It’s three o’clock in the morning, and while the world around me sleeps, with an envious ease, I am wide awake. My heart beats with a relentless ferocity against the centre of my chest as if to try to escape. My breath is loud in its short, and rapid bursts. My fists cling tightly to my bedding, almost strangling the fabric. Moments before this unruly wake-up, I too had been asleep. I went to bed relatively early (early for me) and tried to capitalize on my bodies intention to rest. It was too good to be true though, soon after closing my eyes, the demons that live behind them came to play. Images of death, decay, burning flesh, and lifeless expressions began to dance their way across my now restless slumber. They would transport me back to the house in the west end of the city, the house where a man lay dying on the floor. A house where I would be attacked…
It was a call I responded to as a paramedic. It was a night much like the one I am covered by now, endlessly black, with an obvious chill that permeates the skin. As we neared the house, we already knew what we were responding for, a man in his mid-to-late thirties, he had overdosed on some kind of narcotic.
As we walked through the doorway, the weighted footfalls of our work boots thumped through the aging linoleum floor. Before we made it to the end of the hallway, ominous sounds of a woman crying, and pleading to someone could be eerily heard growing louder as we neared the living room. It was in the living room that I first saw the man laying on his back, on the floor. A woman who looked as though she had seen better days was kneeling beside him. Her face was stained with running mascara, and her hair was in desperate need of a reacquaintance with a shower. When she looked up at us and realized who we were, she began barking orders for us to, “hurry the fuck up!”. Oddly in comparison to the state that this unkempt woman was in, there was another figure, sitting on a tattered and smoke-stained chair off to the corner of the room, closest to the TV. It was an older woman. She was almost void of any emotion, she just sat quietly with her lit cigarette, watching this madness subtly from the corners of her eyes. This whole scene was just, weird: A dying or dead man on the floor, an unhinged and unbathed woman barking orders, and a suspiciously quiet old lady smoking her cigarette while watching her stories on the TV…
My partner and I began trying to place ourselves into position to try and get to work but, funnily enough, the gross looking woman who was barking orders, refused to move so as to allow us room to do what we needed to do. She was pawing at me, and pulling on my utility belt, trying to drag me down to her crouched level. I don’t enjoy uninvited touches, especially when they are done so with demanding intent, so, my removal of her grip to me was done so with a moderate amount of counter force. She did not appreciate that, but I did not care. It was at this time that I was verbally requesting that she move, so that we could get to work, although she spoke perfect English, her grasp at the understanding of it seemed to be lacking, as she would not budge. She was growing increasingly agitated with her perception that my partner and I were doing ‘nothing’, all the while failing to see that she was the sole cause for our lack of initiative.
I tuned her out for a moment, and peered down to the male subject on the floor, he was lifeless and beginning to dawn a haunting blue, around his lips. I knew that if we did not intervene soon, whatever hope this man had of returning to life would continue to diminish. I asked once more, and this time with a little more assertive tone and posture for the woman to move out-of-the-way, but it was met with more tears and angry snarls of non-compliance. I decided that I had, had enough, and I now told her that she was being moved. I reached under her arm, and began squeezing at one of the many pressure points located on the inside of the arm, while forcibly removing her from the body. Needless to say, she appreciated this even less. Her breath began punching me in the face, stale beer and tabaco followed her barrage of now flourishing insults towards me. I didn’t care, I had a job to do, and she was preventing me from doing it so, fuck her!
A group of firemen were on scene with us now also, and they took over as an almost human shield, preventing the woman from staggering back towards myself, and the body, though, I will admit, her focus now seemed to be solely on me.
I knelt beside the man on the floor, and while my partner managed the airway, I began searching for an IV. During my unnecessary yet, unavoidable interactions with the unkempt woman, my partner had attached the man to the monitor and readied the airway kit. The monitor as well as physical confirmation showed that he was alive, and had a heat beat, but he was not breathing. As we moved with haste, both my partner and I began voicing aloud what did he take? What drugs has he taken? Our query was met with a response from the corner of the room, it was from the old lady, the one who was engulfed by swirling cigarette smoke. She began explaining that the man on the floor was her son, and that he had taken her ‘Oxy’, as well as using heroin. The callous nature of her delivery is something that would not hit me until later but, it was something I noted at the time as well.
I was able to grab a quick IV, and as I was taping it down, I could still hear the venomous scorn from the woman who had once been kneeling where I now was, but suddenly, her angry hurling of insults gave way to the readying of spit. She forced the saliva to the forefront of her mouth, and through pursed lips, let loose a sniper shot of mucous and tarred sputum. I was not facing her at the time as I was busy, but I felt it land along the back of my neckline, and collar of my shirt. A frenzy between the spitting lady, and firefighters now ensued. I didn’t have time to deal with her directly so, I was happy to have the support. I did however allow for my disdain for this woman to become known as I spoke aloud “You fuckin’ cunt!”. Let’s just say out of all the things that she did not appreciate about me already, was now compounded by my selective description of her. She snaked her way through the flailing arms of the firefighters, with catlike aggression, and managed to thrust her foot deep into the side of my ribs, through a series of kicks and continued hail of spit. I stand by my statement – she was a fucking cunt!
Miraculously around the same time as this was going down, the dead man on the floor shot up from the ground into a seated position. The speed of which this all happened was enough to cause a fleeting silence to fill the room, even from the venomous spitting woman, who was now being escorted out of the house by a couple of pillar sized firemen. The man removed the OPA (airway) adjunct that we had placed in to keep his tongue from occluding his airway, and through a deep expression of confusion said, “I’m good, shit, thanks guys…” We hadn’t even given him the Narcan as of yet, it was the combination of high-flow O2 and respirations that had provided his oxygen starved body with enough motivation to come back online. Not for long though, he would drift in and out several more times until we had eventually given him the Narcan.
Feeling as though he was alright, and against medical advice, the man ripped off all of the electrodes and the IV, and proceeded to barrel through the house, and out the door, disappearing in the blackened city streets. Like I said, this whole call was weird.
What forced me awake tonight was remembering and feeling as though I was fighting with that intolerable woman again. My body thrashed within the sheets of my bed until it had, had enough, and forced me into consciousness. I swear though, in the first moments of being awake, my ribs could still feel where her foot that had been fired from her leg, had connected. I even placed my right hand onto the back of my neck so as to wipe the spit away…
If you’ve ever been in a fight or, attacked, you know the adrenaline that accompanies those two things. Well, that’s the adrenaline I woke with. My pillow was on the floor, it must have taken on the form of the woman while I was sleeping. Yep, I kicked my pillow’s ass…
I have had some time to calm down now. Writing this also helped. I am going to try once again to catch some sleep. Wish me luck.
Let’s hope there’s no round two….