16 May
A Dying Man

     Joe awoke to the startling screeches of the consistent beeping noise. It loudened until he finally rolled over in his bed and pressed the off button. Joe rolled back onto his side to face his wife. Her eyes were open with heavy eyelids. She smiled at him, "Do you have to go to work?" Her voice was tired from the early morning hour. Joe smirked and leaned forward, pressing his lips to hers, feeling the warmth radiate through his body as he did so.

     Joe poured the milk into his coffee, watching as the white swirled and mixed into the dark beverage. He added two teaspoons of sugar, not too much or too little. He always liked his coffee sweet. The beverage burned his lips to his liking. Walking back upstairs into the bedroom where his haunted uniform lay, he got dressed and ready for the day shift. A deep pit grew in his stomach as he looked at the fluorescent yellow and black uniform whose epaulettes read "Region of Fort Rold Paramedic Services". He looked up from the uniform and at his wife, took another sip of his coffee and smiled. She smiled back.

     The car's engine roared in the crisp cool morning air, struggling to start. Joe turned the keys one more time allowing the car to finally roar to life. He brushed away the brown and yellow leaves off the windshield in two sweeps with the wiper blades and reversed out of the driveway. The moon still hung low in the sky, illuminating the morning with its cold light. The sun would be rising soon. The skies were dark and clear with a frosty crisp hanging in the air. Joe drove slower than the posted speed limit, not in any rush to get to work. As he approached base, his stomach turned while he pulled into a parking spot. Turning the car off, he grabbed his things, and walked into the base.

     "Morning, Joe." One ambulance was parked in the bay. The second spot was empty, indicating the other night crew was on a call. Hopefully, they don't get overtime. Joe smiled as he walked into the base, greeting the two men who were just finishing their shift. They both were smiling back, but their eyes looked heavy and faces drained. "How was the night?" Joe asked the two paramedics. "It was steady. Definitely ready to go home. Your partner just got in right before you did. He's out in the bay checking the truck." The first medic said. "Truck is good. We replaced everything throughout the night." The second medic was looking down as he sealed the shift envelope shut. Joe put his bag on the kitchen table, "Thanks guys, have a good sleep."

     Joe opened the fridge door at the base and placed his black lunch bag on an empty shelf. The fridge smelled like stale and spoiled milk. The piercing noise of the tones illuminated throughout the base. Joe sighed as he walked his heavy boots out to the ambulance. The first call was the beginning of the next twelve hours to come.

The sirens of the ambulance were awakening the whole neighbourhood. Joe's partner drove steady, but the air passed quickly by as they drove through stop signs and red lights to their first call. The sky was brightening with the rising sun, warming the cold earth. Orange illuminated across the once dark sky. The first call details were for a possible suicide. They drove in silence.

     The paramedics approached the home. A frantic looking woman held a child in her arms and was incoherently screaming at the front door, waving Joe and his partner to hurry up and come inside. Joe held his breath, cleared his mind, and walked toward the woman. He stood tall, walking with a long and firm stride, pertinent equipment in hand.

     Joe and his partner walked inside the small house. A police officer stood at the front door, face white and pointing toward the first door located to the left. Joe gave him a nod, and confidently moved onward. He stepped into the room and looked down. There were several pieces of dirty clothing scattered throughout the floor. Unable to step over the clothing, he stepped on them. The clothing was soft under his black boots. He smelled a lavender scent in the air. After stepping over the piles of clothing, he looked up. First, he saw the feet hanging lifelessly in the air, fluttering above the floor only a few inches. The soft humming of the dryer filled the room with heat. Joe's eyes wandered up the body, soft droplets of blood soaked the floor beneath the floating feet. Joe and his partner took charge of the scene and got the body down onto the floor. The body belonged to that of a man, young face. His neck was cut deeply, for he had hung himself with a wire instead of the usual rope. Joe placed two fingers on the man's neck where his carotid pulse was located. He noticed no respiratory effort was being made. His two fingers felt a regular beat, slow and weak. Just then, the man began to seize. His head was hitting the dryer, repeatedly. Joe was trying to protect him, but the walls of the room were too close to one another. Joe was crouching shoulder to shoulder with his partner and the police officer who was offering his help. A minute passed, the seizure was over. The patient was now post-ictal and became combative with Joe and his partner. The officer held the man down forcefully, hands restraining his knees. Joe's partner held both wrists of the patient down firmly, hardly avoiding being struck in the face. Screams were filling the air, piercing the paramedics and officer's ears. In the background, Joe heard cries of agonizing pain from the woman and little boy, he blocked that out as he carefully drew up Versed to sedate the patient. The two paramedics worked together to intubate, ventilate then extricate the man. Finally, they arrived to the hospital and offloaded him to the ICU.

     They returned to the road. Another call came in immediately.

