copyright © 2017 by Etienne
RON LED BRODY back to the bedroom. “Need to brush your teeth?”
“Good. While you’re doing that, I’ll get you a regulation T-shirt.”
When Brody returned from the bathroom, Ron was holding up a dark blue T-shirt containing the Fire Department’s logo. He tossed it to Brody, who removed his own polo shirt and pulled the new garment over his head.
“I guessed you’d be a perfect medium. Let’s go out to the garage.”
Brody followed Ron out to the garage, and they opened the rear doors of the EMT vehicle. Ron handed him a clipboard, and Brody said, “What’s this?”
“This is a list of every item we should have in stock. Look at the compartments on both sides of the interior. There are labels on each of the doors. The list on the clipboard starts with the compartments at the rear to your left, and works its way clockwise around the truck. Read the list on the clipboard, starting from the top.”
Brody began to read the list of medical items, and Ron counted the quantities on hand of each. They were almost to the bottom of the list when a loud bell rang in the garage.
“Let’s go, Brody, that’s our signal that a call has come in.”
Brody helped Ron close the rear doors of the vehicle, and climbed in the passenger seat while Ron slid behind the wheel.
“What now?” Brody said.
“The captain will come barreling through that door in a minute or so and tell us where to go.”
Brody looked around the ambulance at the nearest fire truck. The other guys were jumping into the boots and overalls that were already in place beside the truck, then climbing into positions on the vehicle. The captain hurried through the doors and handed one of the firemen a slip of paper, then he handed Ron another. All he said was, “There’s a three vehicle pileup at that address. Go.”
Ron pulled the ambulance out of the garage bay and headed toward the highway.
“In case you’re wondering,” he said, “we always send out two vehicles on every call.”
“Because it’s policy—and a good one—you never know quite what to expect when you arrive at a call. For example, this is a three-car wreck, so there’s always a danger of fire and exploding gas tanks.”
“That makes sense.”
The radio crackled and came to life. “Heads up, guys. Units from another station have also been dispatched to this call. The Florida Highway Patrol says there are multiple injuries.”
Ron grabbed the mike. “Roger that, captain.” He replaced the mike in its holder and turned to Brody. “I’ll give you a chance to practice driving this beast later.”
“Yes, Sir,” Brody said. “I realize I’ve got a lot to learn.”
“That’s true, and nobody in the station expects you to learn it in one day, or even one week, for that matter.”
“That’s good to know.”
“Life in the station has a rhythm of its own, and most people adjust to it fairly quickly.”
“I see blue lights flashing up ahead.”
“That would be our destination.”
The wreck had taken place at an intersection, and since the highway at that point was four lanes separated by a median, Ron pulled the ambulance onto the median and stopped a few feet from two of the wrecked vehicles. The third vehicle was on the other side of the intersection.
“Okay, my friend, it’s time for us to do our thing.”
Brody hopped out of the passenger seat, and for the next several minutes was kept very busy. Not exactly sure what to do first, he followed Ron’s lead, and they eventually had one patient on the stretcher, and another who was classed as ‘walking wounded’ had been given first aid, and was settled down on one of the seats in the back of the ambulance. The ride to the regional hospital took about twenty minutes, and when Ron pulled into an ambulance bay they quickly unloaded their patients and turned them over to personnel in the ER.
When they were ready to leave the ER, Ron said, “Why don’t you drive us back to the station, Brody?”
“I can do that,” Brody said.
When they arrived at the station, Brody said, “Do I back into the garage?”
“No need for that. There are doors at each end of the bay, so all you need to do is drive around back and pull into the spot we left earlier.”
Brody parked the ambulance, and followed Ron to the rear of the vehicle. “We need to change the sheets on the stretcher, and wipe down the interior surfaces,” Ron said. “I don’t think that guy bled all over the place, but you never know.” They removed the stretcher and stripped the sheets.
“Do we have a washing machine?” Brody said.
“Yes, but we need to put these bloody sheets in a tub of cold water first.”
“I learned about that in school. If we washed the sheets in hot water, the bloodstains might become set in the cloth.”
“Exactly—I’ll show you where the laundry room is. Clean sheets are in a cabinet in there.”
It didn’t take the two men long to have the interior of the ambulance spotless, and the stretcher fitted with clean sheets and back in place.
IT WAS A BUSY afternoon, during which Brody and Ron had made two more trips to the hospital, each time delivering an elderly patient in crisis.
On the way back to the station, Brody said, “Was that a typical day?”
“Sorry, Brody, but there’s no such thing about a typical day in the life of an EMT.”
“Yeah. The only consistent thing about the calls we get is the inconsistency—and I’m referring to both the frequency and the nature of the calls. For you, the real test will come when two things happen.”
“What two things?”
“I’m thinking of the highs and lows. One of thse days a patient will die on the way to the hospital and it will hit you hard. On the other hand one day you’ll be called upon to perform a lifesaving routine while en route, and that will give you a high. The important thing to do is to keep it all in perspective.”
“That’s a lot to think about.”
“Yes it is. Just remember that the operative phrase is to ‘keep it in perspective’.”