly feel like I'm in over my head. I sit next to our patient, who at this point is rocking back and forth. I begin to talk to her. I look her in the eye and try to get her to focus on me.

"Your name is Michelle? Michelle, I'm Epi... I'm here with EMS. Honey, can you look at me? I want to take a look at the cuts on your face and head."

She rocks back and forth, a blank stare on her face.

I swallow hard. I feel ill equipped... I feel... like I'm drowning. I feel like a fish out of water.

"Uhm... Michelle?" I lower the volume of my voice, "Honey... Talk to me. I want to help you." I slowly reach forward with my gloved hand to touch hers. She doesn't flinch, so I dab a 4X4 at some of the lacs on her head. I want to clean her up. I squeeze her hand gently. She looks at me... She looks at me with the saddest eyes I've ever seen. Swollen, bruised, bloody. The tears are dry now, there's nothing left but a vacant stare. I want to hug her, instead I place my hand on her back. "Michelle. honey, we need to take you to the hospital. you're going to need some stitches." I speak slowly, quietly, gently.

Medic Partner emerges with the baby. She's beautiful. She had been in her crib napping. Medic Partner gently rocks the 14-month-old baby girl. "Michaela is fine" He coos in her ear. "She's just fine. Aren't you honey?"

Michelle turns to face me. It's the first time she's made any significant movement, and it makes me jump. I am face to face with her.

Her voice broke. "I'm fine." That's all she would say. Over and over. "I'm fine."

The house was hot. It was muggy. Uncomfortable wouldn't begin to describe it. The heat made my uniform cling to me. My emotions were raw. I wanted to find this guy and kill him with my bare hands. SLOWLY.

I continued my assessment while Medic Partner played with the baby. When it finally came time to get her on the stretcher and leave, she refused.

"Absolutely not. I'm fine. I was dizzy and fell. I feel better now" she insists in a quiet voice.

The firefighters, who have hung out much longer than they usually do, look uncomfortable. The Lieutenant speaks up. "You told us you walked into a door, then you told us he hit you, then you told us that you got dizzy and fell out, then you told us that you had no idea what happened. You need to be seen. You do."

Michelle was not going to be swayed. Not by the firefighters, not by my Medic Partner, and not by me. I felt like I failed her. I called online medical control for the AMA, and after a brief conversation with her, they let her go. Her shaky hand signed the refusal, she took her baby girl into her arms and promptly kicked us out of her house.

Just like that. It was over.

(If my ending feels incomplete, you can imagine how I felt after this run.)


Anonymous said...

That is just insane. Let's hope she can find peace and that baby is left unscathed.

You told the story wonderfully, btw.

Medic61 said...

Oh man, that was hard to just read, I can't imagine how you must have felt.
Very real emotion here.

Sorry I fell asleep before I could read it last night, though.

As always, thinking of you.

Evil Lunch Lady said...

Very well written:) I hope in the future is that she leaves the jerk. Or her next trip might be in a body bag.

Detail Medic said...

Aw Epi. You definitely bring me back to the days I was new at this job. You make me feel like I've lost that feeling. Well, any feeling at all. Saying she was alone in the house may have been her defense mechanism. Alone means no one looks for the child and as long as the child is silent, she is safe. You're going to carry this woman with you for a long, long time. I know this, honey. I do. But you can't fix the world, you can only bear witness to some things. Just be. Do your job. Your first responsibility is to make sure you can function for those you can fix. Is any of this getting through? Make sure you can function for them because they need you. And get your ass through paramedic school!

As for the drunken debauchery...I wish you were closer! We'll be on the east coast! Why don't you consider joining Cathouse 2008 in November with CinnKitty, me and MisstressM among others? We're meeting in Charleston, SC the weekend of Nov 14th. It would be nice to have someone there to talk shop with! Oh, and it's ladies only... You can be my roomie!

Bernice said...

Just reading that broke my heart. You did everything in your power to get her out of that situation. I intend to include her in my prayers that she gets the courage to leave.

So very sad.

NannyOgg said...

{{{ HUGS }}} and sending positive energy to Michelle. I hope she will find the strength to leave him soon.

It is really hard to figure out what's going on when you are inside a situation like that, I feel for her.


Rogue Medic said...

Maybe one way to convince her is, if you carry body bags on the ambulance, to go out, get two body bags, and give them to her.

Tell her that you don't carry bags small enough for the baby, so the baby will end up in an adult body bag. That there is no reason to believe the baby is safe around such a violent and reckless person.

But that is the kind of thing that may work better for me than for you.