By Audrey W.
John Gage and Roy DeSoto entered the apartment they’d been dispatched to for a ‘man down’ situation. As with many calls, they would have to wait until they saw the victim before they could be sure exactly what they were up against.
It was an early Spring Tuesday morning during 1974, just after five o’clock, and the paramedics from Station 51 had been woken by the sound of the klaxons. They’d quickly donned their turnout pants and boots, then hurried out to the apparatus bay where they put their blue jackets on over their white t-shirts and suspenders. Very soon they’d been on their way in the squad.
“He’s over there,” the forty-year-old woman said, pointing toward a man in flannel plaid pajamas lying on his back on a gold and brown floral print couch. It was up against the wall at one end of the room. “It’s my husband Ken.”
“What’s wrong with ‘im?” Johnny asked as he and Roy made their way over.
She shrugged, her pink stain quilted robe moving slightly with the gesture. “I don’t know. He woke me up, complaining that his chest hurt. . .his stomach’s upset. He said he’d been out here awhile, waiting to see if it would go away before he came and got me.”
“Does he have any history of heart trouble?’ Roy wondered.
“No,” she said with a shake of her head.
“What’s his name?”
Marcia Miller kept a concerned gaze on her husband as the paramedics quickly set their supplies down near the couch, then immediately went to work in evaluating the situation. Right away they noticed perspiration on the man’s face.
“Police? She called. . . the police?” Ken asked as he tried to get up.
Roy assured the man while he gently held him in place, “We’re not cops. We’re paramedics with the LA County Fire Department. My name is Roy DeSoto, this is my partner John Gage.” He motioned toward the younger man with his head.
“I told you I was calling for help.”
“Well, excuse me. . .Marcia. . .but I’m kind of. . .distracted here to know exactly. . .what you meant.”
Johnny gently grasped Ken’s left wrist. “Skin’s clammy,” he informed. He then eyed his watch as he counted the pulse rate.
In the meantime, with their patient seemingly short of breath, Roy grabbed the oxygen canister they’d brought in and pulled it closer. He then took the mask in hand and placed it over Ken’s nose and mouth. He adjusted the flow as Johnny let go of Ken’s wrist.
“Pulse is 70.”
Gage next grabbed the bp cuff and secured it around Ken’s left arm before pumping it up, then waited for a reading.
“Have you felt sick at all prior to this?” Roy asked. “Maybe eaten something that didn’t agree with you, like spicy food?”
During the reply, her gaze had darted nervously from him to her husband and back to Roy again.
DeSoto set up the biophone to contact Rampart General Hospital.
“BP is 140/100,” Johnny announced.
Miller’s blood pressure was a little high, but everything else was within the normal range so far. However, they couldn’t ignore the reported chest pains and other symptoms. Though some could be in relation to stress over another, they couldn’t assume that.
“Rampart, this is Squad 51. How do you copy?”
“Go ahead, 51,” came Doctor Brackett’s response. “We read you loud and clear.”
“Rampart we have a male approximately--” Roy looked up to the wife for an answer.
“Forty-five. He’s forty-five.”
“Uh, aged forty-five,” he continued, then went on to relay the information they had.
While Roy supplied all the details, Johnny opened Ken’s pajama shirt wider to place EKG patches on his chest.
“We’re gonna hook you up to a monitor we have here and see what’s going on with your heart.”
Ken nodded as his gaze shifted nervously from Johnny to Roy.
“Who’s he . . .talking to?” he asked, his voice muffled by the mask.
“That’s a doctor at Rampart General Hospital. We report what we have here and the doctor tells us what we need to do on this end. It’s the next best thing to bein’ right there with ‘im,” he assured with a crooked grin. With the patches in place, he connected the leads so they could get Ken’s heart rate on the data scope. “This way you get the care you need sooner.”
“Pretty far out,” Ken admitted.
Johnny smiled, then waited as Roy again spoke to Brackett.
“This’ll be lead two.”
The paramedics waited as the doctor read the EKG strip provided on the other end of the line. It wasn’t long before he confirmed what they’d seen.
“51, I read normal sinus rhythm. Is the patient still in pain?”
“Has your pain subsided at all?” Roy asked.
Ken shook his head.
