By Audrey W.
Roy plopped the catalog down on the table in the dayroom and walked over towards the coffee pot on the stove.
“What’s this?” Johnny asked, pulling the catalog over to his place at the table. As he read the front cover, his face lit up. “All right! The Christmas Catalog! Man, I haven’t looked through one of these in years!”
“Yeah? Well, don’t get too involved,” Roy said, as he poured a cup of coffee. “Joanne wants me to call her later and let her know what to order for the kids.”
Johnny was already engrossed in the catalog, not hearing what Roy had said. Suddenly coming out of the fixation on the magazine, Johnny spoke up. “I always wanted one of these,” he said, pointing to an electric guitar. “Man, I used to look through these catalogs at my grandmother’s house and make a list of everything I wanted and what page it was on. But I never did get what was on the list,” he frowned.
Roy sat down at the table. “My sister and I used to fight over who would get to look at it first.”
“I remember those days,” Marco said, now paying attention to the conversation. “I have four sisters and I was always the last one to look at the Christmas catalog. After all, I was outnumbered.”
Johnny was once again lost in thought as he flipped through the pages. Realizing he wasn’t going to get his catalog back without a use of force, Roy reached over and pulled it away from his partner.
“I need it to figure out what to order for the kids, remember? The real kids,” Roy added for effect. “It’s only a week ‘til Christmas and if we get our order in today, the stuff should be here before December 23rd.”
“So what are you gonna get them?” Johnny wondered as he looked across at the page Roy was on.
“Probably a life-sized baby doll for Jennifer and an electric train for Chris.”
Johnny sighed. “I always wanted an electric train.”
“I thought you said you always wanted an electric guitar.”
“Well, I wanted an electric train and guitar. Ya gotta have more than one thing on a wish list, Roy. Don’t tell me your kids just have one.”
Roy shook his head. “You’re--”
“Squad 51, probable heart attack, 2114 Clayton Street, two one one four Clayton Street, time out 10:15.”
The conversation was abandoned as the paramedics ran to the apparatus bay.
“Isn’t that the new mall?” Johnny asked as he quickly scanned the map on the wall.
“I think so.”
Roy got in the squad while Johnny hurried to the passenger side. He handed Johnny the paper with the address that Chet had written down when he acknowledged the call. Siren blaring, the two paramedics headed out on the run.
Johnny and Roy followed a mall employee to a crowd of people near the Santa display. Adults and children stood around the area in a large circle.
“Excuse us,” Roy said as he squeezed between two women. Johnny followed closely behind.
When they got through the crowd, they saw a man lying on the floor. He was in a red Santa suit and had a long white beard.
Santa had a heart attack? Johnny thought as he glanced around at all the children watching. Oh great!
“Sir, can you tell us where exactly it hurts?” Roy asked as he held Santa’s wrist, checking his pulse.
The Santa was breathless. “Mm. . .my. . .chest. . .r. . .ri. . .right ar. . .arm.” He gasped as he felt another pain.
Roy helped Johnny get the man’s red coat off, then set up oxygen on the victim. He unbuttoned the man’s undershirt and began attaching the leads to his chest.
Johnny got the bp cuff out and quickly wrapped it around the man’s arm to get a reading. The younger paramedic glanced around once more at the crowd of children still in the area.
“Why don’t they take the kids out of here?” He quietly commented to Roy. “He goes into V-Fib and there’s no tellin’ what the kids are gonna think.”
Roy nodded and looked around at the crowd. “How about you all step back and give him more air.”
“Is Santa gonna die, Mister?” One little boy asked.
Roy and Johnny exchanged knowing glances. They were right. It was scaring the children.
“We’ll do our best to have him ready for Christmas Eve,” Johnny said, forcing a smile.
After contacting Rampart, they got the man ready to transport. As Johnny walked behind the stretcher of the ambulance, a little girl came up to him.
“Please take good care of Santa Claus. He’s my bestest friend in the whole wide world!”
“I will, sweetheart. I will.” Johnny looked at a lady he assumed to be the mother. “Might wanta take her to see another helper of Santa’s. This one is gonna be out for awhile.” He couldn’t tell by the frown he received if the lady was unhappy with his suggestion, or concerned about the ill Santa. He hoped it was the latter.
“How’s Santa doing?” Dixie asked as she looked up at the two paramedics approaching her desk.
“Looks like he’s gonna be okay,” Johnny answered. “Brackett wants to keep him a day or so for observation, but he’ll probably be well enough to do his world tour for Christmas,” he grinned.
“Good. Glad to hear it.”
“He was lucky it wasn’t more serious,” Roy remarked, glancing back at the treatment room. “It could’ve been a bad scene.”
Johnny nodded. “There was a line of kids waiting to see him when he collapsed. The parents didn’t even take the kids away once they realized something serious was wrong.” He shook his head. “If he had v-fibbed, who knows how the kids would’ve reacted.”
“I see what you mean. Kind of makes you wonder what the parents were thinking.”
“Yeah--” Roy paused as the handy talky squawked.
“Squad 51, what is your status?”
“Squad 51 available.”
“Squad 51, difficult breathing, 3226 West Cyprus Street, three two two six West Cyprus Street, time out 12:10.”
“Well, see ya later, Dix!” Johnny said as he backed away from the desk.
“Okay. Oh, and, Johnny. . .”
“Stand back if it involves a girdle. You know how these difficult breathing calls can be,” Dixie winked.
Johnny looked sharply at his partner. “You told her!”
“It’s been a long time now. . .” Roy shrugged. “I figured it was okay after over a year had gone by.”
