Done Too Soon
By Audrey W.
Johnny opened the door to the locker room, peeking around to see if anyone was inside. Seeing nobody, he sighed, opening the door farther and walking over to his locker. He swung his locker door open and began unbuttoning his brown shirt.
A few minutes later, Chet opened the door. Stepping into the locker room, he greeted Johnny. “Hey, Gage! Here kind of early, aren’t ya?” He gave the paramedic a curious look, as Johnny didn’t say a word in reply. “Okay, Gage, who is she?”
“Hmmm?” Johnny was lost in thought. He pulled off his shirt, leaving the sleeves rolled up as he put it on a hanger.
“Who’s the girl this time?” Chet reiterated. “You’re here early and you’re way too quiet. Like the ‘you don’t want to say too much by mistake’ kind of quiet.”
Johnny glanced at his watch. 7:34 “You’re right. I am here early.” He turned his attention back to the contents of his locker, ignoring the rest of Chet’s comments. Johnny continued getting dressed, changing into his uniform pants.
As he was changing into his uniform Chet tried to think of why Johnny would be at work so early…usually Johnny came in with just enough time to get ready for roll call.
“Okay, Gage, spill your guts. You’re gonna eventually anyway. Who’s the girl?”
“It’s not a she, Chet.” Johnny replied, pulling his white t-shirt over his head.
Chet’s frustration at Johnny’s evasiveness was starting to show. “Okay. I’ll bite. What is it then?”
Johnny put on his uniform shirt and began buttoning it up. “Oh, I’d tell ya, Chet, but you’d just be disappointed.”
Johnny closed his locker and turned to leave.
“Gage! Wait! Tell me!”
The door to the locker room opened. Roy entered, taking in the bewildered look on Chet’s face, and the disinterested expression on Johnny’s. Before Roy could even get a word out, Johnny squeezed past him.
“I’ll be in the dayroom,” Johnny said flatly.
Roy opened his mouth to reply, but Johnny didn’t wait for his answer. He was halfway across the apparatus bay, eyes downcast, as he hurried across to the dayroom.
Roy shot Chet a suspicious glare. “What’d you do to him now?”
“Nothing!” Chet held up his hands in defense. “He’s been acting like that ever since he came in.”
“Well he’s awfully quiet.” Roy checked his watch. “He’s early, too, isn’t he.”
“You got me what’s up with the pigeon,” Chet shrugged. “But I’m gonna find out if I have to pin him against the engine.”
The men were doing their chores after roll call. Chet and Marco had been assigned to the hose rack, while Mike was sent to sweep the bunker room floor. Johnny and Roy were assigned to the dayroom. Latrine duty waited for later in the day as time permitted.
Roy stopped his sweeping and leaned on the broom handle. “Hey, you care to talk about what’s bugging you today?”
A muffled reply came from inside the oven, where Johnny was busy cleaning.
“Do you mind repeating that…maybe where someone can hear you?”
Johnny pulled his head out of the oven, taking off a rubber glove and running a hand through his hair. “I said, I’ll tell ya later when I get this done.” He started to slip on the glove again.
“You know you really have Chet going,” Roy chuckled. “This mood of yours is driving him nuts.”
“I do?” Johnny’s response was flat and disinterested. “Good. It’s about time.”
“Johnny…look, if there is something you need to talk about…”
“There isn’t.” Johnny stuck his head back in the oven to clean. In less than a minute his head was back out, a rubber glove coming off his hand again. “You remember I told you I was seeing that model…Elizabeth?”
“Well, we had dinner at my apartment last night and she was helping me clean up the dishes. She noticed my hands and …well…” Johnny felt his ears warm as he blushed. “She thinks I have really nice hands.” He pulled off the other rubber glove and looked at his hands turning them over. In hushed tones he whispered “Roy, she wants me to try hand modeling.”
“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Look, Chet can’t get word of this or he’ll be on me all shift. And, yes, hand modeling,” Johnny whispered. Continuing in a hushed tone he added, “You know…commercials, magazine ads…I guess.”
Roy nodded, as he began sweeping again. “You going to try it?”
“I guess so,” Johnny shrugged. “Roy, Elizabeth is a beautiful chick. How can I tell her no?”
“No. That’s how. But if you want to do it, why the sullen mood all morning?”
“Because I have to get through this shift without getting a single scratch on my hands. And I just have a feeling everyone is going to get stuck in tight places, caught on sharp edges, or be trapped in flaming buildings…and my hands are gonna be right in the middle of it all.”
After chores were done, the men hung out in the dayroom. Chet tried several times to goad Johnny into revealing the source behind his odd mood, but Johnny managed to keep Chet in the dark. Roy and the others watched with amusement as the firefighter and paramedic exchanged remarks.
“Look, Chet…just give it up. I’m not gonna tell you and that’s tha….” Johnny was cut off by the tones sounding.
Squad 51, woman stuck…211 North Hill Street…two one one North Hill Street, time out 9:16
“See ya, Chet!” Johnny called out as he ran for the squad.
The guys arrived at the scene. It was a women’s clothing store, with the signs ONEDAY BLOW OUT SALE posted in the windows.
“Oh, no” Johnny groaned. “Not a women’s clothing store.”
“What’s wrong partner?” Roy asked as he opened his door.
Johnny climbed out of the squad. “I spent a whole day last week going in and out of these places with Elizabeth. Man, the women in these stores are nuts when it comes to a sale!”
“Well, hang in there. Maybe we won’t be here that long.” Roy looked over at his partner, grinning, as they pulled out the biophone and trauma box. Johnny must really be smitten with this Elizabeth girl for her to get him to go shopping for a day in ladies’ clothing stores AND to try hand modeling.
The men entered into the store. Women of all shapes and sizes were searching through rows of clothing racks while others rummaged through bins of panty hose, purses, shoes, and silk negligees, turning the merchandise topsey turvey. Shrill voices rose with indignation as a squabble broke out over the last Playtex Cross Your Heart Bra in a size 38 Double D. Johnny eyed the two large busted matrons tugging on the bra as though it was a slingshot. His attention was diverted from the heavyset women when a young store clerk ran toward the paramedics waving her arms.
“Hey! Over here! She’s stuck over here!”
“Okay, Miss, we’re coming,” Roy assured as he and Johnny weaved through the throng of shoppers. “Just calm down. We’ll be right there.”
Johnny and Roy worked their way through the crowded store to where the girl was. She pointed to the bottom of one of the metal cage-type dump bins that was filled with various ladies’ knit shirts. The bin rose to Johnny’s waist and four round metal legs lifted the bin eight inches off the floor. The spacing between the thin metal bars of the bin created rectangular openings similar to the bars of a small cage. A woman was lying flat on her back beneath the bin, her arm stuck through one of the openings. Johnny got down on his hands and knees. “Roy, it looks like she’s stuck just above the elbow.” The woman looked up at Roy, then over to Johnny, embarrassment showing on her face.
“I…I was trying to get to a shirt that was near the bottom without having to dig through all the ones on top…and I guess it was farther up than I thought…”
They could see her fingers wrapped around the corner of a red knit shirt.
Another lady who had been digging explained her take on the situation. “She was being grabby, officers. That’s the last red shirt in here and she was afraid someone else would get to it first. So she stuck her arm up through the bottom to try to steal it out from under any one else. She doesn’t even know if it’ll fit!”
“Uh…we’re not…we’re not officers,” Roy explained. “We’re para…” seeing that the lady was already tuning him out, Roy stopped his explanation.
Johnny sat up on his heels but maintained eye contact with the stuck woman. “Can you move your arm much at all?”
“I can turn it some, but I can’t get my elbow back out. I think it swelled when that woman yanked on the shirt and made it a tighter squeeze on my arm.”
Johnny looked up at the other lady who was still digging through the bin. Sensing his stare, she spared a glance at him. “So I pulled on the shirt one time when she had her greedy paws on it. Serves her right!”
Johnny shook his head. Why do they even have these sales? He turned his attention back to the lady with the stuck arm. “I doubt it swelled…it does seem to be a pretty tight fit though--”
“Sounds like you’re talking about the shirt,” the other lady piped in.
Johnny shot her an annoyed glance, then returned his attention to his victim. “Looks like we’ll have to cut away one of the bars to make the hole bigger so your arm can fit back out, Miss…um…Miss…?”
“Huh? Oh…Jill. My name is Jill. Just don’t write it in any of your reports, okay?” She smiled wanly.
Snickering, Johnny looked up to Roy. “Guess we’ll cut it then.”
“I’ll go get some bolt cutters,” Roy offered. “That should be enough to do it.”
Johnny nodded then turned his attention back to Jill. Stepping around by her head, he laid on his back so that his head was by hers, but his body going the opposite direction. Reaching his hand partway in through the bottom in another slit, he tried to turn Jill’s arm to see if he could still back it out. Noting the rough edges on some of the bars where they were soldered together, he carefully maneuvered his hand and arm. For whatever reason Jill’s arm was not coming out as easily as it went in.
“Maybe if you let go of the shirt and relax your hand, we can slip your arm back out before my partner has to cut--”
“Oh no…I’m not letting go of anything after all this trouble!” She indicated to the other lady with her free hand “She’ll grab it.”
Johnny looked away and rolled his eyes. Sighing, he sat up and turned to face the entrance of the store, waiting for Roy.
Jill grinned up at Johnny despite her current situation. “You know, you’re pretty cute. I guess there are benefits to being a fool, huh? I get to meet guys like you.”
He felt his face warm, as he blushed. “Well…I…um…thank you.”