“That’s an affirmative, Rampart.”
“10-4, 51. Administer an IV normal saline, keep the victim on four liters of O2, continue to monitor vitals and transport as soon as possible.”
Roy disconnected everything from the biophone and closed it up. He and Johnny could hear the distant sound of a siren. They figured it had to be the ambulance.
“Is it a heart attack?” Marcia wondered.
“His heart looks okay so far,” Johnny answered, now on his feet, his hands resting on his hips. “But they’ll need to do some tests at the hospital to know more.” He looked to his partner. “I’ll go meet the ambulance.”
Roy glanced at the scope that was still hooked up to Ken and rubbed his chin in thought. He just hoped things wouldn’t suddenly go sour. Unfortunately, he’d soon find out sour was an understatement.
Once the ambulance crew and Johnny were in the apartment, the paramedics helped to lift and secure Ken on the stretcher. Covered with blanket up to his chin, the straps over him, he was wheeled out into the main hallway while Roy followed right behind with the IV bag in hand. The data scope and oxygen tank were on the stretcher alongside Ken.
Johnny finished gathering up the equipment and secured the drug box shut. He got up from a squatted position and noticed Ken’s wife at the opposite end of the room. She had just gotten up from a brown-colored rocker recliner after making a quick phone call.
“Do you have a way to the hospital?” Johnny asked as he headed away from the couch and toward the center of the room. “Because you can ride in the front of the ambulance if you want to.”
“That was a friend of ours. She’s going to give me a lift after we’re both dressed.”
Suddenly a loud blast was heard from the apartment next door. Almost simultaneously, a hole busted through the wall just inches to the side of Marcia. She scrambled away so fast, she nearly lost her footing.
At the same instant he saw Marcia start to run, Johnny felt a sudden blow to his midsection. The force was enough to knock him to the gold shag-carpeted floor, where he landed on his back.
He was so taken by surprise at the turn of events, that he didn’t even realize he was no longer holding onto the drug box that had been in his hand. It was now a couple of feet away from him in its side.
Roy was about to climb up in the back of the ambulance to wait for Johnny to bring out the rest of the equipment he’d need to take with him, when he heard a faint blast from within the building.
What in the hell? Was that a gun shot?
Johnny hadn't emerged from the building yet . . .
An uneasy feeling grew to full blown worry when Marcia suddenly came running out the main entrance of the complex.
“You’ve got to help your partner! He’s been shot!”
In that instance, Roy had to make a choice.
Protocol was that once an IV was started on a victim, the paramedic on scene had to accompany that victim in the ambulance to the hospital. Ken’s condition was stable, though he still claimed to be having chest pains. It wasn’t all that far to Rampart, he should be okay. Gage, on the other hand, could be critical.
With that split-second reasoning in place, he moved.
“Request a police response, Engine 51 and another ambulance, and go on without me,” he directed the attendants.
Roy grabbed the trauma box from the squad and took off in a sprint to where Marcia was antsy in waiting.
Roy scrambled up the indoor steps with Marcia close behind.
“What happened?” He asked as they hurried to the second floor.
He followed her into the still open doorway as she explained, “We were just talking about how I’d get to the hospital. . .and it came right through the wall!”
Johnny was just in the process of lying back down after having propped himself up enough to see he’d been injured. He wasn’t in pain, thus had no idea at first he was actually hurt. By some stroke of luck, his left arm was still extended from when he'd referred to the ambulance for transportation when the shot was fired, thus sparing it injury.
He glanced over toward the arrivals, still in disbelief at the turn of events.
A man came in behind Roy and Marcia, peering nervously around.
“Did it hit anyone?” he asked, fearful of what he was going to find out.
It was becoming clearer to Roy what had happened.
When the man saw that it indeed had, he swore, then apologized over and over. “I didn’t mean to. I really didn’t. It was an accident. I was getting my shotgun into its case . . .to go hunting with the guys. . .when it went off. Guess I forgot ta put the safety on, you know?”
Roy was already squatted beside Gage, the trauma box set on the floor nearby. He looked up sharply, then glanced at his partner again.
