Ahead we see two state police cars and two private vehicles pulled over on the left side of the highway. Down in the gulley of the median, I can see the rear end of a car sticking out of the trees and bushes. The men near the car suddenly look frantic. A large man is holding his arms out bellowing to the heavens. The others scatter and start searching the bushes. We advance toward the car.
“He’s missing his boy,” a man who stopped at the scene in his private car tells us. “He had his boy with him and he can’t find him.”
People are fanning out looking in the bushes. I watch the man at the center of the scene — the father — the driver. He is fat, his belly sticks out from underneath his dirty black tee-shirt. He is sweating profusely. It’s hot out, but not that hot. I ask him if he is okay. He says he’s fine, but he seems dazed. “My son! My son!” he shouts. “I can’t find my son.”
I feel his pulse. He is banging away at 140-150. I ask him if he hurts anywhere, if he has neck or back pain, but he says, no, he’s all right. I ask him about the accident. He says a car cut him off and he had to swerve to avoid it. I go over and move some branches out of the way so I can get in the underbrush to look at the car. The windows are all closed. Only the driver’s door is open. There is little damage. He is lucky the branches and bushes slowed the car down. There is no invasion. No deformity to the steering column, No starring of the windshield. In the backseat there is an empty child seat. I look on the car floor for beer cans, but see nothing.
“No, no, wait a minute,” the man now announces to the state trooper who is talking urgently into his radio. “He’s not in the car. He’s at home. I forgot. I got confused. He’s at home. He’s at home.”
The trooper looks relieved, but anger flashes in his eyes. The word is quickly passed to the searchers. A phone call made to confirm the boy is safe at home.
The officer’s anger turns on the man. Are you on anything? What have you been using? Am I going to find anything in your car? The man is spread against the car and patted down. He denies any drug use. Well, at least not for a couple months. Well not today anyway. The needle marks and bruise under his wrist are old, he says. A couple days. Yes, there is a needle in the car, but he didn’t shoot up anything. He was going into the city to buy drugs, but then he changed his mind. The officer gets word from his dispatcher that the ID check revealed the man is driving on a suspended license.
The driver’s eyes shift from one trooper to the next to us as he is peppered with questions.
His pupils are pinpoint. Sweat is pouring off of him.
“You need to go to the hospital,” I say.
“I’m fine,” he says. “I was just confused. I need to go home and see my son.”
“No,” the officer says. “You need to go to the hospital.”
“Listen to what the officer is saying,” I say. “Make the smart choice and go to the hospital with us. You don’t want the alternative right now.”
He quickly says, okay.
We c-spine him and take him in. His heart rate is in the 130’s. His pressure 180/110. I put in an IV lock and draw bloods.
When we are leaving the hospital, the state trooper is walking in the ER door.