The day started out fairly benign. A couple of runs to and from the hospital but, that was about it. Until the end of the day, when I just wanted to go home, and that’s when the last call came slinking in. It was for a pedestrian struck by vehicle. We were the second unit responding so, this lead us to believe that this was a pretty serious call – and it was – I just had no idea how serious. But soon, I would.…
It was late into the afternoon so, traffic was heavy. My partner was driving and while doing so, releasing a colorful barrage of obscenities at the stunned motorists that impeded our speed and ability to move. I continued to monitor the computer in the center of our ambulance. Reading the updated and incoming dispatch notes as they related to call. As I was doing so, a truly haunting and unforgettable line of text, painted itself to the screen, as well as scorching itself to my eyes, dooming itself to my memory;
“1 patient. 4 Y/O male. Unconscious. Not breathing”.
It was in that moment that I learned the true severity of the call that we were going to. My heart may not have skipped a beat but, it without a doubt, did sink into my stomach. We were responding to a 4-year-old boy, who had been struck by a car while playing with his friends on a quiet residential street. No body wants these kind of calls but, certainly no body wants them at the end of a scheduled shift…
After breaking free from the gridlocked traffic, my partner maneuvered the ambulance around street corners and intersections as though he was driving a small compact car. Had I not been so focused on worrying about what I may see upon arrival, I may have felt compelled to compliment him on his skillful handling of our oversized rig that screamed through the city.
As we rounded the last corner, and pulled up onto scene, I first noticed the primary ambulance that was parked in the middle of the street just in front of us. After that, I took note of all the ‘rubber neckers’ (onlookers) that had exited their homes, and now stood front row to this horror show. Hands up by their mouths. My partner slammed the ambulance into park, and seemingly exited in one fluid motion. He walked briskly towards the back-side door of the ambulance in front of us. I quickly followed suit only, I took a slightly different path. I exited the passenger side door of my ambulance, and began walking towards the back of theirs. As I did, now keep in mind, this is likely where my wounded mind begins to play tricks on me but, as I did, everything seemed to slow down to a crawl. Noises began to fade into a muffle, and breathing seemed to intensify in its volume. It felt as though everyone was staring at me. Maybe they were. Maybe it was me who was moving slowly. Slowly out of fear and apprehension at what lurked behind the curtains of the awaiting ambulance doors.
As I passed a parked red, four door sedan to my right, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a small indentation to the very front tip of the hood. After noticing that, my next finding came in the form of an ominously darkened patch of asphalt. It is where the boys blood had begun to seep its way into the ground of this road. A little way’s away from it, a small shoe, with a missing owner. The Velcro straps pointed skyward.
I returned my gaze towards the back of the ambulance doors that I was nearing, and with my right hand, I reached out in front of me, and pulled on the handle. A sudden ‘clunk’ released the latch, and the door swung open as I pulled towards me. As it did, a truly morbid sight revealed itself to me. In front of me, a team of paramedics, hunched over and feverishly working on a slight framed little person – a small boy. That’s when I noticed two small, little feet about half way down the stretcher. Toes pointed towards the ceiling of the ambulance. On one foot, a small shoe with the sole facing me. On the other, no shoe… Just a small, blood-stained sock. The boy’s only movements were correlated with the medics touching the body as they worked.
Fixated on that small sock covered foot in front of me, in a horror like trance, I asked;
“Do you guys need anything – what do you want me to do?”
“Nothing – uh, find the mother, drive her to the hospital in your truck, we’ll be there.” said a voice from the back. To this day, I have no clue who said it to me, and I knew everyone on my shift…
I complied, and closed the doors to this catastrophic sight before me, and returned to the street lined with people. I began scanning the crowd, to see if I could spot someone who would appear abnormally distraught but, all of their faces and expressions looked the same to me. Through a couple of failed attempts at trying to speak, I was finally able to request the whereabouts of the mother. She revealed herself from the crowd. As she neared me, I noticed as she glanced down towards the pavement, in front of the red sedan. I knew precisely what she was looking at – the blood of her young son. The blood that should be happily and healthily swirling within his body but instead, it stained the road of our city. The very road beneath our feet.
The boy would die. There was nothing anyone could do. That night, I went home to an empty house. Pressing bottle after bottle to my lips. Drowning the images of the day away.
For the remaining years that I spent working in that city, no matter how many rainfalls or transitioning seasons came and went, each time I passed that small strip of residential road, I could see a small patch of a young boy’s life, lathering the road. It wasn’t really there but, at the same time, it was… It is…
You may be wondering, ‘what brought this blog post to life – why write about it now? Years later’. Well, the answer is as simple as it is complex: As I opened the door to my bedroom, to enter and go to sleep, I was hit with an instant flashback. The mere act of opening a door within my home, brought back a flurry of ghastly images and sounds. The motion of opening the door, much like I did that day all those years ago, triggered my bewildered mind. A medic’s mind.
Needless to say, I do not feel much like sleeping now. I am wide awake, and horribly saddened. Luckily, I do not have any booze in my apartment so, I won’t be drowning anything this night. I’ll have to wait this one out.
A young boy’s feet – a missing shoe – and blood-stained sock – the worst things you could ever see. Especially when grouped together.