The Unfortunate Paramedic
By Audrey W.
John Gage was on his second run through his apartment in search of his shoes. Already dressed in uniform since he’d picked two sets up from the dry cleaners the morning before, the paramedic was about to figure he’d be showing up at the fire station in tennis shoes instead of regulation ones; a situation his captain would surely not appreciate.
Baffled, he stood in his bedroom with his hands resting on his hips as he glanced around.
“They couldn’t have walked away on their own. Where are they?”
Suddenly he remembered and with a snap of his fingers, he was headed for the livingroom and the front door. When he opened it, sure enough there were the black shoes.
When he’d come home the previous morning, the sprinkler system at the apartment complex was on and he’d accidentally stepped in a large puddle near the edge of the sidewalk, soaking one of his shoes in the process. Knowing his surrounding neighbors fairly well, he felt he didn’t need to worry about the shoes getting stolen, thus he left them out for the day to dry. Only problem was, he’d gone out on a date that ended late and came home in the dark. The shoes sat forgotten adjacent to the door for the night.
He hastily picked them up and stepped back inside, closing the door behind him. Johnny quickly made his way to the couch where he sat and slipped his feet into the shoes, tying them in a hurry. It wasn’t but a few minutes before he was on his way to the station, having to force himself to drive the speed limit since he was now running later than usual. He reminded himself the most important thing was getting there in one piece.
Carrie Bartlett sighed and picked her plate up from the kitchen table, her breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs untouched. She glanced at the clock on the wall; her husband was due at the airport in three-and-a half-hours from a business trip to Denver. She knew she should’ve broken the news to him when he’d called the night before; that the Bark Scorpion he’d brought back as a pet from their recent vacation to Arizona had gotten away after she accidentally knocked the small terrarium he’d set up for its home over and onto the floor of their livingroom. The scorpion hadn’t run away at first and if she’d been brave enough to catch it, she could have cleaned up the mess and had everything set as it was. Of course, she never wanted the critter anyway, but her husband was excited about the find and insisted he’d make sure it stayed confined. But he didn’t count on this.
How am I gonna tell *him*? She wondered.
Good thing we have a paramedic living beside us. If the scorpion doesn’t show up before Greg gets back, I might just need one, she kidded to herself.
What she didn’t know was that the scorpion was no longer in the apartment, having escaped through a small hole in the weather stripping on the bottom of the front door, and the paramedic next-door was about to have a small problem of his own.
Johnny stepped on the gas pedal as the traffic signal turned green. After making a left turn onto the next street, he felt a tingly sensation spread throughout his right big toe. Before he got much farther, it was followed by a burning sensation that radiated through the toe and into his foot.
What the. . .?
The pain quickly intensified and he found himself in need of pulling over at the nearest convenient spot.
Once he was stopped on the side of the street, he opened the door and turned to face outward. He then reached down and pulled off his shoe without unlacing it.
There wasn’t anything obvious on his foot outside his sock, so he rested his right ankle across left knee and quickly worked the sock off, shaking it out once it was in his hand. Nothing seemed to be there either, but when he touched his toe, he hit a sore spot that caused him to gasp in pain. He gently felt in another area near the other that was equally sore. He figured something had to have bitten him more than once.
Johnny held up the shoe and smacked the heel on his left hand in attempt to get what ever might be in it out. It was only seconds later he found himself instinctively flipping a tan colored something onto the street.
His mouth dropped open when he saw what had landed on the pavement; a scorpion that was about one inch in length.
“Oh man! Ah geez. . I got stung by a scorpion? Twice? Ah man, I don’t believe this. I should just drive to Rampart now and get it over with. But then Cap’ll wonder where I am at roll call. . .”
Roll call. . . .
He looked at his watch. It was ten minutes before they were supposed to be lined up in the apparatus bay and ready for duty.
He glanced down at the scorpion again, just in time to see it move toward the rear tire of his Land Rover. Johnny quickly grabbed an empty canteen from behind the front seat and stepped down to the pavement on his left foot, followed by his right heel.
“Sorry, but you’re not going anywhere if I can help it,” he remarked to the critter. “You’re gonna come along with me.”
