Happy Valentines Day

Here is a short story about my first day on the job in an ambulance as an EMT from back in the day. This is unedited and written shortly after the following event.

It was February 14th, 2008, a beautiful Valentine's Day. It was my first time being in an ambulance as an EMT. The headquarters was fifty minutes away from my home in a little town outside of Gainesville, FL. The sound of a fiddle played in my head. I was supposed to work a 12-hour shift (from 0700 to 1900), then go home to spend some quality time with my girlfriend. It felt like the whole day we were nothing more than a fancy cab with lights, a siren, and a weak horn. People did not want to move out of the way, they must have known that people in that back were healthy. We would arrive on a scene and ask, “What is the matter?” Their response would be “I do not feel well.” I would ask “Where does it hurt?” and their response would be “All over.” I would say, “Ok, do you want to go to the hospital?” and their response was always, “Sure", as if there was no real emergency. It was like this all day. As we were coming back from our last hospital drop off, we got a call that there may have been a shooting. The guys up front ask me if I want to go even know my shift was almost up. “Hell yeah,” I said.

As we arrived on the scene, I was looking out the window to see if anything seemed unsafe just as I was taught. The back door swung opened as if it was in slow motion. It is the first real incident of the day. A young woman starts running toward us crying as if I was there to save her. The cops were screaming at us, “Go, go, get out of here fast, now!” We load the woman up and instantly see a hole in her check. She laid on the stretcher and we started to look her over. We start cutting her pants and shirt off to see if she was shot anywhere else. We spot another bullet hole in her right shoulder right away. We now examine her legs, then her torso, then her arms, and finally her head. Next, we ask her some basic information about her life, like past medical history, medication, and other relevant information. One of the questions I asked was “Are you allergic to anything?” and she responded with, “Men”. I was quite impressed that a woman who was just shot was cracking jokes. As I sat behind her head asking her these questions, I was thinking to myself that there is blood in other places than just her check. She had blood coming down her face from above her eyebrow. I started to separate her hair from the blood on her head and she quickly retracted. I saw the actual bullet lodged under her skin right above her right eyebrow. I continued to pull off the hair ever so gently off her face and revealed another bullet between her right eye and ear. That made four entrance wounds and no exits. She tells me that her husband did this to her and she has four kids to worry about. The road seemed to open up as if, as if this time the other drivers knew the condition of our patient and how severe it is.

Next thing I know we were at the hospital. It felt like only two minutes for me, but it must have felt like forever to her. We escorted her in as if she was VIP of the world as if it revolved around her. As we came into the trauma room and I told her that these people are now going to take care of you. A tear came to my eye when I saw all sixteen plus people working for her as if she was their own mother. It was as if there was a composer orchestrating it all. Nurses writing the events, vital signs, medications, and everything their eyes could see and their ears could pick up on over everyone speaking at once. Other nurses got supplies and some asked more questions. Doctors examined her again from head to toe. Radiologists took x-rays and so on. This was happing at the same time, it was so perfect. My now safe patient starts to let go of her poker face and starts to cry hysterically as if her body knew it was going to be ok. It was so peaceful. It was music for my eyes. The room was warm from the lights, the lead vest (for x-ray, not the gunman), and my excitement. I stood back and felt 10’ tall as if I was hovering over everyone and watching every little move. I have never felt so worthy in my life. There was nothing more I could do for her, so I said my goodbye and went outside to take a deep breath. It was my first one all day. I started to clean up the bloody rags that were once keeping her alive. I was thinking that I just saved someone’s life and it was worth working overtime. I wanted to work another 12 hours after that, but I knew someone needed me just as bad and she was waiting at home for my safe arrival. I stopped by the store and picked up a card and a dozen red roses that I never had a chance to pick up on my non-existent lunch break. As I opened my front door I saw my girlfriend and knew just how important she was to me. I knew the flowers and a card was not much, but it was better then what my patient had; three shots to the head, one to the shoulder, and a husband that committed suicide right after shooting her. I think I will start to approach the finer things in life with more compassion.