It Only Takes a Few Seconds

By Audrey W.




“Squad 51, possible drowning, 2115 West Ash Street, two one one five West Ash Street, time out 11:21.”


It was the type of call they’d hoped they wouldn’t get again. The paramedics rushed to their truck from the rear lot of the station, where they’d been involved in a game of basketball with the engine crew, and quickly climbed in. They immediately donned their helmets before Roy DeSoto took the slip of paper with the information on it from his captain, then handed it to his partner, John Gage, simultaneously as he put the squad into gear.


John jotted down the time on the paper, then stuck it up in the sun visor in front of him.


“I hope it’s not another kid.”


Roy just nodded, a sick feeling in his gut.


In the past three weeks, the paramedics had already responded to a near drowning of a toddler and two others that didn’t survive. The deaths of an 18 month old boy and a two year old girl in those incidents were more than either man could cope with on their own. They’d both sought out counseling with a grief specialist within the department.


Now as they raced to the scene, they could only hold on to hope that the old saying, ‘bad things happen in threes’ wasn’t going to prove true.




Once on scene, the paramedics scrambled from the squad and quickly grabbed the equipment from the compartments. Two frantic women came running from an open tall wooden gate that led to a backyard.


“Oh my God, please hurry! Hurry!” one woman cried.


The other shouted, “He’s not breathing! Hurry!”


With not a second to spare, the men dashed toward the open gate with their supplies in hand, the women struggling to get out more of an explanation between breaths as they ran behind.




John immediately set the equipment down and got to his knees beside the soaked little three year old boy lying near the in-ground pool, Roy’s actions mirroring his.


“Get back!” John stated firmly to another woman who’d been trying to do CPR in her own fashion. She did as requested and he checked the child for a pulse and breaths. He shook his head with a quick glance up at Roy who was setting up the biophone.


The dark-haired paramedic thumped the child’s chest with just enough pressure, then set to performing CPR while Roy contacted Rampart.


C’mon, c’mon, John thought as he continued the life-saving efforts. He was rewarded when he paused to check for a pulse and found one.


The paramedics set the child up on oxygen to aid his struggling lungs in breathing.  


“How long was he in the water?” Roy asked.


The mother of the boy, who was one of the women that came to the front yard, shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said, fear gripping her voice. “Maybe five. . .six minutes? Maybe longer? I don’t know! I lost track of him. . .we were playing bridge and I noticed the house seemed too quiet and. . .” her voice broke into a sob. “I don’t know,” she cried.


John met eyes with Roy. It was the same story with each near or actual drowning they’d responded to. A child missing, but not noticed until an unfortunate situation had occurred.


Soon the boy was whisked away to Rampart, John in the ambulance with him while Roy followed behind in the squad.




At Rampart, John and Roy sat in the doctors’ lounge blankly watching TV as they waited for word on the little boy.


Head Nurse Dixie McCall entered and glanced solemnly at the two saddened men on the couch.


“You saved him. You did as much as you could.”


“Yeah, we saved him,” John agreed. “For now. But will he be all right?”


She sighed. There was no answer for that.


“I think people figure this kind of stuff'll never happen to them,” Roy stated. “They don’t pay enough attention to what their kids are up to while they're doing their own thing."


“And,” John put in, “they seem to think that just because we save someone, life goes on like nothing happened. That they get the same person back.”


Suddenly the HT crackled to life with, “Squad 51, what is your status?”


Roy brought the radio up to his mouth and keyed the mic. “Squad 51, available.”


After a brief pause, “Squad 51, dog bite victim, 3265 North Ladden Street, three two six five North Ladden Street, time out 12:15.”


As both men got to their feet, Roy acknowledged, “Squad 51, 10-4.”


“See ya later, Dix,” John said as he went out the door.


“See ya,” Roy chimed in as he followed.


“Okay.” She gave a small smile toward the two heroes she’d come to know so well.




Six months later, John and Roy went to see how the three year old boy was doing since his near drowning. After two days of touch and go in the beginning, it was a miracle to them that he had even pulled through. Now they had been invited to visit the child they’d given a second chance at life to.


His mother and father led them into his bedroom where he was in a crib. There he laid, his head lolled to the side as he grunted and looked out at the visitors, his little arms moving on occasion.


“They said there’s a chance he’ll be able to talk someday,” the father explained. “He may never walk, but he’s a fighter just to be here, so we have hope.”


John and Roy had to hold onto that hope too.


Lives changed forever . . .and it could happen to anyone in a matter of seconds.




This came to me today after thinking about four little toddlers that drowned this week in this area. All four were in the same city, thus the same fire dept had to respond and the poor guys are really affected by it. So I guess this is my way of dealing with the news.



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