We’re called for a woman feeling faint after accidently leaving the stove on. Low priority response. We pull up to the house and see only a police car out in front. No fire department. A woman waves me in the front door. She is smiling and seems perfectly healthy. I ask her if she is the patient at the same time I get a powerful whiff of gas. No, she says, it’s my mother, she’s in the kitchen. Already I am feeling light-headed so I follow her in and find her mother laying against the stove with a nonrebreather on and a police officer kneeling by her. I ask what happened. She says she isn’t certain. I touch her forehead. It is cool and clammy. The gas smell is overwhelming. You need to go to the hospital, I say, and uh, maybe we should go outside, I say.
We get her up, she seems a little groggy. I tell my partner who has followed me in to set the stretcher up outside.
The officer and I help the woman walk out to the porch. On one hand, she just had some kind of syncopal episode, on the other, the gas smell is not a hint of gas, it is an atomic bomb of gas — I feel like I am inside a gas balloon, my head feels so big. I’m worried I will bump it against the ceiling. We get her on the stretcher and out to the ambulance. We have a hard time getting the stretcher in the back, and getting it to latch. My partner who has been driving an ambulance for thirty years, gets in front and takes off. The problem is the back doors are wide open. I shout hey, man! He apologizes and I shut the doors without managing to fall out.
I am doing all my care on the go because the hospital we are going to is far enough away that I will have time to do it all. I put in an IV, put her on the monitor, put her back on the 02 just to clear her out. That gas smell was strong! Before we left my partner told the officer to call the fire department, told him that a couple times because the officer seemed a little spacy. The ride to the hospital is rough, but I try not to yell at my partner because he is my friend and I don’t want him to know that I think he is driving like a lunatic. Each bump jostles me. The monitor comes off the bench, IV supplies fall out of the open cabinent.
But I manage. I have my routine. I am use to bumps. I check the woman’s sugar because that is just part of my routine.
Well, there you go. I give her some D50 and suddenly instead of a slowspeaking clammy old woman she is cracking jokes with me, although she does still admit to a headache and feels tipsy. The two of us are laughing hysterically. We both shout at the driver. Hey buddy, you missed a bump.
When my partner opens the back door at the hospital, I look down as he does and sees we are about six feet short of the landing. Back it up some more, I say. He closes the door, and then the next thing I know I hear a scraping, and then he opens the door again, and looks a little sheepish. I get out and see he has hit a pole holding up the ED overhang.
Good one, I say.
He hangs his head. Don’t tell on me now, he says. I won’t hear the end of it.
While waiting in the triage line, another crew comes in and looks at us. Which one of you was driving? Not me. Not him. Our driver, he’s — he’s not here. We fired him. He’s dead. We’re cracking ourselves up. They look at us like we are high or something.
We are joking with the woman about the gas in the house, how if she lit a match, there would be no more house. Yeah, that’d be a blast, my partner says. He tries to keep a straight face waiting for everyone to get his double meaning. You’re killing me, I say. We both laugh some more. You should be on Johnny Carson, I say.
He makes me drive back. I ask if he will blame it on me if the ER overhang collapses when I pull out. He gets out of the ambulance and goes and stands on a corner to make it look like he has nothing to do with me or the crookedly parked ambulance. I pull out with no problem. I never hit the pole, he says getting back in. There was microscopic air between the car and the pole – that’s why the roof is still standing.
Yeah, right, I say, as I head toward the highway.
That call was a gas, he says.
Roll down the windows, I say, you’re killing me.