A spray of numerous pellets had slammed into the left front of his torso. Some had to have failed to go through his turnout pants and were scattered on the carpeted floor nearby. Many had penetrated him just above the waistline, leaving tiny holes and small bloody stains on his white shirt and blue jacket. It was about a six inch diameter partial circular pattern. Had he been standing further away, the spread of damage would have been wider. It was likely because they were meaty wounds that he was spared the pain.
Roy caught sight of the quarter sized hole in the wall across the room. Small pieces of drywall material hung loosely from the edges of the uneven shape.
“I’m. . .okay,” Johnny offered, but he wasn’t sure if he said that for his own benefit or Roy’s. “It’s not. . .as bad as it looks. . .I don’ think. . .” he added, still somewhat breathless from the shock. Sweat was beading up on his forehead.
“You’re not ‘okay’,” Roy informed him as he took a closer look at the wounds.
“I need a landline,” he said to Marcia. “I need you to dial the hospital from your phone.” Roy quickly pulled a small note pad out of his shirt pocket and jotted down the phone number. He tore the top piece of paper off and handed it to her.
She gave a nod and hurried to the telephone.
“I’m real sorry,” the man who’d accidentally fired the gun stated, still in quite bit of shock himself.
But Roy didn’t have time to address him. He had his partner to worry about. However, Gage seemed more worried about someone else.
“Roy. . .Mister Miller. . .”
“He’s on his way to Rampart.”
Johnny’s bewildered look at the answer had Roy explaining, “I had to break protocol. Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.”
He sure hoped so. He also hoped he was a better liar than the younger paramedic, because for the moment, everything was anything but ‘okay’.
“Man. . .Roy. . .tell me I’m dreamin’.”
“I wish I could. Believe me, I wish I could.”
On the way in the ambulance, one attendant monitored Ken’s condition in the back of the vehicle while the other handled the task of driving. So far there was no change in the victim. They hoped that Johnny hadn’t been gravely injured by the shooter.
Both attendants wondered how much trouble Roy would be in, if any at all, for sending them on without him.
The one with Ken picked up the biophone handset and contacted Rampart.
Marcia handed the receiver to Roy as soon as a nurse answered the phone on the other end.
“Betty, it’s Roy DeSoto.”
The night shift head nurse took a quick glance at Doctor Brackett, who was in the process of answering a call over the radio at the base station from someone other than one of their paramedic teams. She suddenly felt alarm when it occurred to her she might be about to find out why.
“Go ahead,” she told Roy.
The police officer arrived at the scene as Roy gave a run down on the situation to Rampart, including Johnny’s vitals.
The paramedic could hear the shooter explaining what happened with fear in his voice.
“Where’s DeSoto?” Brackett questioned when the ambulance attendant updated him on the patient in transport. “An IV was started on the victim by him, he’s required to accompany the victim in.”
“Doctor Brackett.” Betty handed him the information she’d gotten from Roy on the landline. “John Gage was shot. Roy’s with him.”
The doctor stared at her a brief second in surprise, then took the paper from her. In the same instance he took a glance at what she’d written down. Roy could not estimate the depth of penetration from the pellets. The only thing he knew for sure was that it was number seven and a half birdshot that came through the wall, traveling a distance of approximately twelve feet beyond before hitting his partner.
The ambulance attendant was still explaining the situation when Brackett briskly cut the explanation over the radio off with, “10-4. Just get him here as soon as possible. And let me know if there’s any change in his condition.”
“So their possible heart attack victim is on his way in with just the ambulance crew,” he commented as he accepted the telephone receiver from the nurse, a stern expression on his face. “I don’t like it. If that victim’s condition turns sour along the way. . .” He trailed off, as she didn’t need to be told what would happen. Both the fire department and Rampart could be sued, but it could go farther than that. They could lose one of their best paramedics in the field since Roy made the call on his own.
But for now those thoughts would have to be shoved to the side. He was equally concerned about John Gage.
“51, has he lost much blood?” Brackett inquired as he once again studied the information Betty had written down.
“Negative, Rampart. Bleeding has been minimal.”
“Is he in a lot of pain?”
“No, not yet anyway.”
He was directed to start an IV and administer oxygen, followed by the question, “Is the second ambulance on scene?”
“Negative, Rampart. On the ambulance and the oxygen. Engine 51 is still in route with the O2.”
The doctor glanced at his assistant.