She smiled at his suddenly red face, and then glanced at his arms and hands by her head. “Nice smooth hands, too. Good grief, what’s your secret? They look better than mine!”
“Uh…I don’t know…” He paused. “You really think they’re that nice?”
“Oh, honey, yes they are.” She reached over and ran her one free hand over one of his.
Johnny pulled back, nervously snickering. “Well…thanks…thanks again.” Her comment reminded him of what Elizabeth had told him. Looking at his own hands again he thought about it. Maybe Elizabeth knows what she’s talking about
Roy came back with the bolt cutters. “Here, give these a try.”
“Thanks” Johnny said, as he took the cutters and went to work on the bars. He was thankful his face was returning to normal color. God knew he didn’t need Roy asking him any questions.
It didn’t take long to get Jill’s arm free once the space was made bigger by cutting one of the metal bars away. She pulled it out through the larger hole, still tugging on the red shirt. Her arm came free, shirt in hand. “Ah ha! I got it!” Looking at the tag in the neck, she frowned. “Darn…it’s a size small…” Shrugging she threw it back up in the bin.
Roy and Johnny exchanged a glance of disbelief. Shaking his head, Johnny examined Jill’s arm. “Well, everything looks okay. But if you experience any soreness or swelling be sure to get in to see your doctor.”
“Oh sure. No problem” She said. “Hope I see you around, handsome!” She got up and headed for another clothing rack.
Roy was smirking at Johnny “You just can’t help but charm the ladies, huh?”
Giving a wan smile, Johnny picked up the biophone and trauma box. “Hey, she liked my hands.”
“Your hands?” Roy began walking toward the front of the store.
“Yeah.” Johnny replied, trying to keep up. “She said they were nice.”
Roy pushed the door open. “Well, don’t let your ego get out of hand...no pun intended there.”
Outside the store, Johnny and Roy climbed into the squad. Starting the engine, Roy turned to Johnny. “So how does this hand modeling thing work? I mean do you go to a studio or what?”
“I don’t know,” Johnny shrugged. I guess I didn’t think about that part.” He picked up the mic. “Squad 51 available.”
“Well, this girl Elizabeth must be special to get you to agree to something you know nothing about. “
Putting the mic back in its place, Johnny looked over at Roy, grinning. “Oh…she is! She’s not only beautiful, but she likes everything I like…bowling, photography, horseback riding…”
“Horseback riding!” Roy shot a surprised glance at Johnny. “You don’t ride horses! Have you forgotten what happened last time you were on a horse? You couldn’t walk for a week, not to mention the fact that you groaned every time you sat down.”
“Yeah…well…it just takes getting used to again. But I still like it.”
“Uh huh…and what are you going to tell her when you can’t see her for a few days because you’re too stiff and sore to do anything?”
Johnny glowered at Roy. “Very funny. That was a fluke! I didn’t prepare myself properly.” Placing his hand on his chest, he added “I can ride…I can! I just need practice.”
“All right…all right.” Roy was still grinning, remembering how his partner needed a pillow to sit on after his last experience on a horse.
As Roy backed the squad into the station, Johnny was looking out the passenger window, apparently something still on his mind. .
Johnny swiveled to face Roy and held up a warning finger. “Now, not one word to Chet about the modeling, right?”
Roy nodded, rolling his eyes. “Right.”
They got out of the squad and headed for the dayroom.
As Johnny walked through the doorway, Chet looked up from where he was sitting on the couch. “Hey, Gage, you got a phone call while you were out.”
“I did? Who called?”
“Don’t ask me. Marco answered the phone.”
Marco turned in his chair. “It was a girl, Johnny. I think her name was Elizabeth.”
“Elizabeth? How did she…?” Johnny stopped in mid sentence realizing Chet was waiting to gain some information. “Elizabeth who?” Johnny tried to down play the importance of the name.
“Oh, come on, Gage.” Chet piped in. “What do you think…we were all born yesterday? What’s really up?”
“Yeah, Johnny,” Marco nodded, “She said something about reminding you to take good care of your hands the next day or so, so they look good for the shoot.”
Johnny’s shoulders fell in defeat.
Roy grinned at his partner’s dilemma. He patted Johnny on the back. “Relax, Junior. No one has it easy when they get into show biz. Or have you forgotten your last experience with modeling?”
“Yeah, Johnny. Didn’t Roy end up with the job then? Because he was a better model?”
Johnny crinkled his nose and covered his face with his hands. He moaned, pulling out a chair and slumping to the seat.
Chet jumped to his feet. He darted to the table, hovering around Johnny like an eagle hovering over its prey. “So, Gage, what’s up with the hands and this shoot you’re doing? Gonna shed some light on the subject?”
Johnny brought his face out of his hands. “Chet, would you lay off?”
“Well, c’mon. I mean…are you being a good boy and taking care of those hands of yours? Wouldn’t want you to miss the shoot.” He snickered.
Chet cut Johnny off as he pranced around the room caressing the tops of his hairy hands as though he was touching a woman’s smooth skin. With his voice pitched three octaves higher than normal, he pretended to mimic Johnny “Oh my! My hands are so beeeaaautiful! Cap, I can’t pick up that hose…my hands will get dirty. Roy, you’ll have to carry the drug box, my fingers can’t have that kind of stress. I have to have my pretty hands ready for the shoot.”
Returning to his normal voice, Chet continued, “Hey, I’ll bet he’ll be on one of those dish soap commercials with that Madge lady.” Chet held his hands out, simulating the fingertips being dipped in something. Quickly he pulled them back saying again in a high-pitched voice, “I’m soaking my hands in dishwashing liquid? Oh my!”
Marco and Mike snickered. Roy grinned, shaking his head. Sometimes Chet was annoying, but there were times he hit the mark with the humor.
Johnny leaned forward placing his head in his hands. “What did I do to deserve this?” he mumbled.
Station 51, traffic accident, North Topanga Canyon, time out 10:50.
The squad and engine drove through the city with their lights and sirens going. Soon they found themselves on a dirt road heading up into the hills surrounding Los Angeles County. Coming upon the scene of the accident, they could see a broken guardrail off to the side. The squad came to a stop, the engine pulling up behind it. Johnny and Roy got out of the squad and peered over the side of the embankment where the broken rail was.
Captain Stanley walked toward the paramedics. Roy spotted him and ran over to inform the man of what they had.
“Cap, looks like we’ve got a vehicle that rolled a few times. It’s being held in place by a tree. The roof is smashed in, and the driver’s side door is wrapped around the tree’s trunk.”
Johnny trotted over to join the Captain and Roy. “I can’t tell from up here if there’s any movement inside.”
“Okay. You two get the gear together that you’ll need.”
Not hesitating, Johnny and Roy returned to the squad to get the equipment and their turnout coats.
The rest of the crew joined the Captain as he looked over the embankment at the car below.
“Chet, move the squad up a bit. And, Mike, go ahead and pull the engine to where the squad is now. That way we can tie John and Roy’s safety lines onto the front of the engine.” Captain Stanley directed.
“Sure,” they both replied, jogging over to their respective vehicles.
Once everything was set, and the two lines were secured on the engine, the paramedics quickly made their way down the embankment. Going backwards, they occasionally glanced over their shoulders as they went. The car was sixty feet down from the road and they still had another thirty feet to go to reach it.
When Roy and Johnny had gotten to the car, Johnny untied his rope and stepped over, peering in one of the shattered windows. He could see a man laying on the back seat, his head bleeding.
“Sir, can you hear me?” Johnny called out. “Sir?” He quickly scanned the interior of the car. It looked like the man was the only passenger inside.
Johnny’s voice slowly brought the man to consciousness. He groaned, then lifted his head. His eyelids gave a heavy, sleepy blink. He tried to focus on the paramedic as he mumbled, “Wha hap…happen?”
Johnny peered closer. He could smell alcohol, then caught sight of empty beer cans strewn throughout the car’s interior. “Anybody in here with you?”
“Did you have anyone on the car with you?”
“Okay. Well, just take it easy and don’t try to move around. We’ll have you out of here soon.”
The man lifted his hand and gave a slight wave. “’Kay”
Johnny and Roy surveyed the vehicle to see how they may get the man out. Johnny tried pulling on the back and front doors, but they were jammed shut.
Pulling the HT out of his turnout coat pocket, Roy called up to the Captain. “Engine 51, HT 51.”
“Go ahead, HT 51” came the reply.
“Cap, we have one victim here. He appears to have a cut on his head. And he also appears to be quite drunk, although we won’t be sure of that till he can be checked out better. The doors on the car are jammed shut, so we’ll need a pry bar …and a back board, the trauma box and a stokes.”
“10-4, HT 51. It’ll be right down. Do you guys need your drug box or Biophone?”
Captain Stanley waited for a reply while he watched his paramedics discuss the matter down below. The HT in his hand crackled to life as Roy came back on.
“No, Cap, we’re going to wait until we have him topside to treat him. Just get Rampart on the horn and ask them to stand by.”
Johnny took off one of his gloves and carefully reached through the shattered back passenger window. Shards of glass still hung precariously on the edges of the window frame. Johnny gently grabbed a hold of the man’s left wrist to check his pulse. It seemed strong, but rapid. He let go and pulled his arm and hand back out, being careful not to get near the sharp pieces of glass still in the window.
“How is he?” Roy asked. He looked up the embankment as he saw the equipment on its way down on a rope.
“Pulse is strong, but rapid.”
“He may be lucky. If he was relaxed on the way down, he may not have gotten hurt too bad.”