Dixie shook her head as the arguing paramedics headed for the exit, their voices fading in the distance.
“Roy, you promised no one would find out the girdle hit me in the face. . .”
The drive to the call was a quiet one. Roy chanced a glance at his dark-haired partner. Johnny was looking out the passenger window.
“Dixie didn’t mean any harm.”
“Hmm?” Johnny turned his attention to Roy. “Oh, it’s not what she said. I can’t believe you told her about that girdle snapping into my face. When did you tell her?”
Roy shrugged. “About a week ago, I guess. It just came up. I didn’t think it still bothered you.”
“It doesn’t--” Johnny sighed. “Roy, it’s not that it bothers me. I just didn’t want someone like Dix to know I’ve been hit in the face with ladies’ underwear. That’s all.”
“It was a girdle. . .and we were on a rescue call. It’s not like you were out on a date.”
“I know. Never mind.” Johnny watched out the front windshield. “Take a left at the next intersection and the address should be in the next block over.”
Roy nodded and grinned. Johnny had his quirky moods at times, but the good thing was they rarely lasted long.
Roy pulled the squad in front of a discount store. As he and Johnny got out, a young woman ran out of the building.
“Hurry! She’s not doing well at all!”
“What happened?” Johnny asked as he opened the compartment doors on the squad.
“Elaine. . .one of the employees. . .can’t breathe! She just sat down on the floor and slumped against the wall!”
Roy and Johnny had the equipment in hand and followed the girl into the store. She led them through crowds of shoppers to the center of the store. A sign Dressing Rooms hung over a counter, four rooms on either side. Women stood in a line outside the rooms, many holding two or three garments in their arms, as they waited impatiently for their turn in the fitting room. A phone on the counter rang continuously as the paramedics were led to one of the small rooms on the right.
When Johnny stepped into the room, he saw a young woman sitting on a built-in corner bench. Mirrors on both sidewalls revealed the image of the exhausted employee.
Johnny set down the equipment.
“Hi, Elaine. I’m John Gage and this is my partner, Roy.” He motioned behind him.
“I. . .I ca. . .can’t. . . breathe.”
“All right, let’s have a look at you,” Johnny said, as he held Elaine’s wrist to check her pulse.
Roy took out the bp cuff and handed it to Gage. He then set up the biophone and contacted Rampart. Johnny read off the vitals and Roy relayed them to Doctor Morton.
“I think you’re hyperventilating,” Johnny offered. “Try to slow your breathing down.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Anyone have a small paper bag?”
“I do!” Came a female voice from outside the room. A woman shoving popcorn into her mouth stepped into view. “I’m done with it,” she mumbled with her full mouth, handing the now empty popcorn bag to Roy. He grinned as he passed it on to his partner.
“A popcorn bag?” Johnny shook his head and faced his patient. “I hope food odors don’t nauseate you.”
Elaine shook her head as he gently placed the bag over her nose and mouth. He was careful not to press any harder than necessary since the bag was greasy inside from butter.
“Okay, just take it easy.”
Once Elaine’s breathing was slowed, Johnny pulled the paper away from her face and smiled. “How do you feel?”
“Oh God. I can’t take this anymore! That damn phone never quits ringing. . .six lines ring one after another. As soon as I get them all taken care of, one hangs up and it starts all over again! Then I get the people in and out. . . in and out of the dressing rooms, ladies asking me, ‘Does this look okay? Is this the right color for me?’ People asking me where everything and anything is like I know the whole store! Managers calling me on the in-house line to tell me when they go to lunch, to tell me to call for more employees to go to the front of the store! And, still, the phone rings non-stop!” She grabbed a hold of Johnny’s shirt with a shakey hand. “Please find something wrong with me and get me out of here!”
Johnny was amazed that the woman had just about said it all in one breath. Although she seemed to be okay, he pried her clutched hand off his shirt and once again checked her pulse. It was rapid and strong.
“You need to stay calm, or you’re gonna get all worked up again.”
“Calm? Calm? Are you kidding?”
“Can they put you on a different job?” Roy asked.
“It’s not can they. . .it’s will they.”
“Will they?” Johnny looked at the other co-worker.
“Well, I’m sure as heck not taking the phone job!”
The paramedics could see a pained expression on Elaine’s face.
“Are you almost done in here? I want to try on some clothes, if you don’t mind,” a female customer whined. Johnny shot an irritated glance in the woman’s direction.
I’m glad I never went into retail.
“You think Elaine will be okay?” Johnny asked as he and Roy walked out of the store. Before Roy could reply, the paramedics heard Elaine’s strained voice over the PA system informing the Toy department they had phone calls on lines two, three and four.
“Nope. But it’s nothing we can help her with. Hopefully the manager will have some heart.”
“I know one thing. I’ll take this job over answering phones any day.”
Roy nodded in agreement as they put their equipment back in the squad.
“You’d better call Joanne when we get back to the station and tell her what to order out of that catalog.”
“No kiddin’. I’ll have to do it before we get toned out again. If we don’t order the stuff today, we won’t get them in time for Christmas,” Roy explained.
“Yeah, and Joanne might forgive ya, but the kids wouldn’t.”
“Squad 51, Engine 110 in place of Engine 51, man down, 2320 North Carlson Place, two three two zero North Carlson Place, time out 1:34.”
“I have a feeling I should’ve just called Joanne first thing after roll call,” Roy commented. “I knew what I was going to suggest. Just had to double-check the stuff in the catalog and I didn’t have time before I left the house. Now it looks like we may not get back in time.”
“Hang in there. This can’t keep up all day long.”
I hope not, anyway, Johnny thought as he pulled out the map in order to give Roy directions.
