Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Quick! What's the Number For 9-1-1?!"

A fair warning: It took me about an hour to type this out as I remember it. I didn't proof read it as I really don't want to think about it anymore, so if there are silly errors, I apologize!


They say that those who are in the emergency profession (EMT's, paramedics, firefighters, police officers) become emotionally numb from the experiences that they encounter throughout their careers and in most cases it's even expected and accepted. Their loved ones support them and understand when they get in their "moods" and they even have psychiatrists on-hand in case of a traumatic event. Even through my 3+ years on and off with my officer I learned to improvise, adapt and overcome (Semper Fi!) the detachment and lack of connection, but now, I'm not so sure I understand.

After work this evening I was driving home my usual way, a straight shot down Stirling Road, the same cars every day. This is ridiculous, we should car pool. There was nothing out of the ordinary, the usual bad drivers and my radio blaring my recent kick: Billy Currington's "Heal Me," Jason Aldean's "Big Green Tractor" and Dierks Bentley's "Come A Little Closer," all of which I play... over and over. 

By the time I got to 90th Ave it was time to restart "Heal Me" so I could try and duet with Billy one more time before arriving home. I know by now to hit "back" on my iPod three times after Dierks to get to my song, which is what I was working on when I hit the aqueduct bridge. Once I made it over the bridge, it was at that time that my overall outlook had changed.

Not to sound tragically poetic, but there he lay. Once I comprehended that there was a young man laying face down in the middle of the road because he had been hit, I immediately pulled over. It had obviously just happened as there was no one else on scene except the driver who hit him, and the man in front of me who saw the accident. I grabbed my phone, shut off my engine and how I managed to even think of locking my door because I was leaving my purse in the car, I'll never understand. I couldn't even figure out how to wake my phone up from sleep mode to dial, what's that number again? 9-1-what? My hands were shaking and I couldn't think. The witness of the accident was on the phone already and all I could hear was the driver in a panic 20 feet away from where the boy lay.

I looked across the street and the victim's friend was pacing and dialing his phone, too. I looked back at the victim and he was starting to bleed pretty badly from his head and face, and the road rash on his dark skin left a layer that was fresh and light pink. It was at that time he started to come to and he lifted his head in what appeared to be an attempt to get up. I quickly ran over and pleaded with him to stay down. Another neighbor who lived on the street apparently heard the collision and ran over with some towels and he was also talking to 911 via his blue tooth headset. He carefully placed the towel under the boy's face so he wasn't directly on the concrete and it quickly started soaking up the blood. 

Onlookers started to pile around, but not too close. Some were directing traffic around us as to not cause any more harm to anyone, including the victim. The boy's young, scared friend ran over to ask us, phone in hand, "is he alive?" Even though his friend was alive, my heart sank. One minute they're skateboarding on the street, the next minute things are so hectic that he didn't even know if his buddy was breathing. I think it was about that time that I heard him tell the operater that they're both 15 years old. It was apparent that the victim had no idea what was going on, we didn't expect anything else, but he began convulsing and contorting his body. "He's going into shock!" a bystander shouted. Not too long after, a young girl who was a paramedic ran onto the scene and began talking to him and putting pressure on his head. Luckily we managed to keep him down until the paramedics arrived. 

At one point, I don't even know when in between all of the madness, I looked over at the driver who was standing alone with her arms crossed and an obvious look of sorrow on her face. She was young, late 20's so I could only imagine what she was feeling. I made my way over to her and asked her if she was okay to which she quickly replied, "no!" and began crying. I gave her a hug and I played with her hair as she was voluntarily sobbing her story on what happened. "I mean, his head imprint is in my car!" she cried out as she pointed to her windshield. Sure enough, on the passenger side of her windshield was a huge hole, glass cracked and the passenger side mirror behind us on the ground. 

Within what seemed like hours but was probably only a matter of minutes, every Cooper City sheriff and an ambulance and fire truck were on scene to take over. The boys clothes were cut off, and he was eventually carefully loaded onto a stretcher and sped away to the hospital. Apparently the witness had the boy's panic-stricken friend call the mother to tell her that he was conscious, but he had been hit and to be ready to meet him at the hospital. She made it to the scene in time to meet the ambulance before he was loaded and gone. 

We stood around and had our conversations with the investigating officers while the firemedics cleaned the blood and clothing off of the street. The kind neighbor with the towels had disappeared and so did the heroic paramedic girl. Then we finally had enough time to catch our breath and wipe the sweat off of our faces to actually have a conversation with each other.

It was funny - we all spoke of the boy, how it happened, why it happened, why it shouldn't have happened and how we're not going to let it happen to our own children. We talked about how close we all live to each other and how long we've been here in the neighborhood. I never heard a "great job" or a "thank you." It wasn't left out in a rude way, but more of a "we did what we had to do and what we wanted to do" fashion. It was already known. 

The lead investigator finished his reports and granted us permission to leave while the other officers kept the road closed until we could safely pull our vehicles off from the side and back in the direction we were originally heading - home. After the witness pulled away, I drove the 20 feet to where the shaken driver was. I shouted to her to take care and I turned onto my street which was another 10 feet away.

I don't know any of their names.

How can our first responders be so numb? Instead of wanting to pull away from those who care about me, all this experience made me want to do is be closer to those people. Maybe I'm just naive, though. Afterall, this was one accident I pulled over for, our heroes do it every day.

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