Johnny agreed, grabbing the pry bar out of the stokes as it reached the paramedics. Putting his glove back on, he stuck the pry bar in a crimp in the back door and pulled with all his weight. After a few minutes of straining, the door popped open with a creak. Climbing in the vehicle, Johnny quickly ran his hands over the victim, checking for any obvious sever injuries.
“There doesn’t seem to be any broken bones. Hand me the c-collar and I’ll get it on his neck.”
Roy opened the trauma box, handing the c-collar to Johnny.
Once the collar was in place, Roy slid the backboard inside the car. He leaned in, helping Johnny to ease the victim on the board.
“Waz goin on? Wha…wha ya doin?”
“Just take it easy, sir…we’re going to get you to a hospital.” Roy assured the man.
Roy and Johnny carefully but quickly got the man out of the car and into the stokes. Roy signaled for the men above to pull the victim up.
Johnny came out of the treatment room and walked over to where Roy was talking to Dixie at the desk. He went behind the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee. Putting the cup to his lips, he took a sip of the brew.
“So, how is the patient?” Roy asked. “Any problems on the way in?”
Johnny shook his head. “Doc says he’ll be fine. Being drunk probably was what saved him from serious injuries.” Johnny snorted. “ ‘Course if he was sober, he may not have gone over the edge to begin with.”
Roy and Dixie nodded in agreement.
“But ten to one, he’ll be back driving like that again once he’s out, healthy and free.” Dixie commented. She glanced at Johnny’s hand holding the coffee cup. “How are the star hands? Did they come out of this rescue unscathed?”
Johnny gave Dixie a bewildered look. “Hmmm?” Then it dawned on him what she was referring to. He had completely forgotten about his hands and the modeling once they got toned out. “Oh man!” He quickly held out his hands, looking them over. A smile spread across his face. “Well, they seem to have come out of it just fine!” He gave her another curious look. “Wait a minute. How did you know?”
Blushing, Johnny looked over at Roy, a surprised and annoyed expression on his face. “You told her? You told her! Man--”
“Hey, it’s okay, Johnny,” Dixie chimed in. “I think it’s great. Maybe you’ll get to do a watch commercial or something.”
“You really think so?” Johnny asked.
Dixie smiled, “Well, sure. You never know.”
“Yeah…yeah,” Johnny grinned. “I just might at that.”
Roy rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “Just 20 more hours to go till the end of the shift. Think you’ll make it?”
Johnny gave a less than secure look to Roy. “I hope so. Man, this is gonna be a long shift! Oh, and I still have to face more of Chet.” He moaned, setting his cup down on the counter. “Well, may as well get it over with. See ya, Dix.”
Johnny started walking down the corridor. Roy stayed back with Dixie a moment longer. “You should see Chet. He’s having a field day with this.”
“I can just imagine. I just hope he doesn’t ride Johnny too hard. You know that partner of yours can be sensitive at times.”
Roy nodded, “Yeah…yeah I know. See ya later, Dixie.”
He trotted to catch up to Johnny as his partner rounded the corner to the exit doors.
Chet watched from the dayroom door as the squad backed in. Ducking back inside, he put his finger to his lips, signaling to the other men to be quiet. “Just wait till Gage sees this,” he whispered, a gleam in his eyes.
Roy walked into the dayroom, followed by Johnny. The guys couldn’t have been more obvious about the fact that they were trying to look at anyone else but the paramedics as the two men came into view. A sense of suspicion crept over Roy and he glanced around, trying to spot the prank that was about to be pulled. Johnny was oblivious to the behavior of the men. He was headed to the coffee pot to get more of what he didn’t finish at Rampart.
Not noticing anything out of place, Roy continued to eye the guys as Johnny handed him a cup of coffee. He took it to the table, pulling out a chair and sitting down. “So, what’s up?” he casually asked.
Marco looked to Chet, who was peering up from the newspaper at Roy. “Not much,” Chet said, shrugging. His attention went back to the newspaper.
Johnny had poured his coffee and was about to turn around to go to the table when he noticed a pale green plastic bottle by the sink. Picking it up in his hands he read the label Skin So Soft… “What is this?” he asked, holding up the bottle and turning towards the table.
“Oh, that’s for your hands, Johnny. We thought we’d help you keep them soft and pretty for the shoot,” Chet explained, grinning. “Mike called his wife and she brought that over for you.”
An annoyed Johnny looked over to Mike, who was also smiling. “Et tu, Mikey?” Johnny asked. “Et tu?”
Mike shrugged. “Even I gotta have my fun, Johnny.”
Johnny got a bright look in his eyes. He gulped down his coffee and set the cup on the counter. He walked out of the room, tossing the bottle of lotion in his hands as he left.
The three pranksters exchanged puzzled glances. “I know that look,” Chet said. He got up and ran out of the dayroom. Marco and Mike gave questioning looks to Roy.
“Don’t ask me,” Roy said. “I just do my time here and go home.”
Catching up to Johnny in the locker room, Chet opened his own locker carefully.
Noticing the Irishman’s suspicious actions, Johnny snickered. “Relax, Chet. There’s no set up in there.”
“Uh huh. Sure, Gage. I know that look.” Chet rummaged through his locker using a cautious hand. “You’re up to something.”
Johnny shook his head. “Chet, I’m not up to anything. “
“You sure?” Chet asked warily.
“Yes, I’m sure! Now would you relax? Besides, I couldn’t think of anything good enough that quick.” Hehehehe. I’m gonna have him paranoid the rest of this shift.
“And just what does that mean?”
Johnny grinned, closing his locker. “Well, I guess you’ll find out another time, Chet. In the meantime, thanks for the lotion. Elizabeth should like it just fine.”
Chet stared as Johnny disappeared behind the closing locker room door. He’s not gonna do anything. He’s just messing with my head. He glanced over the interior of his locker again assuring himself it was okay.
The rest of the afternoon and evening had been steady with calls. A couple of minor traffic accidents, a house fire with one victim that had to be rescued from inside, a heart attack victim and a dog bite victim. Though Johnny didn’t think about his promise to Elizabeth every time they got a run, Chet was there to remind him about his hand modeling stint by giving some sort of smart remark after Johnny got back to the station. Johnny would quickly look over his hands to see if they had again survived without nicks, cuts or bruises. He sighed in relief to find that his hands remained unscathed.
Elizabeth had called Johnny shortly after 10:00 in the evening to see how he was doing. Smitten by the brunette model, Johnny found himself again promising to take good care of himself, even though he knew his job could cause any kind of injury at any time. Just the sound of Elizabeth’s sultry voice was enough to make Johnny promise the moon and stars if he could have.
“Hey, Gage, if this Elizabeth told you to go take a flying leap off a bridge, would ya do it?” Chet teased. He hadn’t let up on Johnny all day and wasn’t about to till sleep claimed him later.
Johnny leaned his head back on the couch and closed his eyes. “Oh, shut up, Chet. You just wish it was you instead.”
“Nah, I’d never find myself suckered into anything by a pretty face.”
“Oh, boy, now it’s getting deep in here,” Marco said, shaking his head at Chet.
“You’d never get the chance,” Johnny said, keeping his eyes closed.
Captain Stanley walked in on the last exchange of comments. “Guys…how about you call a truce here.”
Before anyone could answer the tones went off.
Station 51, man injured 1611 North 7th Street, one six one one North 7th Street, cross street Claremont, time out 23:16.
As the men ran to their respective vehicles, Captain Stanley acknowledged the call at the podium before trotting over to climb up in the engine. Johnny rubbed his eyes as Roy handed him the slip of paper the Captain had handed him with the address on it. “Man, my eyes are tired.”
“Good thing you won’t need your eyes for your modeling gig,” Roy said sarcastically.
Johnny looked over at him in surprise as the squad pulled out into the street. “Oh, not you too! Next time I have something like this come up, I won’t say…. ...I won’t say anything to anyone.” He pouted, looking out the passenger window.
Arriving at the scene, Roy and Johnny looked out the windshield at the somewhat run down building. The words on the neon sign on the building were The Watering Hole.
“The Watering Hole? What kind of a name is that?” Johnny asked. “Geez, this place ought to be fun.”
The engine pulled up behind the squad. Getting out of the vehicles, the men took in the appearance of the yellow building. Loud rock music could be heard from inside, the beat of the music vibrated the sidewalk. Johnny and Roy grabbed their basic equipment out of the squad, while the others waited.
Captain Stanley turned to Mike who was standing beside him. “You, Marco and Chet wait out here. I’ll go in with Roy and John. If we need you, I’ll come get you, okay?”
“Right,” Mike answered.
The men went into the dimly lit bar. It was a full house, not an empty table in sight. Nothing seemed to be obviously wrong in the place, either. Captain Stanley walked up to the bar to see what they had been called about.
“Excuse me!” He called to the bartender.
“Yeah?” The bartender turned around looking to be annoyed at being interrupted in mixing a drink. Seeing the Captain in front of him, he relaxed. “Oh hey. You guys were fast!”
“Everything looks okay,” Hank yelled over the loud music. “What have you got?”
“In the men’s room…” He gestured to the back of the bar “There’s a guy in there who was in a fight a bit ago. Someone said he looks pretty bad off.”
Nodding, the Captain asked, “Well, did you call the police?”
The bartender shook his head. “No! I didn’t want a lot of trouble here! Besides the other guy already left!”
“Well, call ‘em!” Captain Stanley shook his head. What was he thinking? I really have to wonder.