Two calls later, the paramedics were finally back at the station. Roy ran into the dayroom and picked up the catalog that was still on the table. It was worn, obviously being the center of attention while Roy and Johnny were out on calls. Although the engine had gone out on calls earlier in the day also, they were at the station more so than Gage and Desoto.
Roy looked at his watch. “It’s already 4:00! Joanne’s gonna kill me!”
“Well, what time did the order have to be in by?”
“I’m not sure,” Roy said as he picked up the receiver and dialed his home number. “But I’m sure this late can’t be good.”
Johnny walked over to the refrigerator and got out the milk while Roy made his phone call. He listened to Roy’s end of the conversation as he poured himself a glass of the cool liquid.
“You did?. . . He did?. . .Well, okay then, we’re safe. . .uh, yeah, I sure will. . . Love you, too.” Roy hung up the receiver and looked over at Johnny.
“That didn’t sound too bad,” Johnny remarked. He finished the drinking the milk and set the empty glass in the sink.
“It wasn’t,” Roy said, smiling. “She got tired of waiting and called here while we were out. Marco remembered what I had told you and he passed the information on to Joanne.”
“She already ordered the stuff?”
“Yeah. It’s all taken care of.”
Johnny pulled out a chair at the table and sat down, once again opening the catalog up to the toy section. Roy wandered over to the couch and stretched out, a smug grin on his face.
“I can relax now. No more rushes to get the presents taken care of.”
Johnny was still flipping through pages when he absently made a comment, “So what did you get Joanne?”
Roy’s smug grin turned to a frown. “I didn’t. I forgot.”
The younger paramedic stared at his partner in disbelief. “You forgot Joanne?”
Roy shot Johnny an annoyed glance. “I got so set on the kids, I forgot I didn’t get her’s yet.” He got up and walked over to the table, pulling the catalog away from Johnny.
“I wasn’t done with that yet! Besides, I thought it was too late to order for Christmas.”
“It is, but I can still get ideas,” Roy explained as he took a seat across from his partner and turned to the ladies’ section of the magazine.
“Man, by the time I get to look at that thing, it’ll be New Years.” Johnny leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest.
It was two shifts later and Johnny still hadn’t gotten a chance to look at the Christmas Catalog. Roy had taken it home with him after circling his ideas in it for Joanne’s gift. Then Captain Stanley borrowed it the next shift so that he could get ideas for his wife’s gift. Although it often sat unattended on the captain’s desk, Johnny didn’t want to push his luck and take it out of the office while his superior was still using it. But the more he had to wait, the more he wanted it.
Chet watched as the dark-haired paramedic came in for their next shift, his eyes scanning around the dayroom.
“Why don’t you just go buy yourself a Christmas Catalog, Gage? It would save you a lot of waiting.”
Johnny stared at Chet before answering. He forced a snicker, “I don’t need a catalog, Chet. I only have a couple of people to buy for and I do my shopping in a store. So why would I spend money on something I’m not gonna use?” He shrugged. “Besides, I think you have to buy something at that store to get one and it’s too late to order anything anyway.”
“But you’re obsessed with it. You’re dying to look through the toy section again. . .it’s written all over your face.”
“I’m not obsessed,” Johnny replied as he splayed his hand across his chest. “I was just looking around the room to see if anyone--” He noticed Chet roll his eyes. “Okay, if Cap had brought the catalog back out here yet.”
“Just go get it. . .Cap won’t care.”
Johnny gave Chet a wary look.
Does he know something I don’t? Is this a set up?
The paramedic shook his head. “Nah, I’m just gonna have a cup of coffee and wait for roll call. No rush on the catalog.”
“Suit yourself,” Chet shrugged. He wandered out of the dayroom, leaving Johnny alone.
Johnny decided to take Chet’s advice and go into the captain’s office to see if he could get the Christmas Catalog. As he peered into the doorway, Captain Stanley looked up at him, then to the clock and back to Johnny.
“Well, hello! You’re early, pal. . .everything okay?”
“Uh. . .yeah, Cap. I was just checking to see if you had. . .uh. . .finished with the catalog yet.”
“Sure! As a matter of fact, I just gave it to Chet. He said he needed it for awhile.”
“Chet. . .needed it?”
“Yeah, something about a game that tested patience.”
“A . . .game. . .that tested. . .” Johnny trailed off.
That little. . .
Johnny turned to find Chet when he ran directly into Roy, holding a decorated tin container.
“Whoa!” Gage pulled back. “Sorry!”
“That’s okay. What’s up?” Roy asked, looking behind his partner to the doorway to Captain Stanley’s office.
“Nothin’. I’m just trying to find Chet.”
“He’s in the locker room talking to Marco and Mike.”
“Did he have anything in his hands?”
Roy grinned. “You still want that catalog, huh?”
“Shhh. . .Roy, I gotta play it cool or Chet’ll think he’s drivin’ me nuts,” Johnny said in a low tone.
“You don’t want the catalog?”
“Yes, I do. And it’s driving me nuts,” the younger paramedic whispered. “But I can’t let Chet know.”
“Got it. . .I think,” Roy took the lid off of the tin container and held the bottom part of it out to Johnny. “Here, have a Christmas cookie. . .it’ll take your mind off the other.”
Johnny peered into the can. He gingerly picked up a tree cookie, shaking the excess green sugar off it as he did. “Joanne made these?”
Roy nodded. “Yeah. She and Jenny made a few dozen, so she wanted to send a batch here.”
“It’s good,” Johnny mumbled, cookie pieces in his mouth.
Captain Stanley came out of his office. “Roll call. . .hey, cookies?”
