I scramble around, working like a fool; thousands of EMS calls a year, every year for twenty years, trying to make a difference, thinking I have, hoping it isn’t all for nothing. I know that in a hundred years every person living now, at this moment will be gone, and all new people will inhabit this earth. The overpowering urge to do something that matters dominates my thoughts when I think of things like that, how fleeting our time here actually is, and how soon we will be forgotten. It’s a crazy world we live in, but at least everybody will be different a hundred years from now
That I am a Rescue Captain on one of the busiest ALS vehicles in the country counts for something-I think. At least I tell myself so. Some days things all come together, like there is some cosmic plan where everything makes sense. Other days, not so much:
Dim lighting illuminates the living room turned bedroom, a commode sits by the window, recently cleaned, the smell of Lysol mixes with the smell of dying, the familiar aroma that stays with us as we journey through the years. The couch is pushed to the side for now, but it will be back in position where the hospital bed now sits, tomorrow, maybe, definitely by weeks end. She’s tired, sick and ready, waiting to go, but life is funny, those that wish and pray for it to end must wait while others never get a chance to know the peace and satisfaction that comes from a life well lived. The family is prepared, and the vigil is underway, I’d be surprised if there isn’t a schedule somewhere, making sure she won’t die alone.
A light rain falls in the inner city, freshening the decay that coats the gutters, bringing with it a much-needed rinse. The rain mixes with oil that has accumulated on the roadways since the last rainfall, four weeks ago, the combination turning the street into a skating rink. The kids in the car don’t know enough to be careful; they haven’t lived long enough to experience a rain slick road on a lazy afternoon. The fact that the cops are on their tail and they have a grand in the glove box and a bag of rocks under the seat throws caution out the window as the driver hits the gas, skids through an intersection, sideswipes an innocent person’s car then slides into a little tree, it’s trunk barely five inches in diameter, but enough to encroach the passenger compartment, and kill the teenage girl who wanted so badly to sit in the front seat. She never had a chance, never thought it would end before it got started, never grew up, or old, or learned that it could all change in an instant.
She’s in the bathroom of her rented third floor apartment, bleeding, a lump in the toilet floats; the pain in her abdomen seems miniscule now that her heart is broken. It’s her third miscarriage, her husband is at work, and has no idea, she’s alone, truly alone now that their child is gone. She fishes it out of the bowl, and wraps it in a facecloth, and calls 911, and sits on the bathroom floor and cries. We arrive, and have no idea the turmoil going on inside her, or what she carries in her facecloth, only that she is bleeding, and needs us. She sits on the stretcher as we ride in silence toward the Emergency Room, wondering if she will ever have a family, and if the immortality that creation brings will visit her, or will her legacy die with her, and her empty womb.
Another girl screams as we wheel her into Woman and Infants, she’s crowning, the baby’s head pokes out just as we transfer her from our to their stretcher, seconds later another baby is born in Providence, the nurses take over, I wipe my brow and thank the rescue gods we made it in time as the umbilical cord is cut and the new mother turns her head and tells the nurse to “get that thing away” from her. She will be smoking crack within the hour now that she got rid of the curse in her belly, not that the curse stopped her from smoking before, she was high as a kite when we picked her up from a condemned building that was littered with addicts and their paraphernalia.
He’s building a fence, been digging for a few hours, his chest hurts, he ignores it, keeps on digging. A neighbor finds him unconscious next to a pile of dirt and calls us. The neighbor knows CPR and starts, and we continue, and do our thing, and get a pulse, and in the hospital they continue and get him breathing on his own. We consider it a victory and get back to work, where another guy is sitting watching TV, feels chest pressure, takes a nitro and calls us. He has two stents, and a history of open-heart surgery, and he’s a diabetic, and he eats bags of chips and drinks bottle after bottle of coke and weights almost four-hundred. He goes to the cath lab. Then home, and back to his chair, and his chips. The man digging holes for his fence posts goes to ICU where he stays for a while, then dies, never regaining consciousness. He was fifty-one.
We deliver babies, pull people from wrecked cars, administer the right drugs at the right time and truly make a difference, most of the time. It’s funny how we tend to dwell on the other times, when all we can do is wonder. I took a walk today, slow at first, then faster until I was almost running. Then I was running, not a graceful sprint by any means, just arms and legs pumping, my heart racing, feeling good just to be alive and well. The neighborhood where I now live is like a park where people put homes. Different trees sprouting different flowers, the ground erupting with different colors every day, the grass, freshly cut this weekend glistens with moisture from an early morning shower, only now the sun has appeared, and with the warmth the water evaporates giving the air a freshly showered feel.
No cars today, most people are at work, just me, the birds and just me. When I think my heart is ready to explode I slow down and stroll the last half-mile, just enjoying the sounds around me. A fox sprints away from my bird feeder as I walk up my driveway. He looks a little old, gray around the whiskers and not as fast as you might think a fox would be. My neighbor who knows everything told me that foxes are not necessarily nocturnal, so rabies probably isn’t a factor. Too bad Mr. Fox didn’t hang around; we could have had breakfast together.
I’ve been told my Grandfather had a pet fox named Reginald. Maybe I’ll catch this guy and keep him.
Nah, I’ll just let him be.