Walking over to his paramedics, Hank directed them to the men’s room. The three men jostled elbows through the crowd as they made their way to the back of the bar. Opening the bathroom door, they immediately saw a man on his side lying on the floor under the sinks. Blood was oozed from a cut on his forehead. His eyes were blackened, his nose swollen and his bottom lip was split and bleeding. Even his arms appeared to be somewhat bruised.
“Man, who got a hold of him?” Johnny voiced out loud, kneeling down by the unconscious man.
Roy kneeled down and together they slowly turned the man. Roy winced at the battered face. “I don’t know, but I sure hope he’s no where around now.”
Captain Stanley watched a moment as the paramedics set the biophone up and contacted Rampart. “Look, I’m gonna go out and make sure the bartender called the cops. They need to see this. Then I’m gonna go see if the ambulance is here yet. You guys got it okay?”
“Yeah,” Johnny nodded.
Hank stepped out into the bar, once again taking in the crowd. It was pretty clear a lot of people had had a bit too much to drink just by the way they handled themselves. As he made his way to the bar, a fight broke out in one of the far corners in the back near the dartboard. Not wanting to waste any time he quickly got the bartender’s attention. “Look, if you haven’t called the cops, yet, do it now! You’ve got more trouble on your hands!”
The bartender looked to where the Captain was pointing. Being used to commotion, he casually nodded and picked up the phone.
Captain Stanley frowned when he saw the man hadn’t listened to him the first time. Running to the front door, he yelled out for Mike, Marco and Chet to come in and help. Seeing that the ambulance had just arrived, he hollered for them to follow along also.
The three firemen slowly approached the area with the fight where chairs and fists were flying. Captain Stanley took the ambulance attendants back to the men’s room. Letting them in, he turned to go over and help with the fight. The firemen were doing more ducking than anything, trying to avoid being punched or hit with a chair themselves by the four men that were fighting. Finally one man got in a good swing at another, knocking him to the floor in a heap. Blood spattered as the punch hit his mouth. The fight suddenly stopped as the combatants took off at a run, leaving behind the injured man.
Ignoring the commotion in the other room, Johnny and Roy had gotten their patient almost ready to transport. Marco peeked his head in the door. “Hey, Cap wants one of you to come out and take a look at this guy.”
Johnny and Roy exchanged glances.
“I will,” said Johnny, as he stood up to follow. “What happened?”
“Another fight. The cops should be here soon.”
Johnny nodded, following Marco over to the corner. Making his way through the crowd, Johnny saw the man on the floor. He squatted down, briefly checking the man’s condition. Seeing that it wasn’t too serious, he helped the man up to a sitting position. “Okay, now take it easy.” He gently probed the man’s jaw. Seeing the man wince, he grimaced. “Looks like you took quite a hit,” he continued in a friendly tone.
With the excitement over, most of the crowd had lost interest and went back to their drinks.
Captain Stanley turned his attention back towards his other men. “Marco, why don’t you go see if Roy needs any help.”
“Sure, Cap!” Marco headed off to help Roy.
“John? You need any supplies?”
“Yeah, Cap, I need the BP cuff…and ice in a towel if we can get some from the bartender. Also the biophone if Roy’s done with it for now. This guy doesn’t look too bad, though.”
“Okay, Chet, you want to get the BP cuff and biophone from Roy? Mike, how about you ask the bartender for ice and a towel.”
As Hank turned to watch the young paramedic, two police officers entered into the bar. He went to meet them.
Johnny had his left hand on the fight victim’s back for support. Being attentive to his patient, he didn’t notice a man come up beside them.
Suddenly there was a yell as shattering glass and swearing could be heard over the loud music. Looking up from his conversation with the police, Hank could see a familiar man from the fight earlier running to the front of the bar, remains of a shattered beer pitcher dropping from his hand as he neared the door. A crowd was forming again back where Johnny and his patient were. The cops instinctively ran after the man as Mike and Hank ran over to where the commotion had been near Johnny. Pushing his way through the crowd, Hank was sickened by what he saw.
Johnny stood, stunned, his left hand limp. The tendons were severed and exposed. The jagged cut ran from the base of his hand and four inches up his forearm. His arm and hand were a bloody mess. Johnny wavered slightly, grabbing the table edge for balance with his right hand. He suddenly felt very nauseated and dizzy…like he was in a dream. Could this really be happening?
“Oh my God! John!”
Hank and his engineer grabbed Johnny by the arms in order to steady him. With the shock of the scene before him, Mike forgot he was still holding the makeshift ice pack in his left hand.
“Oh, cool,” one drunken man nodded his approval.
“Gross,” another drunk screwed up his face and turned away, while his date covered her mouth as she ran to the ladies room.
“Chet, Get Roy!” Hank yelled to Chet. When Chet didn’t move, Hank tapped him on the elbow to get his attention. “Get Roy now!” Taking his radio out, Captain Stanley keyed the mic “LA, this is Engine 51. We have a code I at our location. Respond another squad and ambulance to this location.”
“10-4, Engine 51”
Marco and the ambulance attendants were bringing the victim out of the men’s room when Roy heard his name being called. Looking over to the corner, he could see a stunned Chet moving towards him. “Roy! Johnny’s been hurt bad! Cap wants you over there right away!”
Roy was stunned. For him to be called away from another victim, he knew it had to be very bad. “What happened to him?”
“His arm got cut just above the hand…and…Roy…the tendons are severed.”
Roy’s stomach knotted up. He knew if the injury was that severe it would most likely put Johnny out of the paramedic program for over a year or maybe even permanently. Roy silently prayed Chet was just exaggerating about the severity of the wound.
Roy quickly turned to Marco. “Take this guy out to the ambulance and keep a close eye on him. I’ll check on Johnny, but I can’t let this guy wait. I’ve got to get him to Rampart. I’ll take the trauma and drug box with me…if you need me for anything in the meantime, don’t hesitate to radio in.”
“Okay!” Marco continued toward the front of the bar with the man on the stretcher and the attendants.
Roy grabbed the equipment and raced over to where Johnny was now sitting on the floor, his left hand lying in his lap. His blue shirt was splattered with blood; his uniform pants were wet with blood where his hand laid. Johnny was white as a sheet. Pieces of broken glass littered the floor around him.
Johnny grimaced and perspiration beaded on his forehead. Captain Stanley was squatting down beside him, comforting the young paramedic as best he could.
“This guy’s okay,” Mike said, as he helped the other man hold an ice pack to his jaw.
“Johnny’s arm got the brunt of the injury,” the Captain explained to Roy. “ John said he had his hand the man’s back,” he pointed to the other victim. “He was quite a lucky guy.”
“He was lucky, all right.” Roy agreed. Unfortunately Johnny wasn’t.
Roy squatted down beside his partner. “Hey, Junior. Looks like you got yourself in quite a fix here.” He tried to keep the conversation light, but he could see his partner was in serious trouble. Roy carefully lifted Johnny’s left hand placing it on his bent knee. Holding back the bile that rose in his throat, Roy opened the trauma box. Reaching inside he pulled out sterile compresses, applying them to Johnny’s arm. He then began wrapping Johnny’s hand and arm in white bandaging to hold the compresses in place.
Roy studied Johnny’s face as he wrapped the hand and arm. He could see Johnny was watching. “You okay, partner?”
Johnny swallowed hard, nodding. “It…just…hurts…like…hell.” He said through clenched teeth and short gasps. “Oh…man…Roy…”
“I know…I know, Johnny. Just hang in there. We’ll get you to Rampart soon.”
Johnny took a deep breath. “ ‘Kay.”
Roy stood, pulling Captain Stanley over to the side and out of ear shot for Johnny and the other victim.
“I called for another squad and ambulance, Roy.” Captain Stanley said.
Roy shook his head. “Cap, there’s no time to wait. I’ve got to get Johnny to Rampart as soon as I can. It’s gonna be critical how fast they get his hand fixed as to how well it will heal later. This is gonna have to be a wrap and run…I’ll contact Rampart on the way in.”
Roy briefly glanced at his partner, wishing there was more he could do for him. Quickly returning his attention back to the Captain, Roy continued his explanation.
“I also need to get our first patient into Rampart soon. He’s holding his own, but he hasn’t regained consciousness yet, and he could be critical.” Roy saw Captain Stanley’s eyebrows rise as if in question. Answering that unspoken question, Roy continued, “I can handle this, Cap. I’m gonna need Marco to ride along if that’s okay, just in case I need more hands. But I can handle the three patients. This other guy seems to be fine, so it’ll mainly be how Johnny and our first patient do on the way in.”
“Okay, pal. We’ll help you get these two to the ambulance.” Captain Stanley pulled out his radio, canceling the second squad and ambulance he had called for a few minutes before.
Roy turned to Chet, who was now squatting beside Johnny. Chet chewed his lower lip. “Hey, hang in there, Gage. You’re gonna be all right.”
Johnny leaned against the wall, his head back and his eyes squeezed shut.
“Chet, could you run and get the stretcher out of the squad? We’ll need it to get Johnny out of here.”
“Sure, Roy. Be right back.”
Roy knelt down by Mike. “How’s this guy doing?”
“Okay. He’s in a lot of pain, though.”
“Yeah, I know. But Rampart won’t authorize pain killers until they can do x-rays on his head and face,” Roy explained. “They’d need to make sure he doesn’t have something else seriously wrong first.” He looked over at his injured partner again…Johnny was not looking good at all. Roy slid over to him. “Just hang in there. Here comes Chet with the stretcher.”
Johnny blearily opened his eyes, pain evident in them. “Roy…I’m sorry.”