“Betty, check on the status of that ambulance. . .”
“Right,” she said as she stepped away.
The doctor dropped the formalities on the phone. “Roy, Betty is checking on the ambulance’s status now. It should be there soon, I’m sure."
“10-4. And it sounds like the engine crew just arrived.”
Brackett wasn’t going to bring up the fact he knew that despite the cause, he was going to have to reprimand Roy for breaking protocol regarding sending the first victim in with an IV started and no paramedic. Especially since he’d done so without even a heads-up to him, the presiding doctor over the rescue.
A check from Betty revealed that the second ambulance had had a slight delay, but was in free travel once again. It would be on scene as soon as possible.
Roy had his partner’s jacket off, t-shirt cut open was just about to start the IV when the crew from Engine 51 entered the apartment.
“How’d this happen?” Hank Stanley asked once he saw his downed paramedic. He glanced around for a visual answer, but didn’t get any till Roy pointed toward the hole in the wall as Marco handed him the oxygen canister from their engine supplies.
“The guy said he was using number seven and a half birdshot,” Roy explained. “It didn’t do as much damage as buckshot would’ve. I think that having to pass through a wall with likely a four-inch space in between both sides played a part in minimizing the damage to an extent, too.”
With the oxygen set, Roy was tending to the wounds as best he could before he'd apply sterile bandaging.
Chet walked over to examine the hole closely while Gage looked up at Hank’s concerned face.
“Cap, ‘m okay.”
“Yeah, I know. You’re fine. I get it.” He glanced knowingly at Roy, then returned his gaze to his younger paramedic. “We just want to keep you that way.”
Neither thought Johnny could disagree with that point, and he didn’t.
Roy turned his head to see the shooter lead the officer out of the room and likely to his apartment. It was possible the man was going to have to spend some amount of time in custody, at least until the cops could get the incident all figured out. Despite his partner suffering, he felt pity for the other. It really didn’t appear to be a case where malice was involved. He believed what the man said and it was obvious he was shaken over the whole thing. Very often these kind of incidents were traumatic for all involved to some extent and he wished they didn’t have to be.
Once as they had Johnny in the ambulance, Roy climbed up inside. Hank and Marco placed the boxes he’d need inside on the floor. Chet waited inside the squad, ready to drive it to Rampart.
“We’ll pick up Kelly at the hospital,” the captain explained. “You can drive the squad back to the station as soon as you’re ready. I’m standing it down until B-shift takes over later.”
Roy gave a nod. “Thanks, Cap.”
“Just take care of John.”
He closed the doors and gave them one slap to indicate they were secure. The ambulance pulled away, then Chet followed immediately behind.
Roy helped to transfer Johnny from the stretcher to the exam table. A nurse quickly hung the IV on a pole beside it while Roy switched the oxygen from theirs to one belonging to the hospital. Away from the table, he handed the other to Chet when the fireman came into the room not much later. Both men watched as Doctor Early, who’d just recently come on duty, worked on their colleague. Brackett and Betty were still with the possible heart attack victim when Johnny was brought in.
Chet had absently accepted the greenish case, his attention on Johnny. The paramedic was laid out on the table, his wounds now uncovered and his open t-shirt bunched down to the sides.
“Man, how're they gonna get all those things out?” He questioned Roy in a hushed tone.
“They'll have to surgically remove them.”
Both felt bad for their colleague having to go through more, and the permanent marks that would be left behind. Over time they might fade, but there'd always be traces of scars at the very least.
“Man, talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. . .”
“Tell me about it,” Roy agreed.
Thinking about where he’d been when the gun fired reminded Roy there was someone he needed to get an update on. Ken Miller. He hoped like hell that the situation with him hadn’t taken a turn for the worse. As soon as Chet left the room to meet up with the engine crew, DeSoto made his inquiry.
Chet hadn’t wanted to leave. He much preferred to stay and find out exactly how Gage was going to fair. But the fireman knew the captain would be waiting for him since they needed to be available as soon as possible for the remainder of the shift.
He’d no sooner made his way out into the corridor when Captain Stanley, Marco and Mike came around the corner near the emergency entrance. He walked past a couple of nurses and a candy striper, just slightly taking notice of them as he headed toward the others, the oxygen case in his right hand.