     Code 4 to 367 Kidnor Avenue for a domestic. Police have been tiered.

     Joe was driving as his partner sat silently in the passenger seat. Cars on the road pulled over to the right and allowed Joe to drive past them with a careful speed. 

     "You guys aren't going to like this one. We have a man in custody, the boyfriend of the mother. Your patient is a two-year-old female. She's inside." The police officer walked toward the house whose roof reached high in the bright sky. Joe first saw the mother. She was cradling a little girl wrapped in a blanket in her arms. The woman's face was red, and tear stained. She had a black circle on her right leg that Joe noticed right away but didn't point out. The mother, silent and blank faced, handed the child over to Joe with shaking arms. The little girl gripped Joe's florescent sweater with a tight squeeze. He unwrapped the blanket from her face. The police officer left the room. The little girl's face was black and blue bruised. A clear fluid leaked from her nose and ears, indicating the severity of this call. The little girl was naked under the blanket. Her abdomen was red, blue and black. Her skin was like touching a cold steel surface. A bruise in the form of a hand encircled her right side. She wasn't crying in Joe's arms, but instead she was screaming. She wailed as tears of fear bled down her face. Her eyes looked like glass, shining under the light of the home. Joe turned to his partner, "We need to go, now."

     The shift went on. Joe's stomach was grumbling as he sat in the passenger seat of the ambulance, anticipating another call was unfortunately underway. Brushing his dark hair back behind his ear, he placed his RDPS hat back on his head. He thought about the chicken salad sandwich that was staying cool in the fridge at base. "I am so hungry. I hope we make it back to base." His partner held the wheel of the ambulance and turned to face Joe. Joe looked out the window, "I was just thinking about my sandwich that's back at base. This has been a pretty busy shift," he replied. "Do you want anything while we're—"

     3514, call for a code 4.

The two paramedics approached the small police station off Centre street located downtown. A police officer was hanging up yellow crime scene tape around the perimeter. Joe's partner turned to look at him, he had an uneasy look. As they drove up to the front doors of the police station, they saw the red covering the sidewalk and doors. Joe and his partner grabbed the stretcher and their equipment and approached the facility with a steady stride. The wheels of the stretcher that were once black were now a dark burgundy colour. Joe walked toward the entrance where a police officer stood, hands covered in blood. The clear glass of the station's doors had two red hand prints smeared in a downward fashion, indicating urgency and panic. They kept moving forward with the same steady stride. First, Joe smelled the air, stale. He felt his stomach turn, the iron in the air was heavy. A man was laying on the floor, bleeding from his leg. Blood was flooding the floors of the police station. Several officers stood above the young man with a worried look on their face, all their hands covered in red. "He just walked into the station saying he was stabbed." 

     Joe and his partner immediately recognized the urgency of the situation, and they took action. First, Joe exposed the wound. Immediately, his purple gloves became saturated. He cut the fabric near the young man's groin. His femoral artery was spurting bright red blood. Joe compressed the wound with sterile dressing. His partner was crouches on the other side of the patient, "I can't get a blood pressure." The pale face of the man lying on the police station floor looked up at Joe, "Am I going to die?" His voice was cracked and pierced the silent air. Joe looked down as he continued dressing the arterial bleed, "No."

     He did.

     Joe and his partner finally made it back to base. Their shift was almost reaching a close. Joe dragged his feet over to the couch where he lay down and shut his eyes. He was ready for the day to be over.

     The tones went off.

     Joe and his partner were in the elevator, going up to the seventh floor of the retirement residence. The elevator smelled like urine and feces. A scent both Joe and his partner were accustomed to. 

     They walked into room 112. An elderly man was shaking, silent tears were streaming consistently down his face. His arm was shaking and extended, pointing toward the bathroom on the right. Emotionless, Joe and his partner walked toward the room the man pointed to. An old woman's body hung lifelessly across the toilet. Her pants were down to her ankles, and her body was stiff and cold to touch. Immediately, the paramedics pronounced her as dead. 

     As they were going back down the elevator, Joe could still hear the loud cries of the old man ringing through his ears. He smelled the salty tears that drained his face. He watched the old man's lips quiver, "We've been married 55 years. Tomorrow is our anniversary. She was going to love her gift. I know she was going to love her gift." The tearful broken words of the shattered and heartbroken old man resonated through Joe, making his chest feel heavier with each breath he took. Both him and his partner stood in silence as the elevator gently brought them both down to the ground floor. Joe turned to look at his partner. The two men smiled at each other. 

     "I'm home!" Joe yelled into his house as he opened the heavy front door. He was immediately greeted with a sincere smile from his wife, warmly welcoming him home. "How was your day?" She asked with a light and cheerful heart. Joe smiled back, ignored the emptiness he felt within his chest, and said, "It was great."

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