Roy’s heart sank. He wasn’t even in a fight. “Hey, it’s okay. You didn’t do anything. You’re a victim, Johnny.” Roy patted Johnny’s right shoulder gently as he got up to help Chet with the stretcher. “You’ll be okay. You have me here, remember?” He grinned, hoping to get at least a slight chuckle from his friend. Johnny rolled his eyes and slightly nodded.
Mike and the Captain helped the second victim to the ambulance as Roy and Chet carried out Johnny. Once everyone was in place, Captain Stanley closed the ambulance doors giving them two slaps. The ambulance pulled away, lights and siren blaring.
Chet pulled out, following behind in the squad.
Mike and Captain Stanley solemnly walked back to the engine. “I’ll call in a replacement for Gage. Once they get him to Rampart and the other three get back to the station, we should be available.”
One of the policemen from earlier walked up to the two firefighters. “How’s your injured man?”
“It doesn’t look good at all,” Captain Stanley replied wearily.
“Well, we got the guy who did it. We’ll be in touch with the men in your crew who saw it happen…also the victims of this guy.”
“Okay. You know where to find us. The victims were taken to Rampart.”
The officer acknowledged with a nod. He then went over to his partner who was still taking statements from witnesses. The suspect sat in the back of their patrol car.
“What a night, huh, Cap?” Mike commented as he climbed into the engine.
The Captain climbed up into the seat beside Mike. “You said it, pal.” We may have just lost one of the best paramedics in the county.
After making sure his first patient was still stable, Roy called Rampart on the biophone to give them the injury information on victims number two and three. First reporting on victim number two confirmed what he had thought…no MS till after X-rays. The man moaned in pain as he sat on the bench beside Marco. While Roy set up an IV of D5W for the man, he had Marco call in on victim number three.
Johnny was sitting up on the bench on the other side of Marco, his face etched in pain. “Chet’s…never gonna…let me …live this down,” he groaned between gasps.
Roy looked up from his work on the second victim with surprise. Why would Johnny even think about something like that right now? “Oh, I don’t think you have to worry about Chet. He looked pretty upset to me.”
Roy finished with the IV on the second patient and took over on the biophone from Marco. Brackett had ordered an IV with Ringers Lactate and 10 milligrams MS for Johnny. He also would have a hand specialist standing by in the OR for immediate surgery. Roy had just gotten Johnny’s IV started as they were pulling in to Rampart. The rear doors of the ambulance were opened, revealing Doctor Brackett and Doctor Early both there waiting. Orderlies were standing by with two extra gurneys. The first man was lifted out on the stretcher and wheeled into the ER. He was taken into treatment room 3, Doctor Early following.
Johnny was lifted onto a gurney. He was rushed to the bank of elevators and taken directly to the OR, bypassing treatment in the emergency room. Roy watched the doors of the elevator close as he followed the gurney carrying the second patient into treatment room 4.
Doctor Morton looked up as Roy and an orderly brought in their patient. “This the jaw guy?”
“Yeah,” Roy answered as he and the orderly transferred the man onto the table. “He’s stable, but in considerable pain.”
“All right. I have X-ray on their way here now. And as soon as I see what the damages are,” Morton paused, stepping over to the table to address the rest of his comment to the patient. “We’ll see about easing that pain, okay?”
The man nodded slightly, closing his eyes against the pain.
“You need me for anything?” Roy asked.
“Nah…in fact X-ray is here now.” Morton motioned with his hand to the equipment being pushed in through the door. “Thanks, Desoto.”
Roy walked out of the treatment room and over to Dixie’s desk. Dixie was on the radio handling another call. When she finished her transmission, she turned around facing Roy.
“You okay?” she asked, concerned.
“Yeah. Just kind of worn out from the adrenaline rush. Is Doctor Brackett around?”
Dixie shook her head. “No. He’s up in the OR now assisting the best hand specialist we have to take care of Johnny.”
“Did you see where Marco and Chet ended up?”
“In the lounge. They’re both kind of upset, too. I sent them in there to get a cup of coffee and to sit down.”
“Okay. Thanks, Dix. I’ll go see if they’re ready to head back to the station.” If Roy could have it his way, he would stay at Rampart until he had some kind of word on Johnny. But Roy knew that the three of them were expected back on duty as soon as possible. He would just have to wait for someone to call him at the station, or until the shift was over, to find anything out.
“Take it easy, Roy. I’ll call you as soon as I have any news on Johnny, okay?”
Roy nodded. “Thanks.” He turned to go to the lounge.
Dixie knew how worried Roy had to be about his partner…she also knew that there was a chance that Johnny’s career could be over if his hand didn’t heal right. And no doubt Roy was well aware of that, too. She said a silent prayer as she watched the three firemen come out of the lounge and head toward the exit.
Johnny was transferred to an operating table as soon as he arrived in the OR. Doctor Brackett was there, as was a doctor he didn’t recognize. As if reading Johnny’s mind, the other doctor introduced himself.
The surgeon leaned over Johnny to get in better view. “Hi. You’re probably wondering who I am. I’m Doctor Richardson. Mike Richardson. I’m a hand specialist. Doctor Brackett here is going to assist me and we’ll have your hand fixed as soon as we can. I’m going to remove the bandages to see what exactly we have here, okay?”
“ ‘Kay” Johnny’s stomach flipped flopped as he thought back to how his hand looked at the bar. Oh, God…this can’t be real. He closed his eyes hoping to block it all out.
Doctor Richardson carefully removed the bandages Roy had applied. He glanced up at Brackett as Johnny’s hand and arm were revealed. The tendons still poked out of the lower part of the cut, which was on the back of Johnny’s wrist. The cut had a wicked zigzag pattern to it and the tendons could not be seen from the other end of it. Brackett grimaced looking at the wound. “The other tendons must have snapped up under the skin.”
Gently holding Johnny’s left hand, Doctor Richardson examined it. Seeing what he was up against, he called over an anesthesiologist to give Johnny the necessary anesthetic to begin surgery.
Doctor Richardson explained step by step to Johnny what was happening so that he would feel less apprehensive.
Johnny lay there quietly, taking in what the doctor was telling him. He felt a sharp stick in his armpit as the anesthesiologist administered the first of the anesthesia. Feeling the effects of the diazepam they had given him when he was first brought up, Johnny started to feel like he was in a dream.
Johnny could feel a strange sensation as the tendons were pulled down to connect with the ones that were exposed. It wasn’t a painful feeling. He tried to think of how he would describe it. Strange was the only word that would come to mind. Closing his eyes again, Johnny drifted, allowing himself to shut out what was going on. Please let this all be a nightmare.
Doctor Brackett leaned over Johnny interrupting his thoughts. “Johnny, you doing okay?”
“Hmmm? Yeah…just…tired,” Johnny quietly answered, squinting.
“Hang in there. You’re doing great,” Brackett smiled, twitching his mouth.
Johnny wanted to ask if he would have full use of his hand later, but he knew there was no way Brackett could answer that now and to ask it would be unfair. Instead he just nodded, forcing a weak smile.
The crew of Station 51 sat around the dayroom, unable to sleep. It was 3:00 in the morning and they hadn’t been toned out since returning to duty at 1:00. Chet sat on the couch, flipping through a magazine trying to keep busy. Roy sat at the table sipping from a glass of milk, staring at the telephone as if he were willing it to ring. Mike and Marco were watching one of Chet’s favorite B movies. Captain Stanley was in his office supposedly catching up on some paperwork, but he found himself staring at the walls more than anything. Only Johnny’s replacement was sleeping in the dorm. Charlie Dwyer had been woken up in the middle of the night to replace Johnny…he was concerned about the paramedic, but the unexpected wake up call left him tired and he knew he needed to rest in case they were toned out to a big incident.
Chet flopped the magazine down on his lap in frustration. “Man, I can’t believe this. You know I would take back all the teasing I did if Johnny’s hand would just be okay. I feel like a crumb.”
“We all kind of ribbed him about his hand gig, Chet,” Marco said, trying to ease Chet’s guilt. “Who would’ve thought something like this would happen.”
“Yeah, what are the odds?” Mike piped in. “I mean, if his hand hadn’t been on that guy’s back, he would be here with us right now.”
“Yeah, and that guy would be…” Chet stopped, sighing. “Gage saved that guy from a serious back injury, you know. I sure hope he appreciates it.”
Roy listened to the conversation between the crew. He was grateful that the man with the broken jaw was spared more injury, but he couldn’t help but be angry his partner ended up being hurt so bad. It just didn’t seem fair. They were there to help a man…that was all…if only…what? Roy asked himself. What would they have done differently? The answer? …Nothing. And knowing Johnny, he would feel the same way.
After hours of surgery, Johnny lay on his back in the recovery room staring at his left hand. It was completely wrapped in bandages, not even his fingertips showing. The bandages came all the way up to his elbow. A gray foam pillow, an ice pack over the area of the wound, elevated his left arm and hand. The anesthesia hadn’t worn off yet, so he still didn’t have feeling in his arm or hand.
Johnny turned his head to look at the door as Doctor Brackett walked in. “Hi, Johnny. Ready to go to a room now?”
“Yeah…sooner the better.” Johnny answered. “I just want to get some sleep and forget this.” He indicated his left hand with his head.
“Uh oh…I said the wrong thing.”
“No…no you didn’t, Johnny. “ Doctor Brackett paused. “We need to talk about what’s ahead for you with your hand and what you’ll need to expect. Doctor Richardson will see you later today to discuss all this with you.”
“Is it gonna be good news?”