“How’s John?” Hank asked as soon as Chet approached.
The fireman glanced over his left shoulder toward the treatment rooms, then turned to face the superior officer again. “He’s about the same, Cap.”
“What a lousy start to a day.”
Chet nodded. It sure was.
Hank directed his men to go back out to the engine, but stayed back himself when he saw a nurse come out of one of the rooms. He hoped she could be of help.
“I’ll be with you guys in a minute.”
He wanted to see how the original victim of the call was doing since it was his senior paramedic who’d had to let him go unaccompanied. If things weren’t going so well, there could be a whole new set of problems to address with headquarters and the hospital.
“Doc, any word on Mister Miller? The possible heart attack victim I sent in?”
Early looked at Roy. It was obvious he knew something about what had happened.
Even in his own miserable state, Johnny waited anxiously for an answer as well.
“Kel’s running tests on him now to pin point what’s going on, but he doubts it’s even a mild heart attack,” Early explained to both. “That’s all I can tell you at the moment. I haven't heard anything more since awhile ago.”
Johnny turned his head to the side to see Roy’s reaction. A somber expression on his face, he exchanged a glance with Johnny before shifting his gaze to the floor with a sigh. It was good news and bad at the same time.
What if it’s something even *more* serious wrong with him?
“Nurse!” Hank called out.
Betty turned to face the source of the voice. She paused a moment as he approached.
“I . . .uh. . .I wondered if you could give me any information on a victim. The one Roy DeSoto had to send in earlier. I’m Captain Stanley, with Station 51.”
She gave a sympathetic smile. It was clear he was concerned both about Mr. Miller and the fact his senior paramedic could be in trouble. But due to hospital protocol she could only offer so much. There was no sense in two of them taking chances with their career over the same patient.
“All I can tell you is that he’s no worse off than he was when he came in. Which is a good thing, since he was stable. But the symptoms are still pretty much the same. If I say anymore than that, I’ll be right beside Roy in Doctor Brackett’s office.”
Hank gave a slight nod. “No, there’s no need. I don’t need to know more than that.” He eyed her a moment, then offered, “DeSoto was just doing what any fireman is trained to do; we watch each other’s back in a dangerous situation.”
“You don’t have to convince me,” she assured. “We all know how special these guys are.” This time she gave a warm smile. “You can bet Roy’s got a lot of medical professionals who’ll have his back here, trust me. But Doctor Brackett has to verbally reprimand him at the very least. We just have to hope that’ll be enough.”
He sure hoped it would be. But somehow he thought he might’ve felt a little better if another nurse, one who was close to his paramedics and knew them really well, was there. But unfortunately, Dixie McCall wasn’t anywhere in sight.
Roy came out of the treatment room just after Captain Stanley had left. He saw Betty go into the other room with a blue tinted glass jar in her right hand. Though it was tempting to follow behind to see exactly how Mr. Miller was, he figured it was in his best interest to stay clear of Brackett until the doctor requested to see him.
He looked toward a waiting area and saw Marcia, this time in street clothes. She noticed him at the same time and waved him over to where she and her friend were seated.
Once the doctors knew what they were up against with Johnny, the dark-haired paramedic was almost on his way up to surgery. X-rays taken showed the pellets were imbedded deep in his skin tissue. The initial passage through the wall in the building had contributed to the damage being less than it would have been otherwise, just as Roy had suggested earlier.
“The entry point of the pellets are only a few millimeters. Unfortunately, we may need to cut most of them to a few centimeters each to extract the small pieces. It’s going to be a long drawn out tedious process. But I’d rather not leave any in you.”
“Doc, believe me. Neither would I,” Johnny agreed.
Still seated in the waiting area with Marcia Miller, Roy got to his feet and trotted down the corridor when he saw the gurney with Gage on it brought out by a couple of orderlies to go to the elevator.
“Hey,” he said to the wounded man when he caught up. “I’ll see you later.”
Roy figured he must still look worried when Johnny told him, “Roy. . .it’ll be okay, man.”
The senior paramedic nodded slightly. “I know things could’ve been a whole lot worse.”
“Hang in there,” Johnny said as the elevator doors opened.
“Yeah, you too.”
