Friday, May 13, 2011

P is for Partner

(The names have been changed to protect the guilty)

In retrospect the whole situation was quite funny. At the time though, I questioned many of the decisions I had made in my life. Generally, why I had decided to pursue a career in EMS, and specifically, why I had agreed to partner with Brad. The owners of the small private ambulance service that I worked for were quite taken with Brad. He was a newly graduated paramedic who wowed the medical board during his interview. His knowledge of the academics of pre-hospital medicine was indeed impressive. Unfortunately, he was having difficulty translating that knowledge to the field and was failing miserably at applying it to the actual treatment of patients.

I’ll call Brad colorful, though that adjective doesn’t really paint the picture of this slight pompous little man. My grandmother would have described him as a “Banty Rooster”, strutting around, sticking his neck into places better left undisturbed. He had a decided effeminate air and never hesitated to espouse his opinion in his high-pitched, Southern drawl. I had to remain on high alert to keep Brad from turning a routine call into a fiasco while still performing all of the skills necessary for treating heart attacks and accident victims.

That Thursday morning had been quiet. We served a rural area, and the pace was usually relaxed. We occasionally had horrendous accidents on the interstate, and had the usual cardiac and medical calls, but the low population base meant that we didn’t experience the abuse of the 911 system seen by many larger areas. The one exception to this was Windward Estates. The auspicious title belied the fact that it was assigned to one of the filthiest, most run down trailer parks I have ever seen. Here is where we usually responded to the few shootings, stabbings and domestic calls that came into our tiny dispatch center. When we were called to an “unknown medical” at an address that I recognized, I anticipated that it could involve more than just first aid and transport to the hospital, but never dreamed that I would be wondering if I would get out of that trailer alive.

The inhabitant of this hovel was Melva Lackland, a tiny, profane, raisin of a woman who called 911 on a regular basis for all sorts of emergencies, both real and imagined. Let’s just say that if Melva’s brain was a credit card, it would have been maxed out years ago. It was just past 10 am when we turned into the patch of dirt that served as a yard for her mobile home. My pulse quickened when I saw the gathering of men loitering in her front yard. I had heard that the biggest, the meanest of her grandsons had just gotten out of prison, where he had spent far too little time for the crime of killing his brother. It was apparent that he and his remaining siblings were celebrating. I guess if you are known for fratricide, your surviving brothers are hesitant to cross you. So, in spite of the fact that he had eliminated one of their own, he and his family were pretty much wasted in reverie. I guess when no one has a job, you don’t have to wait till the weekend to party, and any old weekday morning will do!

When we exited the ambulance, Melva came running onto the rotting redwood deck, her coke-bottle bottomed glasses magnifying her already wild looking eyes. She was even more agitated than normal and screeching the following demand…”Gitcher ditty bag ‘n here, there’s sumptin’ comin’ outta this girl’s asshole!”…”Okayyy”, I thought. “What the heck have we gotten ourselves into?”

I grabbed my medical bag and hurried into the dilapidated dwelling, where I found a plump young woman, fully clothed, in no apparent distress sitting on the couch watching a soap opera in total boredom. As I was trying to ascertain the exact nature of her emergency, Melva was flitting around like a mosquito, buzzing something about the girl being pregnant and things seeping from orifices that shouldn’t be presenting themselves, when Brad brought the entire drama to a dead silence with the following order, “Ma’am! Ma’am! You must exit the residence while we examine the patient…you must leave NOW!!!

Now, the condition the dwelling notwithstanding, it was still Melva’s home and no one could make her leave, save the police on the frequent occasions she had to be arrested or committed, and then it took two or more of them to restrain and remove this 100 pound woman. As she began to hyperventilate into an inevitable eruption, a shadow darkened the room as the silhouette of the recent parolee filled the open doorway.

He had been lurking just outside and had heard Brad order his grandmother out of her abode. He stooped as his 6 foot 5 inch frame stepped through the door. The unmistakable bouquet of Jim Beam and B.O. stung my nostrils and I think I saw the minute movement of lice burrowing into the rope of braided hair hanging down his back.
I heard a “click” and it caused me to freeze. The source of my inertia was the gleaming switchblade that had just been flicked open. It shined like a beacon, the only clean thing in the trailer, and he cracked a decaying smile as he tossed the weapon from hand to hand.

He staggered toward Brad, his newfound anger in direct conflict with his drunken delight in the pain he was going to inflict. I was trying to think of something to say to deter the felon from resuming his career, when he growled, “I’m gonna kill you”… he then turned his putrid grin in my direction…”and rape her”. I could have sworn the lump in my throat was my heart, but nothing prepared me for what happened next. Brad squared off with my would be rapist, puffed out his chest, placed his hands on his hips; arms akimbo and countered…”You can’t hurt us…we have a radio!”

The utter ridiculousness of the statement caused all of us to ponder and scratch our heads, but I quickly saw our window of escape. For once Brad followed my lead without question, and we both bolted out the door. I vaulted the deck railing like a pommel horse and covered the littered yard in a few short leaps and bounds. As I threw the rig into a reverse spin, Brad swung the passenger door open and nearly climbed into my lap as I put the Lacklands’ in our dust.

We radioed for police as we raced to the safety of our station. When we arrived we gave our statements and the law took over. I guess communicating threats and brandishing a weapon were minor offenses for someone so steeped in crime and we never had to testify against our near assailant. I heard later that he had killed someone else and had returned to prison…hopefully for life this time.

I had a newfound respect for Brad, in spite of the fact that his retort was foolhardy and made absolutely no sense, his willingness to stand up for me warmed my heart and we enjoyed our partnership and became good friends as well. The one question that remains unanswered to this day involves the young woman who was the subject of the original 911 call. When the police arrived at the scene that day, she was nowhere to be found and Melva and the rest of the family denied her existence. We never discovered who she was, and never found out what was coming from her derriere that day.


  1. Wow! How well told a story is this?!! (Very!)

  2. Thank-you. What a nice compliment!

  3. What a story! Maybe she sat on the couch so long that she fell through it and disappeared.