After slowly squatting down, being extra careful of his extremely sore toe, he carefully maneuvered the scorpion into the opening of the canteen with one of his keys, being careful not to let it grab the object with its pinchers and keeping his had well clear of the stinger on the end of the tail. He then held the container upright and screwed on the cap that was attached to the neck of it with a thin short chain. If he did end up having to go to Rampart, which he was hoping by some miracle wouldn’t be the case, the doctor would want to know what kind of scorpion he’d tangled with.
Johnny set the canteen on the passenger seat, then climbed back in himself. His toe was too sore to put back in a shoe for now, so he decided to drive to the station with one bare foot, being sure to spare his toe from any pressure on it.
“I know one thing,” he said to the canteen, “That’s the last time I leave shoes sitting outside to dry.” But at the same time he was making the vow, he had to wonder how the scorpion got to the apartment complex in the middle of town in the first place.
Carrie stared at the empty terrarium, still wondering about the best way to break the news to her husband.
Maybe he’ll just know by the bags under my eyes since I hardly slept. . .
She’d laid awake half the night wondering where the critter had gone and if it could even find its way to their bed. Eventually exhaustion took over and sleep finally came to her. Now with all the hours that had passed, it was anyone’s guess as to where it was. Carrie felt squeamish just thinking about it.
By the time Johnny got to Station 51, his big toe was partially numb and still tingly, much like when a part of the body goes to sleep, only with a sharp and intense burning pain still hanging in there as well. He also was starting to feel a little woozy.
The paramedic picked the canteen up off the seat and with a grimace, limped toward the rear entrance of the building, occasionally biting on his lower lip.
When he got inside Johnny saw that C-shift was still out on a call, as neither the squad nor the engine was in the apparatus bay.
Well, at least I don’t have to worry about us getting a run right away. . .
He then saw Hank Stanley come out of the dayroom with a cup of coffee in his hand. The paramedic called out, “Cap!”
The superior officer stopped and immediately looked in surprise at the limping younger man, noting he only had one shoe on and was carrying a canteen in his right hand.
“What happened to you?”
Johnny explained as he approached, his voice with an edge to it as he bit back the pain. “Uh. . .you won’t believe this, but a . . .uh. . .a scorpion got in my shoe. I had no idea until I was on my way here. . . and it decided to sting me. Apparently twice,” he added with a frown.
Hank looked down at the barefoot. “Are you gonna be okay, pal?”
“I’m just. . . in a lot of pain right now, Cap. I think I’d better get to Rampart though. . .soon.”
With that statement coming from the one crew member who had a tendency to downplay his condition when something was wrong, alarm registered for the captain.
“Do you need me to call for a squad and an ambulance?”
Johnny shook his head. “It’s not that bad . . .yet. . . but I don’t think I’d better drive now. . . I should’ve just gone to Rampart on my own. . . to begin with, but I guess I sorta talked myself out of it.”
“We won’t worry about that now,” Hank commented as he helped him over to the wall near the supply closet where the paramedic could lean for support.
“You need to sit down?”
“Nah,” he said as he shook his head again slightly. “I’m okay. . . like this.”
The captain stepped back over to the dayroom entrance and peeked inside. “Roy!”
He didn’t wait for a reply, but rather went right back over to Johnny.
Roy came out of the dayroom and first looked toward the captain’s office, then to the right where his partner was leaning against the wall with his eyes closed, Hank Stanley beside him.
“What happened?” he asked, immediately hurrying over in concern at Johnny’s appearance.
“A scorpion stung him on his foot. . .twice.”
“When? Where’d this happen?” He was already squatting down to take a look at Johnny’s foot.
“It’s a long story, Roy,” the younger man explained, his eyes now open. He sucked in air as his partner gently palpated his toe near the stings.
“What kind was it? Do you know?”
“Hmm mm. Small though. It’s in here,” he said, holding up the canteen.
“Go ahead and give him a lift to Rampart,” Hank directed. “I’ll have Dwyer and Holson stay on duty when they return and cover for your shift until you get back and I can get a replacement in for John.”
Johnny’s expression registered a knowing defeat. Though he hadn’t come right out and said it himself, he didn’t expect to be back on duty this shift. No doubt they’d at least want to keep him under observation awhile; if his symptoms got any worse, he figured he’d be there much longer.
Roy helped him to the rear lot, Gage explaining the situation more as they slowly walked out.
