We typically ran a three medic house, at Medic Seven, just so one of us could take a road trip in the event that somebody or other called in sick, was injured, or other wise was absent for one reason or another. I got the detail, and wound up working Medic One with (let’s call him) Roger Whitaker.
It was his house, and I therefore was the medic that day. It was mid summer in Da City, one of those days with blue skies, sunshine, and temps running high 70’s to low 80’s. Simply a great day to be alive, in your twenties, and working outdoors. We cruised along, between runs, windows open, talking about inconsequential things, and listening for our next run. And, it happened.
We were sent out on a “unconscious man”, at an address down the street from the engine company where we commonly gassed up. At one point, like 30 or more years ago, this had been a prosperous, upper middle class neighborhood. Just off Main Street, the buses (I suppose, at that time, it was trolleys, but the same effect obtains) ran to downtown and back, and north to, let us call it, Middleville, where another of the industrial empires had several of their factories. The managers and suchlike, living in this neighborhood at that time, could take public transport to and from their jobs, and the families, with domestic help, could keep the home fires burning.
Once Da City changed, and the prosperous moved to Da Burbs, well, all those 4, 5 and 6 bedroom homes became multiple apartment buildings. One of them was our destination.
We pulled up in front, called on the scene, and walked to the door. One of the residents met us there, and led us up the staircase, into one of the apartments, around a corner into the kitchen, out of the kitchen window, and onto the tarred roof of the grand porch the building boasted.
This had evolved into some sort of patio for the residents, and there were three men there, two of whom were drinking something from a brown paper bag in the sunny July afternoon, and the other lay, as if asleep, semi prone. Alumni of the old-school Red cross Advanced First Aid And Emergency Care course (yes, I AM THAT old!) might recognize this posture as “the coma position”, as it facilitated drainage of oral secretions from someone who could not manage them on their own. Like, someone in a coma, fer instance.
Roger approached the upright, actively drinking folks, in order to elicit some information regarding our presumably somnolent subject. I approached him, and, kneeling, channeled my inner “CPR Manikin”. I did not quite bellow, “Annie! Annie! Are you all right?”, but I did attempt to shake our friend, to rouse him for conversation.
It quickly became evident that no amount of shaking, nor shouting, nor any other sort of human intervention would cause this gentleman to join in our conversation, without a Ouija board. When I lifted his of arm, as a lever to roll him preparatory to sitting him up, well, he rolled as a unit, as if he was a man shaped board. Students of emergency care might recognize this as “rigor mortis”, and it occurs variably, on the order of 6-14 hours after death.
Our patient had been laying on that hot roof for a long time.
Roger asked one of the bystanders, “When was the last time any of you all talked to him?”
One looked at the other, squinted up into the sky, and answered, “I guess it was before noon when he sort of moaned, laid down, and sort of rolled over. He hasn’t moved since.” Since this was late afternoon, well, this was not going to be a successful resuscitation.
I looked at Roger, he looked at me, and we shook our heads. He retrieved the handie talkie, and called dispatch for TBCPD, and a medical examiner’s crew, and holstered the radio. The second fellow, agitated now, asked, “Is he….? Is he….? Is he….?”
Roger interrupted, “Man, he daid!”
This gentleman walked to the parapet of the porch, threw one leg over same, and made as if to leap. Roger peered over said parapet, admiring all the broken concrete piled against the foundation, and said, “Friend, if you don’t mind, kinda jump a ways out there, into the yard, why doncha? My knees are aching, and I just know I’ll wrench something if I have to pull your broken body off all those rocks!”
The guy stopped, frozen, and stared at Roger for a moment. He lifted his leg back over the parapet, re entered the building through the kitchen window, and was last seen walking down the middle of the street, gesticulating and cursing, heading westbound.