Fourth Tone Sirens

Nothing like listening to the fourth round of sirens…explaining to my daughter that they’re still going because there aren’t enough volunteers…she asks why I don’t join the fire department, and all of the times I’ve thought about trying to run calls with three kids in tow comes to mind.


I’m listening to dispatch during all of this. It’s a fatal car accident, on the exact route I *just* drove. I got home 15 minutes ago? The sirens started maybe 10 minutes ago? There’s only one patient. EMS still isn’t there.


It’s a rollover. The patient is pinned. I’m listening to it all unfold. I’m sitting in my home. I think of all of the calls I’ve run as a medic that people were pinned under cars. I think of the fatal accidents…too many to remember all of them, but I do remember being very good at getting a pulse and blood pressure back…at least for long enough for the family to say goodbye.


Did you check for a pulse? Did you just assume because he or she is pinned? Why the heck aren’t people there yet?


What training do the police who keep arriving on scene have? Why is no one there yet?


The fire siren stopped. They’re toning out mutual aid because I guess we can’t fill a truck? The next town is responding. Finally. Someone. It’s fire, and they’re told to bring stabilizing equipment for the car…but now they’re waiting because they need enough people to fill a crew.


Who is in the car? Is she young? Is he old? Is anyone near that person, or are they all keeping their distance? It just happened. There might be a chance for revival.


I could have been there right now. Maybe just to hold another hand and pray over someone as they pass from this life into another. But maybe also to save a life.


I don’t know how to respond to my daughter. Everything about who I was, I’ve given up. Someone’s got to take care of the kids, and fire scenes, car accidents, rescues, and EMS calls aren’t exactly the best places to bring children…although I’m wondering if I’d still be first on scene even with the time it would take me to load everyone in the car and drive the speed limit. I can’t work a regular job because, well, the one who’s asking these questions has some really significant special emotional needs and I have to be available. 24-7.


So I listen. My heart burns. I want to cry because…somehow, I managed to come out of working a decade in EMS still caring about people dying under cars.


I don’t answer her, because I don’t know what to say. No one’s life is more important than another’s, yet I feel like that’s how any route in this conversation will end.


It’s about thirty minutes into the call. I think EMS just arrived…or maybe it’s the mutual aid firetruck. I can’t tell. I don’t know the truck numbers here.


I don’t know what to say, my dear child. I could tell you that I’m not responding to this call because I can’t take kids with me and I always have kids with me. I could tell you that I’m not because I can’t drive an hour to take a refresher course and get my paramedic card back. But…I can’t tell you any of these things.


Instead, I tell you that when you guys are older, you can join the fire department, and we’ll all run calls together. This satisfies you, and you go back to watching your movie. All while the scanner keeps playing, and while my mind drifts to what a long night the folks two turns away from where I’m sitting have ahead of them.

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