“Yeah, Joanne sent them over,” Roy held the tin out to the captain. He took out a Santa cookie with red and white icing on it.
“She did a good job,” Hank remarked, taking a bite. He motioned with the remainder of the cookie in his hand, “John, why don’t you go round up the others for roll call.”
Roy followed the captain over between the squad and engine, where the men would soon be gathered.
After roll call, Roy put the tin of cookies on the table in the dayroom and the men set about their chores. Johnny tried to finagle latrine duty so that he could look in Chet’s locker for the catalog, but Mike got that duty. Johnny was assigned sweeping and straightening the dorm room.
Midway through his chores, Johnny stopped his sweeping and stood by the doorway leading to the latrine/locker area.
“What?” came a reply, echoing from the shower stall.
“I’ll trade ya jobs!”
“You will?”. . .Suddenly Mike appeared into view. “Why?”
“Because it’s only two days ‘til Christmas and I didn’t get you anything. This can be my present to you.”
“I doubt that’s the reason, Johnny, but it sounds good enough to me.”
As Johnny handed Mike the broom, the tones went off.
“Station 51, woman down, 2121 West Filmore Lane, two one two one West Filmore Lane, time out 9:09.”
The men ran to their perspective vehicles and headed out on the call.
When the crew arrived at the address, they were led to an upstairs hallway of the house. There on the floor sat a young, small-framed woman. She was surrounded by packages wrapped in Christmas paper, a ladder nearby. The woman numbly looked up at the men as they approached.
“What happened?” Roy asked.
The husband looked at his wife on the floor. “We were getting presents out of the attic. . .I was handing them down to Haley. She said she could take on one more. So I piled it on top.”
Johnny and the others glanced up at the square hole above the ladder, apparently leading to the attic.
“And she lost her balance,” Johnny finished for the man. He walked over to the woman and knelt down. Roy was already checking her for injuries.
“Johnny, looks like she broke her left wrist. That right ankle is pretty swollen, too.”
“Okay, I’ll get Rampart on the horn.”
The man shook his head and looked at Captain Stanley. “Some Christmas, huh?”
Hank nodded. “I’m sure it’ll be one neither of you forget. At least she fell on to a carpeted floor. It could’ve been worse.”
“Yeah, tell my mother-in-law that.”
“You guys need us?” Stanley asked the paramedics.
Johnny shook his head. “Nah, we got it okay, Cap.”
“Okay, let’s go.” The captain called his crew in as available while they walked out to the engine.
The paramedics headed back to the station after leaving their patient in the care of Doctor Brackett.
“So, did you and Joanne get all the presents for the kids wrapped?”
“Yeah, pretty much. We hid them out in the shed.”
“At least Joanne doesn’t have to worry about falling off a ladder.”
Roy glanced at Johnny and grinned. “You can say that again. She’d be furious with me. . . and herself. . . if that happened. It would ruin Christmas to be sidelined with an injury.”
“You better be careful the rest of the shift,” Johnny stressed. “This is our last one ‘til the day after Christmas.”
“Yeah. . .” Roy paused. “What are you doing for the holiday again? Weren’t you going to your aunt’s?”
“Uh huh,” the younger paramedic nodded. “I do it every year. Drive up the coast to see her and a few of my cousins.”
“Well, if you get back early enough, stop by. Jo and the kids would love to see you.”
Roy backed the squad into the station. He turned to look at Johnny.
“You give up on the catalog yet?”
“The what? Oh yeah!” Johnny shook his head. “Not on your life. I’ll get it. . .just you wait and see.”
“Does it really matter that much?”
“Yeah, as crazy as it sounds, it really does, Roy. It does. When you don’t have the people around anymore who you used to share it with, it kind of brings them back for awhile in a way. Almost like they’re looking over your shoulder.”
Roy sat in surprised shock as Johnny got out of the squad. He never expected an answer like that from his partner.
Maybe I should tell Chet what Johnny said.
Before he could give anymore thought to it, the tones sounded, sending the station on a run.
Johnny looked ahead at the broken guardrail on the edge of the winding road.
“Oh, man. I hope no one got seriously hurt.”
Roy pulled the squad over to the side of the road and stopped. Mike parked the engine a few feet behind. The firemen got out of their vehicles and looked over the edge of the road. A station wagon could be seen setting upside down in the thick brush below.
A patrol car pulled up next. The officer got out and approached the Captain Stanley.
“What’ve we got?”
“Not sure of any injuries, but looks like we’ve got a car that went over the edge and down the embankment. I’m getting ready to send my men down now.”
The officer nodded and glanced down at the wrecked car.
Hank barked orders to his men. “Chet, Marco, get lines tied off on the engine for John and Roy.” He turned to his paramedics. “You two get your gear ready and you can repel down to the car.”
“Right!” The two men stepped over to the squad and pulled out their equipment.
Stanley and the police officer watched as Johnny and Roy made their way down to the station wagon. It was obvious the terrain was rough, as the two paramedics slipped now and then on hidden rocks and uneven ground.
Once they got down to the car, Johnny peered into one of the broken windows. An elderly couple was in the front seat. The woman moaned as she shifted slightly.
“Roy, we’ve got two victims in here. They look to be in their seventies.”
Roy nodded and relayed the information up to Captain Stanley.
It took Marco and Chet’s assistance to get the old couple out of the wrecked vehicle. Chet and Johnny took charge of bringing the woman up the steep incline in the stokes while Roy and Marco readied the man to be brought up afterwards. Mike and the captain manned the lines the others were using.