“I don’t know, Johnny. I do know the surgery went well and that everything was reattached with no problem. But the hand is a delicate thing. Only time will tell exactly how good it’ll turn out.”
Johnny found himself turning his head away from Brackett and staring at his bandaged hand again.
“If you’re asking me if you’ll have full use of your hand again,” Brackett continued, “No one knows for sure, Johnny. I’m sorry. But that’s the best answer I have.”
Dixie had called the guys at the station as soon as she had news on Johnny. They’d only been toned out one more time in the early morning hours to a house fire. There had been no casualties so Roy and Dwyer didn’t get over to Rampart to check on Johnny. Instead they stuck around to help make sure the fire was completely out and with cleanup.
Once back at the station, the guys waited anxiously for the next shift to come in. It was 7:30 in the morning and they were all ready to end this nightmare shift. Roy, Chet and Marco planned on stopping by Rampart to see how Johnny was doing…Captain Stanley had decided to wait until afternoon to visit. He figured if they all came over at once and then left, Johnny would be wishing he had company later in the day.
Johnny’s girlfriend Elizabeth had called at 7:00 to talk to Johnny. Roy had given her the news about his injury at the bar and the information he had gotten from Dixie. Elizabeth had said she would see Johnny just as soon as she could. Roy had never met Elizabeth, but as he hung up the phone he had a grin on his face. Chet had caught the look on Roy’s face and questioned him about it. Seeing an opportunity for his partner to get one over on Chet without even being there, Roy jumped at the chance. “Oh, that was Johnny’s girlfriend”
“Yeah? And?” Chet inquired “Why the grin? She’s a loony, right? I knew it!”
“Let’s just say that if Elizabeth looks anything like she sounds, Johnny has one gorgeous gal looking out for him,” Roy said, grinning more as Chet’s face fell.
“Ah man…how does Gage do it?”
“If you’d ever quit picking on him, maybe someday he’d fill you in.”
Chet slowly nodded, giving it thought. “Nah…it’s too much fun harassing the pigeon. Girls come and go, but an easy target for the phantom never goes away.”
Marco listened to the conversation, shaking his head. “I thought you said you felt like a crumb teasing Johnny.”
“That was until I found out he has a hot girlfriend.”
The three firefighters stepped off the elevator and headed for Johnny’s room. Opening the door, Roy peeked in first. The curtains were drawn and the room was dim. Johnny lay in bed, his eyes closed. As Roy started to back out and close the door he heard Johnny stir.
“I’m awake if you want to come in.”
“You sure?” Roy asked. “You must be pretty tired what with…well, you know.”
“Yeah, I’m sure. My hand is starting to hurt now, anyway, so I need to call for a nurse.”
“I’ll go get one,” Chet offered.
“That’s what the call button is for, Chet,” Johnny reminded.
“Yeah, but going and getting one is more fun.”
Johnny rolled his eyes. “I see things haven’t changed overnight.”
Roy pushed the call button, grinning at his partner. Johnny was in good spirits considering what had happened.
“How are you feeling, Johnny?” Marco asked.
“Okay. Ask me after Doctor Richardson talks to me. He’s the hand specialist who did the surgery.” He stifled a yawn. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. Look, we’ll let you get some sleep,” Roy said. “Cap is gonna be in this afternoon to see you and we can come back in the evening.”
The men glanced at the door as a nurse walked in. “You needed something, Johnny?”
“Yeah, my hand is really starting to hurt again.”
“Okay. Let me see what I can do.” She picked up his chart, looking it over. Hanging it back on the bed, she turned to go out. “I’ll be right back with something for you.”
Chet ogled the nurse as she passed by.
“Oh, that reminds me,” Roy began. “Elizabeth called and said she’d be over to see you as soon as she could.”
“She wasn’t…she wasn’t mad, was she?”
“Mad? No…not at all. In fact I’d say she sounded very worried. She cares about you.”
“Don’t be too impressed with yourself, Gage,” Chet commented. “Elizabeth hasn’t met me yet.”
“And she’s not going to meet you, Kelly. I wouldn’t put her through that kind of torture.”
The nurse came back in to give Johnny his pain medication. “Now, this will probably make you drowsy, but you need your rest anyway.” She looked at the three visitors.
Taking her hint, Marco was the first to head for the door. “Take it easy, Johnny.”
“Yeah, get some rest, Gage.”
Roy paused as Chet exited the room. He looked back at Johnny. “I’ll be back tonight. Hope you get some good news from the specialist.”
“Thanks, pal. For everything.”
Roy nodded, closing the door.
That evening Roy tapped on Johnny’s door, opening it as he did so. This time the young paramedic lay awake staring at a blank wall.
“I take it you aren’t feeling as good tonight?”
Johnny turned his head to look at Roy.
“I got my news today. After a few more days of being in these bandages, it’s five months in a cast and at the very least six months of physical therapy after that. Maybe longer. Then I’ll know if I have full use of my hand again and if I can still be a paramedic.” Sighing, he continued. “I don’t know how I’m gonna deal with the not knowing.”
Roy walked over by the bed, pulling up a chair. It was then that he noticed Johnny had tears in his eyes. “Does Cap know?”
“Yeah, I told him when he was here earlier. He says I’ll do desk duty somewhere till I’m cleared.”
“And if you’re not?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t know,” Johnny sniffed. He blinked trying to clear his watery eyes.
“What did Brackett say?”
“That I can get re-certified when and if the time comes.” Johnny wiped his red eyes with the back of his right hand. “Ah, hell Roy. What am I gonna do?”
“Give it your all and be determined to get better. I know you. You aren’t one to give up, especially this soon. I’m willing to bet money that you’ll make it back to being a paramedic before two years.”
Johnny played with a thread on the blanket covering him. He looked down at his bandaged hand. “Guess I’ll have to get used to doing a lot of stuff one-handed for awhile. Good thing I drive an automatic, huh?” he snorted.
“Yeah. Or you’d have to hire a chauffer.”
“Hey, Elizabeth came by. She’s something, I tell ya. Says when I’m out of here, she’ll come over to the apartment a lot and help me keep the place up.”
“She sounds like a nice gal. You should’ve seen Chet’s face when I told him how beautiful she sounded,” Roy snickered. “The green-eyed monster reared its head.”
“Man, I wish I could’ve been there.” Johnny paused, thinking. “Hey, Roy?”
“Do me a favor? If I start to get frustrated or it looks like I’m giving up, smack me in the head or something.”
Roy laughed out loud. “I was waiting for you to ask me for an inspirational speech.”
“Well, I was going to. But then I decided the other way would have more of an effect on me.”
Roy shook his head laughing. “You’re gonna do okay, partner. And don’t worry. We’ll all be there for you. Hey, I’ll even let ya drive the squad now and then when you make it back.”
“You know, none of this is gonna seem funny if it doesn’t work out. I have to be prepared for that.”
Roy became serious again. “Yeah, I know. You’ve got a long road ahead of you. But you’ve got a large cheering section, too. Don’t ever forget that.”
Three weeks after Johnny had been released from the hospital he was back at work, having trained as a dispatcher for the fire department. Although it was quite an adjustment being at a sit down job instead of going out on actual rescues, he was doing well. During his days off Johnny would get frustrated with the limitations the injury and cast put on his ability to do things on his own. He often had to remind himself that it would only be temporary if he could just keep his sights on getting his hand back to full usage. Elizabeth had kept her promise of coming over to help around the apartment, but Johnny still insisted on doing some of the simple chores for himself. Laundry seemed easy enough…How hard could it be to toss the clothes in the washer, the dryer, and then put them away? Fumbling with the clothes as he tried to fold his t-shirts, he swore as he threw one on the floor, stomping on it. Afterwards he looked around, embarrassed even though he was the only one in the room. Picking up the shirt, he tossed it in the corner. He plopped to the bed and sprawled onto his back, his long legs dangling over the end.
It had been three months since Johnny’s accident and although Roy had planned on spending more time with his former partner, their conflicting work schedules and his family commitments had kept them apart most of the time. The first few weeks after Johnny was released from the hospital, Roy had gone over to Johnny’s apartment on his days off and after shifts to check on his friend and to keep him company. But Roy had never realized till now just how big of a part working together played in their friendship even after the three years they had known each other. They were still close, but not being on shifts together somehow had altered that friendship.
Before starting work as a dispatcher, Johnny would stop by the station and visit the guys. And when Roy wasn’t busy at home with prior commitments, Johnny was welcome to drop in on the Desoto’s. Once he started work, and the reality of not being a paramedic sank in, it became too hard on Johnny emotionally to walk into the station anymore. Each time had been harder than the last. Using the excuse that he was just too busy to drop by, eventually his visits to the station had stopped completely.
Finally getting a weekend off together, Johnny and Roy stood by a lake up in the hills of LA, their fishing lines drifting in the water. Johnny had needed some assistance getting
his fishing pole set up and his line out into the lake, as he was still doing things one-handed. Roy had promised to reel in the line if Johnny needed him to. The cast on Johnny’s left hand and arm would not be off for two more months at least.
“So you haven’t told me yet. How do you like your temporary job now that you’ve been doing it awhile?”
“It’s okay. I like how you called it temporary,” Johnny grinned. He knew what Roy was doing and he appreciated it. Any positive comments toward his recovery were welcome. “I had to talk a kid through a delivery of his baby sister the other day. When I heard the baby’s cries on the other end of the line, it was like …” He stopped himself, as memories of past rescues came to mind.
