Rescue memories. Something that happens sometimes when I handle medical or firefighting equipment. Had some good ones today, then had the desire to write these memories down before I forget them.
This evening my thoughts drifted into the cab of the mini-pumper. It was night, I was sitting between two rescue squad members, me an explorer scout. It was my first time out on an emergency run. This is fantastic I thought, we are racing to a call for a structure fire and they’re letting me operate the siren. Never will forget the siren. A Federal Intercepter. It had a really low budget looking P.A. mic and a blazing red light on it a the top. The bulb that lit the red lens also lit the face. If the control was moved just right it would make some really unique sounds.
We’re off the main road and no signs of a structure fire. By now if it was a working fire we would have seen the glow. They thought on the way that it was a local arsonist that had started a fire. Once we arrived at the address of the reported fire there was none. Then they began to think that this was the false call just before the arson that would take place in a completely different direction of what was about to happen in another part of the county.
There is all this talk now days about situational awareness. How is this for a 15 year old. Sitting in the driveway of the house that was reported on fire the crew chief was calling in the false call. When dispatch answered back I could hear a voice in the background. Focused on her voice instead of the dispatcher speaking to us and hear this “…10-46 Highway 48 & 13…”. She was dispatching the sheriff’s department.
Crew chief hung up the mic. I turned to him and said we’d better get going, we were about to get a call for a 10-46(vehicle accident with injuries) on 48 & 13. He gave me a look, then “dispatch – 27” Dispatch gave us the call to the accident. We had passed there about 10 minutes ago. The guys I was with couldn’t believe what happened.
We were on-scene in about 3 minutes. Would have arrived sooner but fire equipment can not be driven very fast on winding country roads. Some of them old wagon trails turned into roads. Since we were in a pumper we did not have extrication equipment. That was in a van dispatched from the station at the same time we were.
When we arrived we discovered a head on two vehicle accident. A car with the front end crushed on the east side of the road facing north west. A compact pickup truck in the south bound lane facing south. There was glass and car parts all over the highway. The pumper driver gave an arrival report over the radio. The crew chief got out of the cab, I followed. We began to approach the car since it was closest. What looked like a bystander turned out to be the driver. Didn’t have a scratch. Nothing. Was wearing a seatbelt.
Seeing how calm crew chief was really helped me be that way. Crew chief went to say something to the pump operator. I could hear unbelievable screaming coming from the truck. Said to him I was going to see what was going on and find out where those screams were coming from. He gave me the okay and I was off.
For a moment I couldn’t believe it. That I was actually on the scene of a real emergency. Here I was in a bunker coat, pull up boots and a firefighting helmet. The only official training I had then was the American Red Cross advanced first aid course and CPR. Hanging out at the military and civilian fire stations, military family friends in the medical field and boy scout mentors who had been in Vietnam had spoiled me with some really cool surplus and knowledge as well. It paid off.
Walking toward the truck the screaming is loud, it’s a woman. My CPR training let me know she had a pulse and respirations. My focus turned to the driver. The front of the truck is flat up to the bottom of the windshield. As I got closer to the truck the driver became visible through the drivers door window. There was a man that appeared to be unconscious.
Soon as I saw him I quickly moved to the drivers side of the truck. To my surprise the door opened. Pushed the door out of the way, had a bystander hold it for me. The screaming was something to experience to understand. Blocking out the outer sounds trying to remember the training. Quickly looking around there is a big lump of something in the truck cab blocking my view of the woman legs. It is setting between them resting on the console.
Looking at the woman screaming from my position it’s clear to see why she is screaming like that. The top portion of her skull is visible. Her scalp has been partially avulsed. My focus goes back to the driver. The steering wheel outer ring had been pushed forward and was bent out of shape. Then it was clear, the thing setting between them was the engine. The whole thing.
Checking for a pulse and respirations, there are none. Checked again, none. Oh no, I thought what am I going to do now? Self doubt flooded me. The other rescue squad members were setting up to charge a line for safety. I went to them to ask for assistance to verify that the man was in fact in cardiac and respiratory arrest.
Neither of the crew I was with had CPR training. The self doubt that I had before I spoke with them became worse. This was the 70’s not everyone was trained the same back then. Explaining the situation to crew chief the self doubt went away when he instructed me to follow my training.
Along with some bystanders we pulled him out and I alone started CPR. The first trouble I had was finding the landmarks used to place hands for compressions. There were none. Turns out the steering wheel deformity was caused by the drivers chest. Providing respirations, mouth-to-mouth, no barrier was an experience I will never repeat again. The drivers bloody vomit was a true test of my willpower. Never vomited myself. Never have on an emergency run.
CPR was continued until the driver was turned over to the ambulance crew. They gave me a bottle of sterile water to rinse out my mouth. 29 the extrication van arrived then we removed the passenger and put her in the same ambulance. As soon as they left we received a call for a car fire.
When we arrived it was fully involved. Looked like a car blow torch. The crew I was with were so impressed they let me work the nozzle and put out the fire. It was better than any roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on. What a memorable night that was so glad I remembered it. -13