After his partner was inside the elevator and the doors closed, Roy stood with his gaze on them a moment then looked sharply to the left when he heard his name called out by Doctor Brackett. It was time to ‘face the music’.
As he was taken into surgery, Johnny was still more concerned about Roy than himself. He knew he was going to be okay, aside from a peppered appearing abdomen. But that would be nothing compared to what his partner and friend would be dealing with. He’d seen Roy go through the possibility of having to leave the paramedic program before. It ate at both of them then and surely would now.
His wounds would heal, but if Roy was forced to step away from being a paramedic, his would be a gaping one that no one could physically see; one that would leave a massive scar.
Kel Brackett took a seat behind the desk in his office and motioned for Roy to sit down in a chair in front of it.
“That’s okay,” he declined.
His brows furrowed, the doctor leaned forward and rested his forearms on his desk, his hand clasped together.
“I know I don’t have to tell you the chance you took by sending Mr. Miller on without a paramedic.”
Roy shook his head.
“And I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of protocol when an IV has been started on a victim.”
“Do I need to remind you of how fragile the paramedic program can become if we get a lawsuit against us because of it?”
Roy again shook his head and firmly replied, “No.”
Brackett pushed back his chair and got to his feet. He came around to the front of his desk and sat partially on the left corner, his left foot still on the floor, arms folded.
“I know you did what you felt you had to do--”
“Doc, Johnny was supposed to be close behind me with the rest of the supplies. When he didn’t come out and I heard the shot. . .and then Marcia Miller told me it was Johnny who was hurt--”
“I know,” Brackett interrupted in return. “You had to go in because your partner needed your help.”
Still with a serious expression on his face, Roy nodded slightly. “I didn't know the extent of Johnny's injury. But Mr. Miller was stable. And I did know that the wait for another paramedic unit and the time it would take to get here were going to be about the same for him. For all I knew at the moment as far as Johnny was concerned, he could be dead by time another unit was on scene.”
“Well, you were lucky,” the doctor said, with a twitch at the right corner of his mouth. “We all were. Including Mr. Miller and your partner as well.”
Bracket placed his left hand on his lecturee’s right shoulder. “Roy, just between you and me, under the circumstances, I think you handled it exactly right.”
DeSoto looked at him in surprise. “But--”
“Look, I had to reprimand you for breaking protocol and putting a victim’s well-being in possible jeopardy. It’s my duty. But in this instance, it was the right call to make. At first I wasn’t sure, but once I had all the facts,. . .well. . .I could see that it was.” With a sigh he continued. “Remember what I said when you were considering quitting the paramedic program after you had to make the judgment call of pulling over with a victim in route since the communication with us wasn’t working? You wondered then if you’d made the right choice. That it had brought to light a reminder of the enormous responsibility you and other paramedics carry. And I told you that with emergency medicine, sometimes you just have to move on it. Well, this was certainly one of those times. I know it and so do you. The fact you can stand with your choice with so much conviction is even more proof to me that you get it. You've come a long way. Now, don't get me wrong, we're all still fallible. Any one of us can make the wrong decision when we mean well. We're human. But I'm confident that you do understand the risks; the consequences. And that you'll always weigh them out to the best of your ability.”
There was a slight smile on Roy’s face. “Thanks, Doc.”
“Oh, and you’ll be relieved to hear. . .turns out Mr. Miller had a bad case of acid reflux. We checked for cardiac enzymes in his blood, monitored him more with an EKG and came up negative. I had Betty give him a dose of Milk of Magnesia. Soon after, the discomfort he was experiencing was greatly diminished.”
“That’s right. It can mimic heart attack symptoms to a degree. It’s set off by different things in different people. Doesn’t have to be spicy food. A scan eliminated the possibility of it being a hiatal hernia.”
“Yes. You see, the esophagus empties food through the muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal space. It’s called a diaphragmatic hiatus. When that hole becomes too large, a hiatal hernia occurs. That is, the upper part of the stomach and the lower esophageal sphincter move above the diaphragm. Otherwise usually the diaphragm helps keep acid from rising up into the esophagus. Since we ruled the hiatal hernia out, we’ll have to do a bit more digging . . .verbally. . .to find out what he might’ve ingested to cause the reflux so he can avoid it happening again.”
