We hear the cops go out for a minor motor vehicle up on the mountain, and then twenty minutes later we get called up there for neck and back pain.
The accident doesn’t look like much as we get there. One vehicle rear-ended the other, but I start to get a little nervous when I count the people standing by the side of the road. There are two adults outside one car, and there are two adults outside the other, but there are also four children, including one in a baby car seat, and another pushing an empty stroller. A muscled tattooed man is also taking stuff out of the car and piling it on the grass – bags of groceries, plastic bags full of clothes, a cooler, two jugs of water, a folded up play pen.
One of my partners checks out the adults in the first car – they both refuse. The adult female in the second car says she has lateral neck pain, but says she is most concerned about her two oldest children – they both have neck and back pain. I approach them – a seven and ten-year-old. Yes, they say, their necks hurt – right in the center. I have my partners get to work c-spining them while I check the woman over. Her neck pain seems muscular and is only on the left side. No pain along the spine. No numbness, tingling, weakness, etc. No pain or limit to range of motion. My plan is to put the two children on boards, one on the bench seat and one on the stretcher and have the mother go as a patient in the captain’s chair.
But then she says, “What about my other children?”
I say, “What about them?”
“I can’t leave them.”
“They can’t come in the ambulance. They’re going to have to stay with your friend.”
“Can’t you call another ambulance? And what about our stuff?”
“We can’t call an ambulance for people who aren’t hurt. And we can’t take all your stuff.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Can’t someone come pick them up?”
“No, we don’t have a ride.”
“Hold on,” I say, and then walk over to the police officer, who is writing them tickets and summonses for an unregistered vehicle and failing to properly secure all the children.
I explain the situation to the officer. They don’t have a ride and we can’t fit them all in the ambulance. “They can walk back to the city,” she says. “They can leave their stuff in the bushes and come back for it later.”
From where I stand, I can look down the mountain and see the city in the distance. It looks as far away as the Land of Oz. I look over at the baby sucking her pacifier in the car seat and the four-year old pushing the stroller around in circles, and then at the tattooed man taking more groceries out of the car.
I know it has been a particuarly busy day for police, EMS and fire. Calls are going out all over town.
I walk over to the man. “You can’t get a ride from someone?”
“How ‘bout we’ll get you a cab.”
“I got twenty dollars to my name.”
“And you can’t get anyone to pick you up?”
“I don’t have a phone.”
I take my cell phone out and hand it to him. “Start calling.”
While he and the woman pass the phone back and forth calling people – they are having no luck getting anyone — a tow truck arrives to cart their car off. I keep looking at the children and at the far off city rising out of the valley below.
“Look,” I say to the mother now. “Here’s what we may be able to do. If you don’t want to be transported as a patient – you can still be seen at the hospital — I can put you in the front seat. I can put the baby in the captain’s chair in her car seat, and I can put the four year old in another seat. I might be able to get some of your stuff in the ambulance. And then if he still can’t get someone to pick him up, then only he will have to walk back.”
So I get the children in all safely secured. I explain to my crew that three of us will have to either sit on the floor or stand holding onto to the top bar. Then I go out and try to help the mother with the possessions. I ask her to point out which is most important. Stroller, play pen, groceries, clothes. What comes with us? What goes in the bushes?
The stroller goes in the side compartment next to the main oxygen tank. The bags of groceries and clothes go stuffed in the stair chair compartment and in the compartment with the flares and hard hats, and in the compartment with the collars and head-beds and straps. The play pen we put between the front seats and the back. We pack every open space we can find. I mean, how can you leave any of this stuff? A baby has to have a play pen. The squirrels and raccoons will get the groceries if we leave them. The kids have to eat, don’t they? The hospital isn’t going to give them but one meal at the best.
The man is talking with someone in very heated Spanish, and then closes the phone in disgust. I tell him we’ll be taking his girl and the kids and the stuff.
He nods and after the cop gives him his summons, he starts walking down the mountain, while we swing, a slow wide u-turn and head back to the city ourselves, four EMTs, one mother, four children, and a family’s food and possessions.