Johnny watched the pain filled expression on the elderly lady’s face. Seeing the woman brought memories of his own grandmother to mind, but he quickly shoved them aside, keeping the professional in him intact.
I hope these two make it okay.
Once they had the woman topside, the stokes was sent back down to Roy and Marco.
Johnny had Chet contact Rampart on the biophone while he checked over the woman’s injuries and relayed her vital signs.
Soon both victims were loaded into the waiting ambulance. Roy climbed inside and sat on the bench.
“See you at Rampart!” Johnny said as he closed the doors.
With the doors now closed, Johnny gave them a customary two slaps. The ambulance pulled away, siren blaring.
Johnny trotted over to the squad. He stopped as he heard a voice call out.
“See you guys when you get to the station!” Hank was saying.
“Okay, Cap!” Johnny climbed in the squad and flipped on the siren. He pulled away, hoping to catch up to the ambulance.
As the ambulance rounded a curve, a pickup truck trying to pass a small car came into view. Seeing the ambulance ahead, the driver of the truck panicked and swerved into the car, sideswiping the driver’s side back to front. The startled ambulance driver witnessing the accident pulled sharply to the right, as the truck headed back into the wrong lane. The sudden motion of the ambulance threw Roy and the other attendant off balance.
As the squad came around the corner, Johnny saw the ambulance pull towards the side of the road. He also saw a truck headed directly for him. The dark-haired paramedic didn’t have enough time to completely avoid a collision. The squad and pickup hit head on, the left front corner of the squad taking the brunt of it. The momentum sent the squad back and over towards the edge of the road. The force broke a guardrail and the red vehicle began to slide over the edge of the road. But in a freak moment of chance, the guardrail held on just enough to stop the movement of the squad. It caught up underneath and there the truck hung; it’s rear tires suspended over a steep slope. The pickup truck that had collided with it sat up against the front of the squad, its front end accordioned.
Hearing the metal crunch and the glass shatter, along with screeching tires, the ambulance driver brought his vehicle to a halt. He got out and ran to the back. The man stood in shock, his mouth open, as he stared at the sight before him.
Snapping out of it, he opened the back door to let Roy see what had happened.
Johnny blinked in an attempt to clear his dazed mind. The sound of crunching metal on impact had propelled the man to a feeling of being in a dream. He slowly became aware of a pain in his left leg. Looking down he could see the dashboard was pressing down on it. As he tried to move his leg, pain shot up, coursing through his body. Not only was his leg injured, it was also pinned. Johnny looked through the partially spider-webbed windshield in front of him. He could make out the truck sitting up against the front left corner of his vehicle. Instant panic set in as he realized there may be another victim.
Johnny tried to open his door, but it was jammed shut.
Damn. . .I’ve gotta get out of here.
Roy hopped out of the ambulance and swayed slightly as he got his bearings.
“You okay?” the driver asked.
“Yeah. . .oh my God. Johnny!” Roy trotted towards the mangled vehicles. He picked up the pace when he saw his partner move inside the cab of the squad. Gage was trying to use his left shoulder to force the door open. “Johnny! No!”
The squad was precariously balanced on the edge of the steep embankment. Roy wasn’t sure what was keeping it from going all the way over. But what he was sure of, was that the red truck wobbled as Johnny tried to move inside.
“Johnny, don’t move!” He turned to tell the ambulance driver to call in the accident, but the man already had the HT in his hands and was reporting it.
The driver of the ambulance stayed with the elderly couple while the other attendant headed for the pickup victim.
As he ran towards the squad, Roy noticed the three people that were in the other car involved. They were standing outside their car, watching the action play out before them.
“Is everyone okay?” Roy called out.
The “Yeah’s,” and nods brought relief to the paramedic. He had enough victims to worry about as it was. Roy slowed as he approached the driver’s side of the squad. He could see Gage was watching him.
“Johnny, don’t move around in there. The squad is balancing on the edge of the embankment.”
Johnny shook his head, not fully comprehending what his partner was saying. “I gotta get out, Roy. That other person might be hurt.”
Roy looked at the ambulance attendant checking on the other victim.
“Don’t worry about him. He’s being taken care of. Where all do you hurt?”
“My left leg. My left shoulder. My neck. My chest. . .hurts to breathe.”
“Your chest must’ve hit the steering wheel. What about your head?”
Johnny paused in thought. “No. . .no, my head’s fine.”
Roy didn’t see any obvious injuries to Johnny’s head. It seemed as though the younger paramedic lucked out there.
“Okay. Listen. . .” Roy stopped as Johnny looked away. “Johnny? Look at me and listen.” He waited until he had the attention he wanted. Roy looked directly at Johnny’s eyes. “Don’t move at all. You could send this thing over the edge if you do, got it?”
“Okay. Now, I have to wait for the engine to get you out. We’re gonna have to tie the squad off before anything can be done.”
“I have to go check on the other victim. You gonna be okay a minute?”
“Yeah. . .yeah, I’m. . .I’m okay.”
Roy gave a wary look to his partner. He wanted to believe him. He decided he would keep a close eye on the squad while he checked on the other man.
Engine 51 was two miles away from the scene of the accident when the call came over the radio. Mike flipped on the lights and siren and applied more pressure to the gas pedal.
“I wonder how it happened?” Stanley said as he hung up the mic after acknowledging the call. “I hope it’s not as bad as it sounds.”
Chet and Marco exchanged worried glances, but neither said a word. They each hoped their silent prayers for their co-workers were answered.
Johnny watched as Roy walked over to the truck in front of him. He saw the older paramedic lean into the cab.