Hank gave a sigh as he watched the two, then turned and headed for his office to call headquarters to request a replacement paramedic.
“Man, I still can’t believe this,” Johnny grumbled from the passenger seat of Roy’s Porsche.
“How’d it get in your shoe, anyway?”
“They got wet yesterday . . . so I left ‘em outside to dry. Guess I had a ‘visitor’ I wasn’t aware of.”
Roy stopped a moment before pulling onto the street from the driveway that led from their parking area to alongside the station.
“You sure you’re okay to get to Rampart this way and not in an ambulance?”
“Uh huh. Believe me, Roy . . . if it was that bad . . . I’d say so.”
“Okay. . .” He glanced over at the younger man. Johnny had his head tipped back, his eyes once again closed and a grimace on his face.
I hope you’re right, partner.
As they neared the hospital, Johnny turned his head. “Hey. . .Roy. . .?”
“I uh. . .I guess it was a little . . .worse than I thought.”
Roy glanced over, his eyes quickly searching for a clue as to what Johnny may be referring to.
“My arms and legs. . . are kinda feelin’ funny. . .”
Alarm registered on the older man’s face. “They are?”
“Yeah. . .they hurt, kinda prickly like . . .”
Roy frowned. “You must’ve gotten stung by one of the more venomous scorpions if it’s already spreading like that.”
“Lucky me, huh?” Johnny added sarcastically with a wan grin.
Roy turned into one of the entrances leading to Rampart’s parking areas, and soon pulled up near the emergency doors, immediately getting out of the car.
“Stay put. I’ll go get a wheel chair,”
“Roy, I can--”
But the stern look he was getting from his partner as the other bent down and peered in at him told Gage there was no use in arguing.
“Fine. . .get a wheel chair,” he gave in with a sigh.
Johnny wasn’t surprised to see Dixie McCall emerge with his partner and an orderly who was bringing out the chair for him. In fact, he’d have been very shocked if she hadn’t. They were very close to the head nurse and she was always there in support for them, be it silly little problems or life altering ones.
The ill-feeling paramedic opened his door and started to get out, when Roy hurried over to assist.
“You really want to push the issue, don’t you?”
“I just don’t wanna give everyone the impression. . . I’m helpless, Roy.”
Hearing the comment, Dixie folded her arms across her chest and for a second time Johnny was facing a stern look. “You may not be helpless, but it’s pretty obvious your hurting quite a bit. I’d say if the situation were reversed, you’d be reacting the same way as Roy here is.”
He had to admit she was right. He’d be all over his partner if things were the other way around and Roy was trying to act like it wasn’t that big of a deal. He’d been stung by a scorpion. . .twice. And he was exhibiting some of the more worrisome symptoms. Of course there was going to be a lot of concern for him.
Johnny’s own expression softened and with another grimace, he held out his left arm. “Okay, go ahead and . . .help me out.”
Roy and Dixie exchanged glances, the latter giving a nod and a knowing look. He couldn’t help but give a small smile of thanks in return.
Having been taken to Treatment Room Four and given an extensive examination, along with answering various questions, Johnny lay waiting as Doctor Kel Brackett stood back in thought. A nurse had washed the sting sites and was applying a cold compress to Johnny’s big toe, being careful not to press too hard; any pressure against it still brought on severe pain for the paramedic.
Roy’s concerns had been more on getting his partner to Rampart as quickly as possible since they didn’t have any medical supplies if they should need them. Thus he uncharacteristically did a ‘go’ without trying to do much with the sting wounds himself.
Brackett had assured him that under the circumstances it didn’t make a difference. Though he could’ve washed the wounds with soap and water at the station, there wasn’t much else he might’ve done. The venom would have worked its way through Gage’s system regardless; a fact Roy knew in his mind, but it still bothered him.
The doctor went on to explain that most scorpion stings were not life-threatening, many never even requiring medical attention at all.
But the senior paramedic still wasn’t completely happy with the way he’d handled things, despite the reassurances. He couldn’t help but second guess himself because things had gotten worse. A lot worse. He now watched with concern as Dixie came back into the room to join them.
“Did they identify the scorpion’s species?” Kel wondered.
She nodded. “It’s a Bark Scorpion.”