Roy took a long look at his friend beside him. While Johnny did look happy and healthy enough that he was obviously doing okay, Roy had to wonder if there might be something he wasn’t picking up on. He knew from past experience, it was better to let Johnny open up if he felt he needed to. For now they were just two buddies having a day away from the women in their lives…away from the stresses of work…and enjoying the great outdoors.
Johnny was excited when the day came to get his cast removed. After five months of having it on his hand, he’d forgotten what full mobility of the limb felt like.
Walking into the lobby at Doctor Richardson’s office, Johnny sat down in a chair close to the door. The balls of his feet jiggled in nervous rhythm against the floor tiles.
Would he be able to use his hand very much? Would the numbness go away once the cast was off? How would it feel to try to grasp something with his hand again?
After twenty minutes of waiting, Johnny’s name was finally called. He got up, following the nurse into an examination room. “Doctor Richardson will be with you in a few minutes.” She smiled at the dark-haired paramedic as she left the room.
Ten minutes later the door opened and in stepped Doctor Richardson. “Well, hello, Johnny! I take it you’re ready to get that contraption off your arm?”
“Man…after 5 months, you bet!”
“Now, don’t expect too much. Your hand is going to be stiff with the type of injury you suffered and the cast being on for so long.”
I know. But I’m willing to put up with that if it means losing this hunk a plaster.”
“I bet you are.”
Once the cast was removed, Johnny could barely move his left fingers at all, the back of his hand felt numb...what little he could feel was tight. It still had to be in an ace bandage for support, but it was good to see his whole hand again.
Doctor Richardson gave him a tennis-sized soft rubber ball to carry around and squeeze for physical therapy. It would give his hand flexibility and build strength without over working the muscles.
Johnny hid his frustration about the condition of his hand until he was away from the doctor’s office. Two blocks away from the building he pulled over to the side of the road. He hit the steering wheel with his right fist.
He sat in his truck on the side of the road watching traffic go by. To Johnny, time was passing him by in the same hurried pace. He wished he could stop time until he was healed and back to his old routine.
Johnny sat in Doctor Brackett’s office discussing the probabilities of him going back to work as a paramedic. Three months had passed since getting his cast off, and although his hand was healing very well, it still felt stiff and the back of it felt numb. Johnny sat in a chair fiddling with the rubber ball he had been given for his physical therapy while the conversation unfolded.
“You’ve gotten used to taking that with you everywhere you go, huh?” Brackett teased, indicating the ball.
“Yeah”, Johnny snorted. “Kind of gets to be habit forming.”
“You said you wanted to talk. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah. Everything is going good.” Pausing he added, “Well, I think it is anyway.” Johnny flexed his left hand. “My hand feels tight, but it’s getting easier to use it.”
Brackett nodded. Furrowing his brow, he leaned forward on his desk. “What’s on your mind, Johnny?”
“I…well…I was just wondering exactly how much dexterity I have to have in my hand to start my re-certification. And I know it’s still a long time away,” he quickly added. “But I was wondering if there was a gray area so to speak. You know, since it’s my left and I’m right handed, I thought that maybe…” His voice trailed off as he saw the expression of disapproval on Brackett’s face.
“Well, right or left hand, it’s the same requirement. What if you’re out in the field treating a patient and something happens to your right hand that hinders your ability to work? You could endanger a patient’s life if you couldn’t use your left hand well enough to perform the task at hand. No pun intended there, either. Bottom line is when you have full use of your hand and can do tasks that require intricate detail with your fingers, such as starting an IV, you can begin your re-certification. As you feel more confident in your ability, you may want to try some more detailed tasks, just to see how easily it comes to you. When the time is right and Doctor Richardson clears you, I’ll check into getting you set up for your re-cert.”
“So, it’s all or nothing no matter what.”
“Yep. Afraid so, Johnny. It can’t be any other way. You know that.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I do. I just had to hear it again.” Johnny stood up, turning to leave the office.
“Johnny!” Doctor Brackett called.
Johnny turned around to face Brackett.
Seeing he had the young man’s attention, Brackett continued. “Don’t get discouraged. You’ve got quite a few months to go yet before anyone would even expect you to be ready.”
Johnny smiled. “Thanks, doc.”
Johnny stepped out of Brackett’s office and into the corridor. Looking down the hall he saw Roy standing at Dixie’s desk. It had been two full months since Johnny had contact with Roy other than to talk on the phone and even that had been limited. The more time Johnny was out of the station, the farther apart he and Roy became. Walking down to the desk, he decided it was time to do some catching up with his best friend.
Putting up a facade to hide his fears of not returning to the paramedic program, Johnny cheerfully called out, “Hey, Roy! How are ya?”
Roy looked over in surprise. “Johnny! Long time no see!”
“Well, hey stranger!” Dixie piped in
“How are things going?” Roy asked as Johnny stepped up to the desk. “Joanne and I tried calling you last week, but I guess you were out.”
“Hi, Dix!” Addressing Roy, Johnny continued, “Oh, you must have called while I was out with Elizabeth. I took her to dinner and a movie a couple of times.”
“Twice in one week?” Roy grinned. “You’re getting to be a big spender.”
Johnny shot Roy an annoyed look. “Very funny.”
“Oh, just kidding. How is Elizabeth doing?”
“Fine…she’s fine.” Johnny began to feel awkward, as their conversation followed along the lines of acquaintances running into one another and not best friends getting together. It wasn’t like it used to be when they could just talk about anything. Now he half expected to be discussing the weather.
Roy didn’t pick up on Johnny’s feeling about the conversation. To him it was a brief chat, which was all he could get in at the moment.
“That’s good. How’s your hand doing?”
Johnny opened his mouth to reply when Roy’s current partner, Dan Harding, stepped out of a nearby treatment room, distracting them both.
“Hey, Johnny! What are you doing here?” Dan asked.
“Oh, I had to talk to Brackett.”
Roy’s interest was piqued. “Oh? You didn’t mention that before, Johnny. Any good news?”
“No news. Just a talk.”
Dan Harding jumped in on the conversation. “Hey, Gage, I heard you were going to do some hand modeling. Ever get to do it?”
Johnny held up his left hand, frowning. “Nope. This happened before I could even give it a try. I don’t think I’ll get the chance now. Scars are kind of ugly you know…not very camera friendly.”
The HT in Roy’s hand squawked to life. Squad 51 what is your status?
“Squad 51 available” Roy answered.
Squad 51 stand by for response…Squad 51, man down 1611 North Hill Street, One six one one North Hill Street, time out 14:20
“10-4” Roy looked apologetically to Johnny. “Hey, sorry we gotta cut this short.”
“Oh hey.” Johnny waved it off. “Duty calls.”
“You ready?” Dan asked.
“Yeah,” As Roy began to leave, he turned his attention back to Johnny. “We’ll have to get together soon. Call me and maybe we can do a barbeque. I’ll talk to Joanne about it”
“Yeah, sure!” Johnny answered. He knew now how much he missed the job and his friendship with Roy. It should’ve been him coming out of that treatment room to meet up with his partner…and it should be him going out on a call now. That one call to a bar several months ago changed everything and he didn’t like the changes at all…not at all. He felt like he wanted to stop time completely until he could catch up with what he was missing out on. Johnny stood lost in thought watching Roy and Dan walk away.
“Johnny?” Dixie could see the subdued expression on Johnny’s face. Not getting a reaction, she tried again. “Johnny, are you okay?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, Dix. I’m fine, I’m just dandy.” Johnny had said it with more sarcasm than he had planned. Seeing the puzzled look on Dixie’s face, he knew he should explain. “Sorry, Dix. I appreciate the concern, but I’m doing good. Really. But I better go. See ya later!”
“Bye. Don’t be such a stranger around here!”
Doctor Brackett came up to Dixie soon after Johnny had left. She was sitting at her desk, a vacant expression on her face as she looked down the corridor. Brackett stepped in front of her to get her attention. “Hey…penny for your thoughts.”
“Hmmm? Oh…Johnny stopped by after his talk with you. He seems to be doing okay. Just something there… not quite sure what…but he isn’t quite himself.”
“Yeah, well, Dix, to be honest, I don’t think he’s doing as well as he wants everyone to think he is. Not emotionally anyway.”
“I don’t think Johnny’s fully prepared to accept it if he can’t return to being a paramedic again. And I’d say he’s kind of lost without his routine at the station.”
Although adapting to the changes wasn’t easy, time passed quickly for Johnny the next ten months. He kept busy with his new job and girlfriend. He had gone on four modeling stints with Elizabeth. Watching her in front of the camera, Johnny thought about what it might have been like to be in an ad modeling a wristwatch like Dixie had suggested. A smile played at the corners of his mouth. It would have been fun to rub it in to Chet. As it was now, he would just have to settle for being a spectator.
Working as an emergency dispatcher turned out to be beneficial to Johnny and many of the people he received calls from. He was able to use his medical knowledge assisting some callers who couldn’t wait until the fire department arrived to try to help a victim…they had a life and death situation on their hands and it was through Johnny’s help that the person survived. His people skills were a big contribution, as he could calm a person down who was frantic when they called in. It was a way for Johnny to feel like he was still making a difference in someone’s life…still helping people in need.
The police had been in contact with Johnny to wrap up the case on the assault in the bar. Johnny and Jeff Miller, the man whose jaw was broken in the bar that night, both were called on to testify in court the same day. Johnny had to explain about the changes the injury had made in his life. Having testified as a witness the day before, Captain Stanley sat in the back of the courtroom listening to Johnny’s words. After Johnny was finished and he walked out of the courtroom, Captain Stanley followed him out into the lobby.