What was it he was supposed to do? Johnny couldn’t remember. His head was starting to ache and he felt sluggish. He tried to free his left leg, grimacing in pain. He looked again at his partner. Roy needed help with the other victim. He just had to get the door open and he could be there with his partner.
Roy glanced at the squad and saw Johnny was once again trying to open the door. The squad rocked slightly with his every move.
“Johnny! Stop moving!” Roy had the ambulance attendant take over with the other victim while he ran back to the driver’s door of the squad. One of the people from the sideswiped car came over to Roy.
“I can stay with him if you want me to.”
Roy studied the man a moment before replying. “Let me check him out. Then I may take you up on it.”
The blonde paramedic focused on his partner again. “You need to hold still, Johnny.” As the younger man looked at him, Roy could see he wasn’t the least bit okay. His eyes had a glazed over appearance. “You sure your head doesn’t hurt?”
“Um. . .It. . .it’s throbbing.”
Roy reached in the window and moved Johnny’s bangs off his forehead. It was then he noticed a slight bruise starting to appear in the hairline area. “Looks like you hit it after all.” Roy kept his right hand on Johnny’s forehead while he got his penlight out of his pocket. He shone the light in Johnny’s left eye, then his right. Suddenly he heard his name called from the ambulance. He shut off the light and looked over.
“DeSoto, we’ve got a problem!”
Roy glanced back at Johnny. He hated to leave him, but he had to.
“Remember, don’t move. I’ll be back as soon as I can. This man, uh. . .” Roy looked expectantly at the man waiting nearby. “It’ll help if he knows your name.”
“Thanks.” Turning to face Johnny he added, “Wayne here is gonna stay with you.”
Johnny didn’t protest, which led his partner to believe that Johnny either wasn’t totally aware of what was being said, or he recognized the seriousness of his predicament.
Mike brought the engine around the corner and hit the brakes immediately. There in front of them was the wrecked squad teetering on the edge of the road. A pickup truck rested up against the front left portion.
Roy was climbing into the ambulance. One of the ambulance attendants was leaning inside the cab of the pickup. And someone they didn’t recognize was standing by the driver’s door of the squad.
“What in the hell?” Captain Stanley questioned as he climbed down from the engine. Marco and Chet were right behind him.
The ambulance attendant ran over to the men.
“I’ve got the man in the truck . . .he’s lucky he was wearing a seatbelt. It kept him from a serious injury. We’re going to take him with us in the ambulance. You might want to have one of your men help out with Gage. He keeps trying to get out and he’s liable to send himself on a wild ride over the side of the embankment.”
The mention of seatbelts reminded the captain his paramedics never wore any. Hank didn’t waste a minute sending someone to Johnny. “Go over there, Marco.”
As he watched the fireman run to the squad, Stanley again gave his attention to the attendant. “Can’t John be taken out? And what’s keeping the squad in place?”
“DeSoto got on the ground and looked underneath. It’s hung up on the broken guardrail somehow. But too much moving and it’s liable to snap it,” the man explained. “Gage’s leg is pinned under the dash and the driver’s side door is jammed.”
“Chet, get a couple of ropes. . .let’s get the squad anchored to the engine so we can get John out.”
Roy approached from the direction of the ambulance. “Cap, the other squad and ambulance should be here soon. But the victims we were transporting can’t wait. The man had complications . . .he’s stabilized again, but no telling for how long.”
“Go ahead, Roy. We’ve got it.”
“Johnny. . .” Roy looked over at the squad. “He’s hurt, Cap, but I’m not sure how bad. I didn’t want to risk doing anything to upset the balance of the squad, so all I did was talk to him. I think his chest hit the steering wheel and he may have internal injuries. Also, it looks like he walloped his head pretty hard.”
“Wasn’t he wearing his helmet?”
“I’d say so. But if the angle of the hit was right, his helmet may have been what bruised his head.”
Hank nodded in acknowledgement. “Well, we’ll have the squad secured shortly and the other paramedics should be here soon.”
Roy nodded and headed over to help the ambulance attendant assist the dazed driver of the pickup truck to the ambulance. He saw Marco standing by the squad, apparently carrying on the majority of a conversation with Gage. “Take good care of him, Marco.”
Marco looked over and forced a smile. “Don’t worry, Roy. We will.”
After Roy climbed into the rear of the ambulance with the attendant and the third victim, he took one last look at the damaged squad. He wanted more than anything to stick around and be there to help his partner, but the professional in him knew what his priorities were. The driver of the ambulance closed the door and walked around to the front. He climbed in and once again the siren sounded as they sped on to Rampart.
Marco tried to keep up a rapport with Johnny, but the dark-haired paramedic was losing his battle to stay conscious. His eyes half shut, he stared at the fireman.
“Mar. . .Marco? What’re you. . . doin’ here?”
“I heard someone was stuck in a rescue squad,” the fireman teased, hoping the light chitchat would help. “You’re gonna be okay, Johnny. We’re going to get you out of there soon.”
Johnny nodded, his eyes closing. His head slumped to the left.
“Johnny? Johnny!” Marco tried to get a response. He gently shook the paramedic’s shoulder, eliciting a moan. “Cap, he’s lost consciousness!”
The sound of sirens approaching was music to the crews’ ears. They had gotten the squad tied off and secured. Chet and Marco had pried open the driver’s side door and covered Johnny with a yellow blanket so that he wouldn’t get hit with any debris while they worked to pull the dashboard away from his left leg.
The patrolman who had arrived just behind the new squad walked over to talk to Wayne and his passengers.
Captain Stanley rushed over to fill in the paramedics from Station 110 on what had happened.
“John’s been in and out of consciousness. But he hasn’t shown any sign of alertness when we can get him to open his eyes.”