With that information, the doctor knew John Gage had had a run-in with one of the most poisonous scorpions in the Southwest region; only puzzling thing was, it was common in the deserts of Arizona; sometimes found in the most southeast desert land of California. Not in their city of Carson.
“The question is. . . how did a scorpion that resides in the desert get into your shoe?”
“My neighbors. . . got back from Arizona. . .not too long ago. Maybe they brought one. . . home with ‘em.” Johnny bit his lower lip in an effort to once again deal with the increasing agony the venom was causing within. He swiped at the sweat on his forehead with the back of his trembling right hand.
“Well, what ever the reason it was here, unfortunately it found you. I know you’re hurting pretty bad, but since there’s no antivenin for the scorpion sting, about all we can do in the meantime is give you some Tylenol to help ease the pain; Diazepam if you develop muscle spasms. It’s possible you’ve reached the most serious symptoms you’re going to exhibit though. We’ll need to keep an eye on you for awhile to be sure.”
“How long. . .?”
“I’d like to keep you here at least until tomorrow morning, even if you don’t get additional symptoms; just as a precaution. If you do, of course it’ll be a little longer.”
Brackett and Dixie exchanged relieved glances. To get John Gage to admit he needed to be in a hospital without any protests what-so-ever was another feat in itself. This time he’d made it easy, which meant he had to be in a lot of pain.
“I’d better be getting back to the station,” Roy stated. “I’ll stop by later and see how you’re doing.”
After one last concerned glance at his partner, Roy stepped out of the room and headed for the exit.
Carrie Bartlett stood inside the airport near a large glass window, nervously twisting a lock of her hair as she watched passengers deplane using the steps that had been set up against the newly arrived aircraft out on the tarmac.
She hadn’t thought of a way to break the news about the scorpion’s great disappearing act to her husband yet, and time was about to run out on her.
When she saw him come down the steps and head toward the main building, she turned to look at the doorway he’d soon be coming through.
After a few moments, Greg emerged, searching over the waiting crowd for his wife. When he saw her uncharacteristically timidly waiting off to the side, he heaved a sigh and walked over to her.
“Okay, what happened while I was gone?”
Carrie swore inwardly at his ability to read her body language so easily. She bit her lower lip a moment as she peered up at him, his six foot height suddenly towering over her five-foot four-inch frame.
“Uh. . .well. . .you aren’t gonna believe this. . .” She couldn’t put it off any longer, and blurted the news out before he even had a chance to ponder what she’d been trying to say. “Oh, honey, I knocked over the terrarium and the scorpion got away. I can’t find him anywhere. I’ve looked and looked and I swear, he must’ve gotten out of the apartment. . .” I hope, she thought to herself.
“Carrie!” But he couldn’t stay mad. His angry look softened when he noticed the tiredness to her eyes. She obviously had lost some sleep over it. He once again heaved a sigh. “Ah, heck.”
“So you aren’t angry?” she asked in a very unsure voice.
He shook his head. “It was an accident. We’ll just have look for him when we get home and if we can’t find him. . .”
“What’ll we do?
“Hope he doesn’t turn up in anyone else’s apartment.”
The two headed for the luggage pickup area, each wondering just how easily a scorpion could get around an apartment building; and how they’d break the news to the land lady.
A few hours after he’d been brought in, Johnny wasn’t doing any better. Still somewhat in pain despite the Tylenol, he groaned as he shifted his position in the hospital bed where he’d been trying to rest. The mild pain reliever hadn’t seemed to be a match for the agony the scorpion’s venom was causing in his body. But Brackett didn’t want to give him a stronger pain reliever for fear it would make the paramedic too drowsy. For now having him aware was more important.
Thus far he hadn’t needed the Diazepam, but that was about to change. He could feel an occasional spasm of the muscles in his legs and arms; it was becoming difficult to keep his vision in focus when he looked at anything in the room. Johnny fumbled for the call button to contact a nurse.
Kel Brackett placed his penlight back in his white coat pocket after checking Johnny’s eyes.
“You’ve got slight roving movements with both eyes. That’s why you’re having the vision problems. It shouldn’t be long before the Diazepam I administered takes care of that, as well as the muscle spasms.”
“Am I gonna. . . be able to go home. . . tomorrow, Doc?”
“Let’s wait till the time comes to decide on that, okay?”