“Acid reflux,” Roy pondered again.
It was a relief. . .to a point. But then again. . .look at the price Johnny had paid for what could’ve been an avoided run in the first place. Maybe people needed to be held more responsible for what they called in. But as soon as he had that thought, he let it go. How would someone not trained know when two paramedics with a doctor on the line couldn’t figure it out at first either.
After Roy left the office, Doctor Brackett stared at the closed door a moment.
He was glad it was him that handled the situation with Roy. His words and action fell short of a real reprimand, but still got the point across. A doctor who didn’t know Roy’s usual reliability might’ve thrown more the paramedic’s way.
With a sigh and another twitch of the mouth, he followed Roy’s path out the door, and headed for the treatment room to begin inquiring about his patient’s eating and drinking habits.
Dixie had just come on duty and was by her desk near the base station when Roy made his way down the corridor. The head nurse looked up from where she’d just returned the telephone receiver to its cradle on the wall.
“How’d it go?”
“You heard, huh?”
“News travels fast around here. Especially when it concerns a couple of our favorite paramedics.”
Roy gave a slight grateful nod. “Not too bad, actually.”
That was certainly what she’d hoped to hear. Really what she’d expected. Brackett had come to genuinely like and respect Roy, Johnny and other paramedics after a rough relationship when the program first began.
“That’s good to hear.”
Speaking of hearing, he’d like to get word on Johnny when it was available. He was definitely with the one person he could depend on for the favor.
“I really should get back to the station with the squad. Can you call me at home when Johnny comes out of surgery? I’m supposed to go grocery shopping with Joanne sometime this morning after breakfast, but I’m gonna try to make it back over here as soon as I can.”
She smiled wide. “Sure. I’d be glad to.”
With that, Roy wrote the number down on a piece of paper for her, then gave a quick ‘good-bye’ and was on his way. Kel Brackett waited till Roy was gone before he joined the nurse.
“He certainly knows what he’s doing,” the doctor stated as he watched Roy head for the exit.
“I know someone else we could say that about right now.”
It was Brackett’s turn to smile. “Yeah? Well, how about we go see if we can get to the source of Ken Miller’s problems while I’m on this pedestal you just placed me on.”
The two made their way to the room where Betty and Miller’s wife Marcia waited for them with him.
Johnny wasn’t aware of exactly how long he’d been out. He only knew it was going to take quite awhile for his minor surgery to be completed. When he slowly opened his eyes to slits and groggily glanced around, he could see that he was in the recovery room.
He could feel the nasal canula in his nose giving his body the extra boost of oxygen it needed for a brief time.
Lying on his back, he started to roll to his left side when he felt a twinge of pain. A small groan escaped his lips, enough to alert a nurse standing nearby with another patient that he was waking up.
She smiled as she made her way over to the left side of the gurney he was on.
“How do you feel?”
“Tired. . .”
She gave a nod. “No surprise there. You stay put, I’m going to call for Doctor Early now and let him know you’re awake.”
After she was gone, Johnny lay there, groggily thinking about the events of the morning as best he could with his temporarily muddled mind.
He was obviously going to be in the hospital for a couple of days or so and off duty awhile beyond that. But at least there was no serious injury. He hoped Roy had faired okay as well. As his partial alertness faded out again, he closed his eyes while he waited for the nurse to return with Joe Early.
Dixie kept her promise to notify Roy that his partner was out of surgery and in a room. She also informed him that Johnny had yet to sleep off the anesthesia enough to have a sensible conversation. Thus Roy decided to go to Rampart later in the day, when it would benefit both he and Johnny more.
Roy stopped by the base station in the ER before heading up to see his partner. He’d hope to be able to talk to Dixie and Doctor Early to get an update before the visit so he’d know exactly how Johnny was doing. If he left it up to the latter to tell him, he was sure he’d get a slightly less accurate answer, though Gage mostly tended to downplay his own misfortune when another’s safety was at stake. It was a selfless characteristic many firemen shared.
“He’s doing good,” the doctor told him. “There’s going to be some scarring, of course, that’s to be expected. And we’ll need to keep him here for a day or so to keep an eye out for any sign of infection. It’s mostly precautionary, Roy,” he assured when he saw a renewed concern on the paramedic’s face.
