16 February 2006
"When a Stranger Comes"
Have you ever walked down the street and look at people that you have never met or have no clue as to the values of thier lives and try to figure out who they are? I mean, c'mon, I know that some of us had made fun of someone for the clothes they wear or the way they sound when they talk or laugh. Everyone has done it. I have done it.
But have you ever really looked at that person and asked yourself "Will I ever get to know that person?" Even if it for a brief moment in your life.
Is that person going to lend me a quarter when I am that much short at the register? Will that person jump my car when it is dead in the parking lot? Does that person need a hand carrying all those bags that they are fumbling with?
I know, this is a pretty deep issue to ponder there and for some, if you haven't had your coffee, it is a hopeless and uphill battle.
Here is even a deeper issue to ponder. Not so much as to who that person is and what they can do for you, but rather, what can you do for them?
If you really look at it, the most suttle gesture can open the hearts of many. Hold a door open for someone, pick up an item that they dropped, even making eye contact and saying "hello" can really open up a wealth of emotion not only for you, but it cold end up making thier day.
Besides, you never know...you might need a stanger someday.
It was slowly starting to get gray outside as I knew we were scheduled for some rain and even some thunder within the next few hours. I had just finished getting my sweatshirt sewn from my aunt's house. She is wonderful and does all my patches for my job uniforms. All I wanted to do was get home knowing that I had some projects to accomplish. The new house that I am in has some rather old wiring and all the outlets are still those old two prong jobbie. I had a box of new three prong ones that I wanted to put in and I wanted to conquer that before it got too dark.
Traffic was a little heavier than normal coming down the highway as the turnpike seemed to empty into the regular interstate. My exit was coming up so I merged over and began to make my desent down the off ramp.
Getting a peak down the road, I could see cars making a full stop which I found normal seeing it was a weird merging area. You know, one of those ones where the off traffic and the on traffic have like 50 feet combined to wedge themselves in. As I approached a little further, I noticed people fleeing their cars. Not normal. I didn't think we were supposed to get an alien invasion for at least another seven weeks. Good thing I bought some bottled water.
Moving even closer, I saw skid marks, which led to a guard rail, which had a hole it it, that wasn't supposed to be there. Beyond that I could see where everyone was off to....The over turned car that laid there on its roof.
Being a paramedic, I guess it is second nature to see something like that and even more of an instinct to get out, evaluate the situation, and lend support to the best of your abilities. So...that is what I did.
Turning the hazards on, I pulled to the right and parked strategically so that anyone not paying attention would go flying off the road and into the accident site. Last thing I need is multiple vehicles with multiple patients. We already know that I am still reeling from my last mass casulty incident.
Getting closer to the car, I noticed that through the driver's window, a hand laid dormant and motionless. A voice came from inside the car as bystanders began converging in to see what they could do.
From my right, I could hear someone ask the victim how many are in the vehicle. His answer made me sick to my stomach, I went in anyways.
Five is what he told the person who was on the phone with 9-1-1. Five is the number of bodies that I was prepared to find in this flipped twist of metal. Five was the number programmed in my mind to help. Five...was not accurate.
Coming around to the passenger side of the car, I found the only point of entry that I could which was a rear passenger door that was unlocked but stuck in the wet and very soft mud. Trying to pull it open seemed counterproductive as the more myself and a gentleman helped me, the more the water began to get in from the ditch that the car had landed in.
Now, I am not talking about white water rapids here. There really wasn't enough water that I had to be overly concerned with and consider calling the coast guard for (no, I wasn't going to call them anyways), but it was enough to make a difference and the extrication a bit more difficult.
Giving the window a few swift kicks, Entry was gained with a price paid...I ripped my Indians coat. Sigh....
Looking around in the car, I noticed something of great importance to me and the rescuers outside. There was only one person in the car.
Four less than five.
I had to ponder the thought, was there really ever five in the vehicle.
"Sir, are you alright?" I asked.
"Yeah, I think so>" He replied.
Now was the million dollar question.
"Was there anyone else in the vehicle with you?" I gulped out.
"No, I am by myself." He told me relieving all tension I had in my heart.
Now, I DID hear him say five when asked by the lady on the cell phone. I am just glad we were wrong.
Telling him I was a paramedic and that I was going to help him and get him out posed more of a challenge than they ever could teach you in school.
While learning about extrication in class, the fundamentals are taught with a pretty cut and dry knowledge of what to do in a motor vehicle accident. How to support the cervical spine, Note hazards that you may encounter, The safest way to evaluate a patient.
All of this was good and wise and rules to live by.
But no one ever taught us how to hold c-spine on a person who was upside down in a car that was filling slowly with water. Good thing I watched Third Watch.
Now, training tells us not to move a patient until the scene is safe and the vehicle is secure. Your gut tells you to get them out while you can and worry about the rest later.
"Do you remember what happened?" I asked.
"I think I hit a patch of black ice." He said.
The temperature at the time of the accident was 46 degrees and all ice had melted the day before with the same mild temperatures. Plus I could see no ice when I cam over.
"Did you black out at all?" Asking him that,
"I don't think I did." He replied.
This is called a pertinent negative. If a patient can't remember if he/she did or did not lose consciousness, then it is in the best interest to assume that he or she had.
"Are you hurting anywhere?" Again I posed a question.
"I don't think so, but it is a little hard to breathe." He told me.
Any compromise to the patient's airway, breathing, or circulation superceedes anything and that patient needs to come out.
Doing a quick check of the patient, I found that it posed little threat to extricate him before the fire department got there.
Having one of the bystanders unbuckle his safety belt (which saved his life by-the-way..had he not had it, he would have been tossed from the vehicle and most likely under the car.) I instructed the people outside as to how to assist the patient to the solid ground.
Getting him out, I wiggled my way out of the car and came around to assess the patient better. No sooner than I unstuck my shoe from the mud, the squad came and I relayed the patient info to a couple of guys on the squad that I used to work with.
Seeing that there was nothing more for me to do, I went back to my car and took off, just a quietly as I came in.
I am almost certain that the driver of that car will be released after a quick check-up at the local hospital but I am certain that he is going to need a ride home.
It was the efforts of a group of complete strangers that came to the aid of a person in whom none of us had ever met, nor may ever cross paths again, but for those few brief moments, those strangers had one common goal, and that was to help another stranger...whom needed the help of others.
People come and people go in our lives. Some may be for a moment, some may be for eternity, and some may be when you need them....the most.
Rounding Third and Heading Home,