“How long ago did this happen?” Barkley from 110’s asked.
“Oh, about 20 minutes maybe? I’m not sure of the exact time,” the captain said, looking at his watch. “Roy mentioned he thought John may have hit his chest on the steering wheel. And he said there was a bruise appearing on his forehead.”
Both Barkley and Dobbins followed Hank over to the squad. The dashboard had just been pulled back from Johnny’s left leg as they arrived.
Setting down their equipment, the two paramedics looked at the unconscious man inside the squad. Dobbins stepped up to the side and tried to get a response from Johnny.
“Gage! Gage! You with me?”
A low moan was all he got. Johnny’s eyes opened slightly, but he didn’t look at anything in particular.
Dobbins turned towards Bradley. “Let’s get the backboard under him and get a c-collar on him. We’ll lay him out on the ground.” He watched as his partner grabbed the necessary equipment. “Hey, get a splint for his leg, too. It might be fractured.”
Once they had him situated, the paramedics carefully eased Johnny out of the squad. As they laid his limp form on the yellow blanket on the ground, the crew from engine 51 watched with worried faces.
“His blood pressure is 100 over 80, pulse is 80 and weak. . .respirations shallow,” Dobbins relayed to Barkley.
As the vitals were reported to Rampart, Roy listened near the base station. He felt guilty about leaving Johnny for any amount of time without medical care available even though there was nothing he could’ve done until Gage was out of the squad.
While he was thinking about Johnny, Roy also found himself with Christmas catalogs on his mind. They would never be the same to him if Johnny didn’t make it through this okay. Now Roy understood how a thing as simple as a magazine could hold so much meaning.
Johnny looked up blearily at the two paramedics working over him. He moved his head slightly to look around. “R. . .roy?” The oxygen mask on his face muffled his words.
“He’s at Rampart, buddy,” Dobbins explained. “He had other victims he needed to transport.”
Johnny nodded slightly and closed his eyes again.
“Hey, how about you try to stay with us?” Barkley asked. “Can you keep your eyes open, John?”
Johnny nodded again, but his eyes remained closed.
The paramedics were ready to transport Johnny to Rampart. Being careful with the oxygen and IV that were attached, they lifted him onto a stretcher. He was carried over to the waiting ambulance and placed inside. Dobbins climbed in with the patient, while Barkley headed over to the squad. Hank walked over to close the ambulance doors.
“Think he’ll be okay?”
“I hope so, Captain Stanley. I sure hope so.”
“Yeah, me, too,” the captain said. He closed the doors and gave them two slaps. The men from Station 51 watched as the ambulance and squad disappeared around a corner.
When the ambulance with Johnny arrived at Rampart, Doctor Brackett and Dixie were both near the Emergency entrance doors to meet the incoming patient. The dark-haired paramedic was quickly wheeled down to treatment room four. Dixie held the door open, giving Roy an unsure look as he passed by her to see his partner. Roy helped move Johnny to the exam table. He watched the commotion around his friend like it was playing out in a movie. Nothing about the situation seemed real.
Dixie had come into the treatment room behind the others and recognized the look of shock in Roy’s expression. She walked over to the paramedic and gently guided him towards the door by the shoulders. Roy looked at Dixie and started to protest, but the nurse shook her head.
“There’s nothing you can do in here, Roy. Go into the lounge; call your wife, whatever you have to do. But don’t stay in here. It’s not doing you or Johnny any good.”
“But he was talking to me at the scene. He said he was okay.” Roy sighed. “I knew he wasn’t okay. . .not like he wanted me to believe. But I didn’t. . .” Roy dropped his hands to his sides. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter now.”
Dixie patted Roy’s right shoulder. “Go sit down and rest. I’ll let you know as soon as there’s news.”
Roy stepped into the corridor and ran into Doctor Early. It was a quick greeting as Early rushed into treatment room four. As the door opened Roy could hear Johnny’s vitals being called out by one of the nurses.
“Blood pressure is 80 by palpation, pulse is 68, respirations . . .”
After several minutes, Dixie came into the lounge. Roy was sitting on the couch, his eyes focused on the floor.
“I wanted to let you know, they’ve taken Johnny up to surgery.”
Roy looked up at the nurse. “What did they find out?”
“Kel suspects an injury to his heart. We expect X-rays to show fractures of the left tibia and femur and a cracked sternum.”
Roy leaned back and ran his hands over his head, his fingers intertwined. He looked up at the ceiling. “You know, Dix,” Roy’s voice cracked and he paused a minute to compose himself. “Johnny told me I’d better be careful this shift so I wouldn’t be sidelined with an injury at Christmas.”
“He’s tough, Roy. I think he’ll be okay.”
“What about his head? He hit his head.”
“His helmet must’ve helped there. He has bruising like you said and a concussion. But it’s not as bad as it could’ve been.”
“Well, that’s one thing to be grateful for,” Roy stood and absently pushed in a chair at the table in front of him. “I’d better call the station and see when my ride will be here. Keep us posted, okay?”
Dixie smiled. “You better believe I will. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Once Johnny was out of surgery, Dixie called Roy at the station as promised. They had found a slight tear in the right atrium, as well as another small tear in the right atrial appendage of Johnny’s heart. His sternum had been cracked in the accident, but the fracture to his left tibia was incomplete. His left femur had a clean break. Doctor Brackett had Dixie explain to Roy that Johnny would be on sedatives and probably sleep most of the time for the next two days.
Roy hung up the receiver and leaned against the wall of the dayroom.
Chet walked in and saw the worried expression on Roy’s face.