“Hey, John. How’ve you been?”
Johnny turned around, surprised. “Oh, hey, Cap! How are ya?”
The men shook hands.
“Well, I’m fine. We’ve all been wondering about you.”
“I’m good, Cap. I’m doing all right.” Johnny held up his left hand. “Still dealing with the uncertainty here, but I’ve finally gotten to where I don’t think about it every day.”
“That’s good,” Captain Stanley nodded. “We’re all hoping you make it back. It’s been a long time since you’ve been by the station. Roy keeps us filled in, but still…”
“Yeah…well…it got kind of tough there. To face it, I mean. But I’m getting to where I can so I’ll stop by sometime.”
“I hope you do. Let us know if you need anything.”
“I will. Thanks, Cap.”
Johnny watched as Captain Stanley walked out the door of the courthouse. Feeling someone approaching from the right side, he turned to see who it was. Standing there was Jeff Miller…the man Johnny had inadvertently spared from further injury.
“So I heard you say in the court room you ain’t a fireman anymore?”
“Uh…yes and no. I’m working for the fire department as a dispatcher, but I’m not fighting any fires.” Johnny grinned. “Actually I was a paramedic. Mostly rescues and treating injured people.”
“Ah…that’s why you were at the bar that night. I was wonderin’ why the fire department was there, but I could a cared less then.”
“Hey…no one would blame you. After awhile, I didn’t care about too much myself.”
“Man, I’m sorry I never checked up to see how you were. I should have. Your arm saved my back. Even if you didn’t mean it to.”
Johnny laughed. “Oh hey. Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been injured on the job and I doubt it’ll be the last…well, if I get back to the job,” Johnny snorted. “Fire fighters know there’s risk involved on the job. If you meet one that says he doesn’t he’s either lying to you or is in the wrong profession.”
“Well, take it easy, man. I hope you get to fight fires again. Or rescue people.”
After talking to Jeff Miller and Captain Stanley, Johnny felt a new determination to succeed and get back to being a paramedic.
Sitting on the patio in Roy’s back yard, the men relaxed, drinking beers.
“You tired of your partner yet?” Johnny asked, teasing.
“If you’re telling me you’re ready to come back, yeah.” Roy looked over at Johnny with a quizzical expression.
“Nah…I’m not ready. Well, I’m ready, just my hand isn’t. But I will be back. Just wait and see.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt you will. Remember, I’m the one who said he’d put money on you making it back before two years.”
“This is true. You had more faith in me than I did.”
“I know you better than you do.”
“You probably do,” Johnny snickered. He picked up the soft rubber ball he was using for his physical therapy. Squeezing it, he glanced over at Roy. “You know what? If I get better for no other reason, it’ll be to get rid of this stupid ball.”
Laughing, Roy shook his head. “You may say that now, but I can see you later searching for the damn thing…not able to sleep or something till you find it. And driving the rest of us crazy in the meantime.”
“Me?” Johnny splayed his hand across his chest. “Get obsessed and drive everyone crazy?”
“Nobody does it better…”
“But that’s a good, thing, right?” Johnny asked.
“C’mon, Junior,” Roy chuckled, looking at his wristwatch. “It’s time for that college football game. Let’s go in and watch it.”
“Wait!” Johnny called as he got up to follow Roy into the house. “You never answered my question!”
Standing outside Doctor Richardson’s office, Johnny was anxious for the examination that would determine if he was ready to be re-certified as a paramedic. He reflected over the past eighteen months as he worked up the nerve to go inside.
All in all it had been a long haul. But now that it was nearing an end, it didn’t seem as bad. Johnny had learned some things about himself. For one, he could earn a living doing something other than being a paramedic and the world wouldn’t stop…the sun still rose, life kept on going full swing.
The other, Johnny realized that he was more independent than he gave himself credit for. Sure, he had faced major medical problems before…a monkey virus and a rattlesnake bite…both damn near killed him. But this injury was different. It wasn’t a quick fix and things were back as they should be. Nor was it an injury that caused him to be unconscious through most of it. Nope…this one he had to face head on when it happened and every day since. Circumstances forced him to get himself through this difficult time, and it strengthened him.
“Adversity builds character,” Mom used to say, Johnny thought to himself. And everyone knows moms are always right. Mom used to say that, too. A smile spread across his face at the memories of his mother.
Feeling a surge of confidence, Johnny opened the door and walked into the doctor’s office. He flexed his left hand, appreciating every finger movement…every sensation his hand could feel. Never again would he take his life, as he knew it, for granted. After the illnesses and injuries he had been through, Johnny knew too well it could all be taken away in an instant.
And now it was up to Doctor Richardson to determine if that instant Johnny was dreading had arrived. Johnny took a deep breath, then told the receptionist. “I’m John Gage. I have a 2:00 appointment with the doctor.”
It was Johnny’s first day back at work since his accident twenty-one months before. The crew had thrown him a welcome back party at Roy’s house on Saturday. Now the two paramedics were partners again…it seemed like old times, as they got ready for their shift to begin.
Johnny stood in front of his locker changing his shirt while Roy sat on the bench tying his shoes.
Roy stared at the scar on Johnny’s wrist and forearm. “Too bad you never got to do your hand modeling gig.”
“Well, I…it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” Johnny shifted on his feet, uncomfortable with the topic of discussion. “Hey, you gonna let me drive the squad today?”
“Huh? Oh…sure, if you’re up to it. But what do you mean it’s not all it’s cracked up to be? Did you model after all?”
“Well…I…nothin’…I didn’t mean anything. I just…I just don’t wanna talk about modeling again.”
“It bothers you that much?” Roy was surprised. Sure Johnny could be sensitive, but over not forging a career as a hand model? Roy could hardly imagine that was the case.
“Well…yeah, it does. Besides, sometimes we do things we want to forget.”
Roy eyed Johnny suspiciously. “What did you do?”
“Nothin’…just forget it.”
The door to the locker room flew open as Chet bounded into the room, looking like the cat that ate the canary.
“Hey, Gage! Guess what I got in the mail yesterday!”
Johnny barely gave Chet a glance while buttoning his uniform shirt. “What?”
“A mail order catalog. You know…one with things like tuxedo printed t-shirts, umbrella hats, banana ears.” He leaned toward Johnny as he named the last item.
“Don’t say it, Chet!”
Chet grinned. “Say what?”
“You know what. I’m telling you right now, Kelly, button your lip.”
“Or what, Gage? You’ll bean me with a plastic banana?”
Roy was looking at the two men in confusion. “What’s going on?”
“Well, our boy here did some modeling while he was out after all.”
“Chet, I mean it!” Johnny warned.
Chet opened the small catalog, holding it so Roy could see. He yanked it back as Johnny tried to grab it.
“What’s the matter, Gage…don’t you want to show off your other endeavors?”
Roy leaned over Chet, and looked at the picture in the catalog. There was a photo of Johnny with a plastic banana sticking straight out of each ear. Part of the headband that connected the two plastic bananas could be seen on the top of Johnny’s head. Roy’s eyes widened as he turned to look at his partner.
“Banana ears? You modeled banana ears? For a catalog?”
Johnny grimaced, shrugging. “Well…Elizabeth took me on some modeling gigs with her and one thing led to another…Roy, the woman is gorgeous! How could I say no?”
“No. But I think we’ve been through this before.” Roy shook his head. “Banana ears?”
Johnny sat down on the edge of his locker, dejected. “Well…it was months ago…I --oh forget it.” Johnny rested his chin on his right hand.
“Hey, how are things with Elizabeth?” Roy asked.
“Oh, we broke up weeks ago. She got sent to New York on an assignment.”
Chet slapped Roy on the back while waving the magazine in the air. “See, Roy? It’s just like I told ya. Girls come and go, but the pigeon? He just keeps coming back for more.”
“Well, Chester B., coming back for more isn’t so bad when a guy is five hundred bucks richer.”
“Whatta ya’ mean five hundred bucks richer?”
Johnny smiled while tapping the little glossy photo of himself. “I made five hundred dollars off that picture.”
“Get out!” Chet stared down at the silly photograph.
“It’s the truth. The entire shoot didn’t take more than fifteen minutes, and I made five hundred bucks.” Johnny gave his Smokey Bear poster two taps, then shut his locker door. He grinned at Chet as he headed toward the apparatus bay. “So now just who’s the pigeon around here, Chet?”
Chet stared at the departing Johnny a moment, then turned to Roy. “Is he telling the truth? Did he really get paid five hundred dollars for letting some photographer take this stupid picture?”
Roy shrugged. “If he says he did, then I imagine that’s the truth. First of all, Johnny doesn’t lie. And second of all, I did see some new camping gear and fishing tackle in the back of his Rover the other day that’s probably worth about--”
“Don’t tell me, let me guess. Five hundred dollars.”
“I’d say that’s about right, Chet.”
Chet looked down at the catalog one last time, then took off running toward the apparatus bay.
“Gage! Hey, Gage! Wait up! Gage, do ya’ think you can get me a pair of those banana ears?”
Roy chuckled at his two coworkers. He was glad to see things back to normal. Yep…everything’s going to be okay, partner.
Thanks go to Kenda for all the help and encouragement she gave me on this story. And thanks to Pat for a lot of help in getting this to a complete work. If there are any medical errors they are mine. And although he’ll probably never see this, a BIG thank you to my brother who in 1979 had this injury happen to his hand in a bar fight…he put up with me grilling him about it again. LOL And I am happy to say that about 18 months after it happened to him, his hand was fully functional again.