By Audrey W.
John Gage rummaged through his locker at Station 51 in search of the bottle of aspirin he kept handy in the event of a headache. Though it wasn’t exactly his head that was aching this time, he sure needed relief from the growing throbbing pain in his lower jaw. A tooth was giving him problems, mostly since his shift had started six hours earlier, and he was ready for a break from the somewhat still tolerable pain.
“Find it yet?”
The dark-haired paramedic glanced over his shoulder at his partner, Roy DeSoto. Without taking his head from the interior of his locker, he replied, “Not yet. Man, I know I had some in here. It’s a red and white bottle.”
“Well, let me give you some of mine.”
Roy stepped over to his locker that was next to Gage’s and opened it. In the meantime, Johnny stood up straight, his hands on his hips, as he stared at his still open locker. He furrowed his brow, his lips pursed, as he pondered on the whereabouts of his aspirin.
“It couldn’ta’ walked away on its own,” he mumbled. "Maybe I took it home . . ."
Roy grabbed a bottle of aspirin in his locker and was about to hand it over when the tones sounded, followed by, “Squad 51, child down, 3244 West Palm Street, three two four four West Palm Street, time out 14:05.”
Roy tossed the bottle back in his locker and the two men scrambled out of the locker room and toward their squad.
A distraught man came out of the house at the address of the call and he anxiously explained the situation as the two firemen grabbed the equipment they’d need from the squad compartments.
“Our daughter’s been crying a lot with teething and all, so my wife put some of that stuff . . .you know, gel for pain relief from toothaches. . .on her gums. Next thing she knew, Polly was unconscious. Patty yelled to me in the back yard and by the time I got in, Polly wasn't breathing. I told Patty to call for you guys while I resuscitated our daughter.”
With the biophone, oxygen and drug box in their hands, the paramedics quickly followed him up the sidewalk.
Before they reached the front door, the frantic mother came out, the diaper-clad baby with a pink blanket draped loosely around her in her arms.
“She still isn’t herself yet,” she offered, tears in her eyes and fear in her voice.
Johnny and Roy rushed to the pair, the former taking Polly gently from the mother’s arms after handing the biophone off to the father with, “Take this.” He gave a quick glance at his partner. “Roy, she’s cyanotic.”
Though the baby was awake and breathing on her own, the blue tinge around her mouth indicated she still wasn’t getting enough oxygen in her system.
The group hurried into the home, where the worried parents stayed back as Johnny laid the baby on a couch just inside near the doorway. He immediately reached for the oxygen Roy had brought in. His partner took the biophone from the father and set it up to contact Rampart.
“How old is she?”
“She turned one last Saturday,” the father informed Roy.
“Rampart, this is Squad 51.”
“Go ahead, 51,” came Nurse Dixie McCall’s reply.
“Rampart, we have a female victim, twelve months of age. . .”
As Roy reported what they knew so far, including that they had the girl on four liters of O2, Johnny asked, “Has she ever had a reaction to the medication before?”
Both parents shook their heads as the father answered with, “No. We haven’t used it much recently, but it’s always been okay when we have.”
“Any prior medical conditions you’re aware of?”
Again, both assured there weren’t.
The dark-haired paramedic quickly gathered Polly’s vital signs, all the while reassuring the youngster with a soothing tone in hopes of keeping her from being afraid. He passed the information on to Roy as he went. The senior paramedic jotted down, then gave the numbers to the doctor that had joined Dixie at the base station. He also informed them that Polly’s color had returned to normal.
“51, is the ambulance there?”
“51, continue administering O2, monitor closely and transport as soon as possible.”
“10-4, Rampart. Continue O2, monitor closely and transport as soon as possible.”
It wasn’t long before the ambulance arrived and the baby was wailing when it did. It looked like the paramedics' biggest problem was going to be calming her down for the ambulance ride. But that was a problem both welcomed under the circumstances.
Johnny and Roy watched as Doctor Early, with the assistance of Dixie, examined Polly. They’d gotten her there without further incident and it seemed as though all would end okay.
“Are the parents here yet?” Early questioned over more fussy cries from the baby.
“I’m sure they are. I’ll go gettum,” Roy offered, then he stepped out of the room.
“Man, to think a simple thing like medicine for teething could’ve cost the kid her life.”
“Well, everything points to that, Johnny, but we won’t know for certain till we hear back from the lab to see if there could be any other factors. However, there have been reports of Benzocaine, an ingredient in the ‘Pain Away’ gel, to have side effects that cause complications like with what happened to Polly. Even with doses recommended in the instructions, sometimes with a one-time use. In children and adults, though the latter is more rare.”
Johnny raised his eyebrows in surprise and rubbed his jaw where his own tooth was giving him a bit of a reminder he still needed relief himself. “Yeah. . .? Adults, too?”
Early finished with his overall examination of the baby and stepped back as Dixie worked to calm the little patient down more.
“It’s called Methmoglobinemia,” he explained to Gage. “But it’s also known as ‘the blue baby syndrome’ since they usually have blue-tinged skin from the lack of oxygen, like with Polly here. It’s also been determined to be the cause of SIDS in some cases.”
“Can the symptoms be as severe in an adult?”
The door to the room opened and Roy peeked in. “Do you want everyone in now?”
Early nodded in response to Roy's question. “Sure.” He glanced at the no longer crying, but teary eyed and sniveling child. Dixie held her in her arms, the pink blanket wrapped around Polly much more securely, as she tried to comfort her more.
“I think someone is more than ready to see her mommy and daddy.” As the others entered, the doctor quickly explained to Johnny, “From what I’ve come across, an adult’ll have a headache, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath and sometimes lightheadedness . . . a few months ago a woman was brought in unconscious from it. Unfortunately not everyone thinks to call or go for medical help if they haven’t overdosed on a medication. That can lead to complications or permanent damage.”
Johnny watched as Early went over to discuss Polly’s improved condition and circumstances with her parents. As he listened to the doctor say he was still waiting on a couple of lab reports before he could give them a more certain diagnosis and would like to keep Polly overnight for observation, Johnny caught Roy waving to him out of his peripheral vision.
After a brief ‘see ya later’ and ‘bye’, and a couple of smiles at the baby, the two slipped out and headed for the exit. Johnny told Roy what the doctor had explained to him as they made their way to the squad outside.
“So I take it you don’t wanna stop by the store and pick up some ‘Pain Away’ for your toothache on the way back to the station.”
“Man, you got that right. With what I know now, it would be anything but a relief.”
This was inspired by my own recent experience with a Maximum Strength Orajel medication. I followed the directions and almost immediately after putting some on a tooth and the gum around it, I felt like I was going to drop unconscious, along with a couple of other scary symptoms (but I didn’t go to the ER and was okay eventually). So I later researched the subject online to see if anyone else had had a reaction to the stuff and discovered the answer was yes. I am not saying don’t use an Orajel medication, though I myself will never use one while alone ever again. I just wanted to make people aware of what can happen. Just be careful, as the label says nothing about this kind of stuff on it.
I know that in reality this information used was not known in the 1970s, but for story purposes was. :o) If you want to know more, including more of the symptoms, I obtained much of my information here: http://orajellawsuit.com/ But there are numerous articles available on it.
Don't worry about feedback on this story. This story is only to increase awareness.