“Was that Dixie that called?”
The blonde paramedic nodded. “Yeah. Johnny’s out of surgery. They. . . uh. . .they had to repair two tears in his heart.” Roy forced a smile. “I heard you guys did a hell of a job getting him out quick enough. Much longer without medical care and he probably wouldn’t have made it. I don’t think Johnny’s gonna forget that.”
“You were there part of the time, Roy. You helped him, too.”
Roy shook his head. “I had to leave him when he needed me most. But I had no choice.”
Chet awkwardly handled the magazine in his hands. He held it out to Roy. “I know the timing is off, but I wanted to give you your catalog before we get off shift tomorrow.”
“It’s okay,” Roy took the Christmas catalog from Chet. “I know exactly what I’m gonna do with it.”
“If it’s what I think it is, can I go with you when you do?”
“Sure. I’ll let you know when.”
Johnny’s aunt came down from San Francisco to Rampart the day after Christmas. Although she knew he wouldn’t remember her being there, she sat by her sedated nephew’s bed and talked to the young man, assuring him things would be okay.
On December 27th Johnny was moved from ICU to his own room. His progress after surgery had been good and Brackett predicted a complete recovery. Roy had to pull an extra duty at Station 110, but planned on visiting his friend the following day.
It was the afternoon of the 28th when Roy opened the door and peeked his head in room 207. Once he saw Johnny was awake, he motioned for Chet to follow in behind him.
“Hey, how are ya?” Roy asked, sounding upbeat.
Johnny gave his trademark grin. “I’m doin’ okay.”
His voice was quieter than Roy and Chet were used to. The droopy appearance of his eyes told the firemen he was still feeling the effects of the ordeal and the medications.
“Sorry you missed Christmas,” Chet offered.
“It’s okay. I’m just happy to be alive right now, Chet. Brackett told me only a small percentage of people with my injuries live more than 30 minutes with out being in a hospital sooner.”
Chet suddenly felt the need to sit down. He hadn’t realized until Johnny said what he did, just how close they did come to losing Gage. Not wanting the other two to know how he was feeling, he stayed where he was and hoped he wouldn’t suddenly topple over.
“Brackett told me the same thing,” Roy explained. “He said it’s just one of those things doctors can’t explain. They thank God for the help and carry on.”
“Someone was looking out for me after the accident. That’s for sure,” Johnny glanced at the thick magazine in Roy’s hands. “What’s that?”
“The Christmas catalog.”
“You mean Chet finally gave it up?”
Chet shifted on his feet. “Well, I figure, you’re gonna need something to read while your in here. And with pictures, it should make it easier on you.”
Roy set the catalog on the small table tray near the foot of Johnny’s bed. “Since you missed the real Christmas, maybe this’ll help it seem more like a holiday.”
Roy quickly added, “But don’t expect an electric guitar. We had enough of your musical talent with the bag pipes.”
“What about the train set?”
“Chris said you can come over anytime and play with his,” DeSoto said, grinning. “He’s anxious to have you help him with the engineer duties.”
“Good deal. Tell ‘im as soon as I can get around, I’ll be there.”
There was a moment of silence when no one was sure what to say next. Johnny was growing tired again, but wasn’t ready for his company to leave.
“Elaine was here awhile ago.”
“The girl from the store?” Roy was surprised.
“Joanne and I were in there the day before Christmas and once Elaine recognized me, she had asked about you,” Roy explained. “But I didn’t think she would visit you.”
“Don’t tell me you got a sympathy date out of this,” Chet commented.
“No. . .she just wanted to see how I was doing.” Johnny looked up at Roy. “They moved her off the phones.”
“Hey, that’s great!” Roy grinned. “I’ll bet it’s a big relief to her.”
The younger paramedic shook his head slightly.
“They put her up in the front to handle the returns after Christmas. I think she was on her way to Station 8 to thank the guys for coming so soon after she passed out when she was having trouble breathing.”
“That gal needs to find a new line of work.”
“Don’t worry. . .she had the help wanted ads tucked under her arm.”
Roy could tell his partner was growing tired from the effort it took to keep up the conversation. He knew Johnny would never tell them he needed the rest, so Roy took it upon himself to find a reason to leave.
“Well, we better be on our way. Joanne’s expecting us home in time for an early dinner.”
Chet looked at Roy, not sure what the paramedic was talking about. He wasn’t going to Roy’s house for dinner. The look he got from Roy in return told him to just follow along.
“Yeah, don’t want to throw off Joanne’s plans.”
“Okay, well, tell the family I said hi.”
“I will,” Roy assured.
The two visitors left the room, leaving Johnny alone with his catalog. Only problem was, neither one of them had thought to move the table to where he could reach it. Johnny considered calling out as the door closed, but decided to let it go. The nurse would be in soon enough to check on him again and he could ask her then.
He stared over at the catalog a moment, remembering a special time with his grandmother. She would sit down with him and they would look at the Christmas catalog together. From the time he was four years old, he looked forward to the tradition every year. When his grandmother was killed in a car accident the October after Johnny had turned twelve, he couldn’t look through the catalog without thinking about her and wondering if she knew how much he missed her being beside him. When Roy had set the catalog on the table in the dayroom, Johnny had gotten a feeling that his grandmother was looking at it with him as he began to flip through the pages.
Johnny smiled as he rested his head on the pillow. He may have missed the Christmas Day everyone else got to share, but his celebration – the celebration over his mending health and good fortune - was just beginning. And the memories from Christmases past were his to enjoy.
A huge thanks to Kenda for the beta read . . . any errors are mine.
Have a Merry Christmas! :o)