The Stretcher

Arthur is making up the stretcher by the linen cart just inside the ER doors. “I’m going down to the cafeteria to get a sandwich,” he says, as he tightens the last strap. “You want anything?”

“No, I’m good. I just have to get times and drop off my report.”

I end up getting in a conversation with a doctor, and so its a good ten minutes later when I come back down the hall. I pass a stretcher and the linen cart on my way out to the ambulance, where I find Arthur eating the last of his sandwich.

“Get enough to eat?”

“Yes, thank you,” he says. “Not a bad sandwich for $2.25. Ready to clear?”

“All set.”

He clears us on the radio and they post us at the hospital

We stay put. Arthur does the crossword puzzle, while I read my book.

About fifteen minutes later, we get a call. “857. Main and Pershing for the MVA. Priority One.”

Arthur repeats the address, hits the lights on and we roll.

The Fire Department arrives just ahead of us. We get out to inspect the two cars and their occupants. Its a legitamite accident, nothing dramatic, but enough of an impact to take any complaint seriously. One man is up and walking about. He says his shoulder hurts. There is another man behind the steering wheel, who is claiming neck pain. The driver of the other car says he is all right.

“I’ll get the stretcher,” I say to Arthur.

I walk around to the back of the ambulance and open up the doors. I stare in the back. There is no stretcher.

Maybe the fire guys pulled it, I think. They do that sometimes.

I walk back to the cars. I see Arthur and four fire guys standing around. No one has the stretcher.

“Come with me,” I say to the guy with shoulder pain. I walk him around to the back of the ambulance and help him in. I have him sit in the captain’s chair. “I’ll be right back.”

I get a board, collar, headbed and straps and walk them over to Arthur. “Board and collar this guy,” I say, “and then carry him around to the back of the ambulance.”

“Where’s the stretcher?”

I stare at him a moment. “Don’t ask.”

I see the glint of recognition that comes into his eyes then.

“Just board him and bring him around. He’s not too big.”

I’m in the back with the other patient when a few minutes later, Arthur and the fire guys carry the now boarded patient around to the back. I take the head end as they hand the patient in, and we lay the boarded patient up on the bench seat.

The four fire guys are standing looking in at the back of the ambulance. They look perplexed.

“Thanks guys,” I say, and shut the doors. “Let’s get out of here,” I call to Arthur.

When we get to the hospital, Arthur goes in and comes back out with the stretcher. We load it in the back, transfer the patient on the bench seat onto the stretcher, then pull him out. I get a wheel chair for the guy with shoulder pain. We wheel them both in.


“Sorry,” Arthur says later. “I must be getting old.”

“Happens to the best of us.”

“We’ll keep this between ourselves?”

“We will never speak of it again,” I say.


  • Anonymous says:

    Been there, done that… Happened with a LifePak once too. Thank goodness the next call wasn’t a code.

  • Anonymous says:

    funny…i have nightmares about that frequently…

  • Anonymous says:

    oh my gosh, i’ve done crazy things like that before. It’s so embarrasing! I know one night we ran a call on a uncon/not breathing. Got on scene with fire and the poor patient was pretty much DOA. He had some serious medical/congenital problems and his family was in the process of setting up hospice care. We’d carried all our gear in and had set it down. Part of the family was wanting us to work the patient anyway. He hadn’t been down long. The other half was like “no, leave him in peace” Well, ended up working him anyway. It ended up being chaotic. We’d went back to the truck for something, the next thing I know fire is carrying this poor, ole pitiful guy to the truck working him in route to appease the family. Well, in the commotion no one got the monitor, O2, and airway bag. oops! we had a fire guy drive my partner and me to the ER. We went to get something out of the bag and looked at each other when we realized what happened. Oh my lord, we felt like dingbats. The guy wasn’t going to make it but it still was the pits. We got him to the ER and the doc was like” have you lost your minds?” we told him about the family and such and he was like “Oh, o.k. let’s call the code” The doc went to tell the family. We had to go back to the residence and get our stuff. We felt about an inch tall. When the scene is hetic and you got half a dozen people trying to do something, things are bound to happen. Now I try to make a quick look and make sure we got all our gear before leaving.

  • Anonymous says:

    Funny. My supervisor has an identical story of forgetting the stretcher and responding to an MVA. The ‘walking-wounded’ patient got into the back and said “isn’t there supposed to be something else in here?”

  • Anonymous says:

    Yup, been there, done that too. Discovered at 2 am responding to an MVA. The only time in my career I’ve ever been happy to have been working in a double stretcher unit.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great story, I guess it can happen, I thought It was bad when I unfolded the stretcher sheet one two many times and wondered why I had so much extra sheet left over. And my partner at the time told me I would never live that one down. Going to make a mental note on that one to double check the back before we clear ourselves….

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