Roy knew that, but it still helped to hear it as a reminder.
“He’s also very anxious to talk to you,” Dixie offered. “Both times I’ve made it up to see him, he’s asked if I’ve heard anything more from you; on when you’d be by.”
“Did you let him know how it went with Brackett? That I’m off the hook?”
Roy looked to Early.
“I didn’t have any choice. That was the first thing he asked me when I went up to see him in recovery.” The doctor smiled. It hadn’t surprised him that Gage would be more concerned about his partner than himself, even before he was fully alert. In their two and a half years of working together, Johnny and Roy had developed a camaraderie that made them both one of the best paramedic teams as well as close friends.
“Thanks, Doc. The less he has to worry about, the better. Besides, it’ll save me having to go over it again,” he said with s slight grin. “I made the mistake of mentioning it to my wife this morning.”
That was all he had to say. Though both were single, the doctor and nurse had seen the reactions of concerned spouses enough to know that when something that was pretty much over was brought up again, it took a lot of effort to bring it to a close once more.
Roy headed for the elevator. When the door opened Doctor Brackett got off, which stopped Roy from getting on. As the doors closed again behind a couple of nurses who’d stepped in, the doctor questioned, “On your way up to see Johnny?”
The corner of Brackett’s mouth twitched as a smile formed on his face. “Great. I just came from there and judging by his mood, I’d say it’s just what the doctor.” He motioned with his head toward Early down the corridor. “Ordered. While I think he appreciated some of us checking in on him, I’d say he’s kind of anxious to talk to you.”
Roy looked down in the direction he’d just come from. “So I hear.”
As the doctor started to walk away, Roy called out, “Doc!”
When he turned around, the other continued. “Did you find out what caused Mr. Miller’s acid reflux yet?”
“I believe so. We’ll have to give it a few days of his eliminating the likely culprit from his diet to be sure, but it appears that four soda pops a day over the years got to be too much for his body.”
“That’s right. Like I said before, it doesn’t have to be spicy to cause a problem.”
Well, if all Miller had to do was stop drinking them or at least cut back on the carbonated beverages to keep himself healthy, that should be easy enough. With the probable good news, Roy pressed the call button for the elevator again and waited while Brackett continued on with his own business.
As soon as he cracked the door open and peered inside, Roy saw Johnny’s crooked grin. The injured younger man was lying partially propped up in bed, the head of it raised. He was in a white hospital gown and had a sheet pulled up to his chest, a pale yellow blanket down lower across his mid section.
“I was beginning to think you got lost,” Gage kidded, the happy expression still on his face. He sounded more tired than usual, a hint of weakness to his voice.
“Ah. . .Joanne doin’ okay?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t—oh, you mean if I let her know I was on the hot seat for a brief time?”
He nodded slightly.
“I did. I shouldn’t have,” he admitted as he pulled a chair to where it was a couple of feet from the bed and took a seat with a sigh. “Once she found out you were going to be okay when I gave her that news first, she got all upset and started grilling me when I told her about the other. It took me a few minutes to get her to realize it had all blown over. That the dust had already settled and I was in the clear.”
“I know. Don’t tell her. More advice from the single man to the married one,” he commented, referring to a few times Gage had offered him unsolicited advice.
“Hey, ya gotta admit, sometimes I’m right.”
“Sometimes,” Roy admitted with a knowing grin. “So you’re doing okay, considering, I mean.”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I really lucked out.”
Roy eyed his friend a moment. Here Johnny was laid up in the hospital after having numerous birdshot pellets surgically removed and he referred to himself as ‘lucky’. Some people would consider getting shot in the first place a little unlucky. But with the nature of their work, they knew more than the average person just how suddenly things could escalate.
This was a reminder, too, that with their job, anything could happen in any given situation. But to them, the rewards far outweighed the risks.
This was inspired by my own dealing with a sudden onset of acid reflux. A trip to the ER and a few tests later, I was diagnosed. Soda was the cause, but I found it out later on my own because I didn't want to be on Prilosec or anything like it. Though acid reflux and shotgun/birdshot was researched, some stuff in this story is not fact, but rather facts stretched for story purposes and fiction. :o)
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