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Monthly Archives: March 2010

By Reid Wright 

It was a calm night down at the fire station when a tone went out through the speakers. 

“Carlsbad EMS, please respond to 311 North Main — we have reports of a male in the street unconscious and not breathing — apparent hit and run.” 

The EMTs strode briskly to the ambulance, joking along the way. To them, it was just another night. 

I was surprised when Jason asked if I wanted to tag along. 

On the way, I sat in the back of the back of the ambulance with Casey, leaning into the turns as I talked to him about his equipment. 

When we arrived at dark section of street, the police had blocked off the street and the first ambulance crew was already on scene, working on a Hispanic male lying in the street. 

His shoe was several feet away. 

People in their homes nearby reported hearing a car horn and then two thuds. The vehicle had apparently fled the scene. 

EMTs had begun chest compressions and using a bag valve mask to pump air into the fallen man. CPR continued as he was loaded onto a stretcher and hoisted in to the ambulance. All six EMTs from both ambulance crews went to work on the man as his stretcher was locked into place on the stainless steel floor. The batwing doors were clicked shut and the ambulance surged forward. 

I sat in the corner and took notes, trying to stay out of the way. 

The paramedic was having difficulty opening an air passage to the man’s lungs. 

“His stomach is rising,” he said. “Somethings leaking.” 

They hooked up an IV drip and tried again to get an airway, as the man’s lips began to turn blue. 

“Bag … Bag … Bag,” the paramedic shouted as another EMT squeezed the rubber bulb to pump air into him. 

“It feels like mush,” said another EMT as he thrust his palms into the man’s shattered rib cage. 

Casey cut his pants off with a pair of scissors, revealing a bulge in his thigh where his femur had fractured and pushed against the skin. 

“I’ve got trauma here,” he said. 

“I need an airway,” the paramedic shouted to an EMT preparing another IV drip. 

A hole was poked in the man’s chest to release air building up between his lung and chest wall. 

“Carlsbad, this is medic three,” Jason said over the radio. 

“Go ahead medic three.” 

“We’ve started chest compressions. The gentleman has massive trauma to the chest and legs.” 

As the ambulance backed up to the emergency room doors, Jason unlatched the doors. When we lurched to a stop, I jumped out and held the door open as the man was unloaded and wheeled into the ER where he was surrounded by people in pastel colored paper suits. One by one, the fire department EMT’s in their blue polo shirts relinquished their posts at the mans side as doctors and nurses replaced them. 

Jason emerged with a heavy sigh, his eyes were downcast and his head shaking. 

A small group of hospital personnel and a city police officer gathered outside the ER, watching as CPR continued. 

A woman in scrubs approached Crpl. Davis and asked him to take a phone call. 

It was the victim’s mother. 

I found out later the man’s cousin lived in one of the houses near the scene of the incident and had found him in the street. He called 911 and then notified the family. 

Davis took up the phone and listened. 

“I don’t know at this point,” he said. He listened for a while longer, looking concerned. “What other taboos does he have?” 

Davis slipped inside the ER and looked at the man’s chest for identification. He emerged slowly, looking sad and tired. 

A faint pulse had been reported. CPR continued. The tones of monitoring equipment carried softly over the bustle of hospital workers. 

beep beep beep beep … beep beep beep beep … 


Outside, the EMTs had quietly begun the long process of cleaning the inside of the ambulance, which would be out of commission for a few hours until properly sterilized. Another call had gone out for a man with a heart attack and the other crew had already left. 

The shriek of a woman pierced through the hospital wall. 

“Oh my GOD! MY BROTHER … NO!” she wailed. 

We loaded up, and left for he station. 

In that moment, I was grateful. 

Seeing a man die was not tramatizing and it was not an affirmation of the value of life. But it was real. 

Every day, we watch fake shows, fake news and give each other fake smiles. 

Through the filters of television and computer screens, we shield ourselves from the simple realities of life, death, pain and loss. We pay others to deal with these things so we dont have to. 

Police, firefighters, EMTs and soldiers know what’s real. The frustration comes in trying to explain it to the rest of us. 

Through the everyday haze of hairspray, cosmetic surgery, deep lies and shallow truths, something real was revealed. 

That night as a real moment. 

And because of it, the world will never look the same.