The paramedic gave a solemn nod and looked down at the light yellow blanket covering his lower half. “Man, for a little thing . . . Bark Scorpions sure pack a punch.”
“Yes, they do, Johnny. They sure do.”
Late in the evening, the door to Johnny’s room opened and Roy peeked inside. “Hey, how’re you feelin’?”
“Okay, I guess,” came a quiet reply. The mattress behind his chest and head already elevated, Gage shifted to sit up straighter as his friend stepped inside. His vision had cleared and he was very happy to be seeing a familiar face.
“I would’ve been up sooner, but Dixie said you were pretty out of it from everything.”
The dark-haired paramedic gave a slight nod. “S’okay. She was right.”
“Cap and the guys have really been worried. You know. . .you and venomous bites.”
Johnny knew exactly what his partner was referring to. It hadn’t been that long ago he was in Rampart after getting bit by a rattlesnake while on a rescue. Only that time his life hung in the balance for too many minutes for any of them to feel comfortable, even once he was in Doctor Brackett’s care.
“Well, at least this time it wasn’t life-threatening.”
“I’ll second that.” Roy glanced at the TV mounted on the wall where ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ was on the screen. An actor named Tim Conway was playing an old doctor who couldn’t see or hear very well, thus driving his patient crazy.
“Well, now, there’s something to be happy about.”
The younger man cocked an eyebrow, a puzzled expression on his face. “What?”
“At least you weren’t saddled with a doctor like that,” he explained, motioning toward the television.
“I don’ know. . .maybe I could’ve used the comic relief.”
Roy rolled his eyes as he pulled over the spare chair in the room and sat down to watch the rest of the skit, hoping his temporary partner wouldn’t be up to get him until it was over. Johnny looked at him and gave a weak smile. He and Roy weren’t just partners, they were close friends and times like this were a good reminder.
The following morning, Johnny’s condition had improved a lot and he’d hoped to be heading home soon; but it wasn’t to be.
Doctor Brackett had arrived back at the hospital earlier in the morning following the night off, and after an update on Gage’s condition and a thorough check on him, he’d decided it would be better if the paramedic stayed for another twenty-four hours of observation.
The muscle spasms were all but gone and Johnny’s vision remained normal since initially getting the Diazepam. But he was feeling weakened and a little woozy from the ordeal, and his big toe was still very sore when touched.
Since he wasn’t being released, he could only look forward to some company as the other men from his duty shift at the station were each planning to stop by throughout the day.
I hope the time goes by fast. . .
Bored with his surroundings, Johnny frowned as he glanced around the room. With a sigh, he rested his head against the pillow and closed his eyes, opting to rest until his first visitor arrived.
Finally cleared to go home after forty-eight hours of hospital care, Johnny was given a ride to the station by Roy, so he could pick up his Land Rover. When he arrived at his apartment a short time later, Gage looked at the Bartlett’s door beside his. He’d seen both their cars in the parking lot, so he knew they’d be there if he knocked.
Fortunately he didn’t have to make the first move. Captain Stanley had made a phone call to the landlady explaining what happened to his youngest crew member and she’d already gotten to the bottom of the problem.
Both Carrie and Greg came out to greet him and apologize for what they’d caused.
“Well, you made a mistake. . .a pretty big mistake, but still. . .” Johnny paused and sighed, not sure what more he could say other than what the landlady probably already had. “I’d say we all learned a valuable lesson here.”
“I sure did,” Carrie stated. “As soon as I lost track of that thing, I should’ve let you and others here know.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry about me bringing home a scorpion ever again,” Greg put in. “Or anything else as a pet for that matter. We were reminded a ‘no pets allowed’ means absolutely no pets of any kind.”
“But what lesson did you learn from all this?” Carrie asked Johnny. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
He cracked a lopsided grin. “Never to leave my shoes outside unless I’m still in ‘em.” A lesson he knew he’d never forget.
Part of this is based on a guy I know at work who had had his shoes on quite awhile before a scorpion inside one stung him on the foot. Some is what I researched on the net and what I have learned from living where scorpions reside, and some is probably exaggerated for story purposes. Antivenin is available now in certain states for extreme cases. Most people I've known who've been stung by a Bark Scorpion did not call for paramedics or an ambulance, but did end up in the ER.
*Click above to send Audrey feedback
March Picture Stories Stories Page