As may prove to be no surprise, it reminds me of one parenting encounter of my own, years and years ago. One day, TDW-Mark I, our children and I were out someplace having dinner. It had occurred to me that TDW-Mark I might enjoy an evening NOT in the kitchen, and so we bundled up our brood, and went out to dinner. So, there we were, conversating and dining and generally having a nice time, when Number Two Son, whom we will call Charlie, apparently decided that he was not receiving enough attention. Now, Charlie was, at this point, something like 3 years old. I expected that he would know better, but, well, I was mistaken.
So, he was yelling, and standing up in his chair, and generally making a scene. I attempted to verbally redirect him, but, no-go.
My wife was not enjoying the shenanigans, and therefore I decided to remedy her dilemma. I stood, scooped Charlie up, placed him over my shoulder, “fireman’s carry” style, and walked out of the restaurant.
I could feel the eyes on me, as we departed, with a Bill Engvall-esque vibe of “somebody’s gonna get a whooping!” But, I had a slightly different plan. (don’t imagine that I was not tempted…)
Outside of the restaurant was a low stone wall. I sat Charlie thereon, and assumed my R. Lee Ermy persona. I placed myself nearly nose-to-nose with my son, and barked, “You are not a baby! You know how you are supposed to act! This acting up is NOT acceptable! You will sit there, quietly, until you are able to behave correctly! Do you understand me?”
His eyes teared up, and he replied, a quaver in his voice, “Yes, daddy.”
I snarled, “Very good! Now, you tell me when you are able to behave like you know you are supposed to!”
I stood, wrapped one hand in the other, behind my back, and paced back and forth before him, a scowl written large across my face.
After several minutes of this pacing, I turned to my son, and addressed him. “Have you had enough? Are you ready to act right?”
He sniveled, “No, daddy. Not yet.”
I had to abruptly turn, to hide the smile that burst across my face, and to hide my struggle to not laugh out loud.
Another couple of minutes later, he volunteered, “Daddy? I’m ready to behave, now!”
We re entered the restaurant and Charlie was subsequently the very model of proper toddler behavior.
So, Carmen, my grand daughter, had a couple of additional Magical Mystery Tours of Peds ICU. Brenda, her mom, wound their way through the maze of physicians, and specialists, treating, and attempting to diagnose, what was underlying our recurrent Monday-evening-Grandpa-visits.
Eventually, one of the specialists determined that a surgery would mitigate Carmen’s breathing difficulties, and so a surgical date was set, in a distant Big City Medical Center. Brenda told both of her parents, and her conversation with me went along the lines of “Dad, so Carmen is going to have surgery on (date), at Big City Pediatric Hospital.”
(Dad): “uh huh. I’ll be there.”
(Brenda): “Uh, Dad? So, Mom is gonna be there, too.”
(Dad): “Uh huh. Why would there be any question about that?”
(Brenda):”Well, I know you guys are going through that divorce, and things might be…tense..if you were both in the same room.”:
(Dad):”Well, Honey, your mom is a grown up professional, I flatter myself that I am a grown up professional, and while we are there with you, for that time, what I think about your mother, or what she thinks about me, well, nobody cares. This is about you and Carmen, and nothing else is on my plate for that time. I don’t anticipate any drama coming from either of us. I know I won’t cause any drama, and I am confident that your mother will not, either.”
So, we met at the appointed time, and greeted each other. Carmen received her IV, and was pre medicated, and rested on her mother’s lap, soon falling asleep. I have a photograph, somewhere, of Carmen, relaxedly asleep, on Brenda’s lap, Brenda appearing fatigued herself.
Carmen went for her surgery, and returned, post operatively. Carmen had an uneventful post operative course, and Brenda took her child home. Today, a dozen years later, Carmen is newly adolescent, The Big Sister, and perfectly healthy.
Oh, and my pre and post op interactions with The Plaintiff? Benevolent, professional, and child (and grandchild) focused. No drama.
While my divorce was unwinding, I was working midnights in the ED of Mid Sized Hospital in the Adjacent Relatively Big City. I had a seven on/seven off schedule, which worked out pretty well for the week on/week off custody schedule for the youngest two kids.
“I’m always up to visit my grand daughter, as well as her mother! What’s the occasion?”
“Well, Carmen is having some difficulty breathing, and I’d like you to look at her and tell me what to do.”
“Be right over. Unlock your door!”
A couple of minutes later, I was knocking on her door, stethoscope around my neck. Brenda opened the door, and I heard Carmen wheezing from across the room. “Call the ambulance, right now!”
Brenda was unconvinced. “Dad, if we call the ambulance, they will simply take her to Local Small Town Hospital. They will simply wind up transferring her to Next Town Big Hospital. Why don’t we just drive her to Big Hospital, ourselves?”
Good time for me to collect data. “Honey, do either you or baby daddy know CPR?”
“Y’all have oxygen in your car?”
“You guys have any way to alert Big Hospital ED that you are coming in hot with a critically ill child?”
“You know we don’t!”
“So, let’s call EMS, who do indeed know all those things, and have all those things, so that they can treat Carmen properly, hmm?”
“We’ll just drive her over to Small Town Hospital, ourselves.”
“NOW, sweetheart. Right now!”
“I just have to…”
“No, you don’t. Get your ass on the way, right freaking now, and no more delay. Now!”
As they cleared the door, I phoned Local Hospital ED, where I had been an ED nurse, and provided a heads up. “Hey, my daughter is on the way with my grand daughter, who is in respiratory distress. Under a year of age.”
“When will they be here?”
“Open your door, now!”
I locked up, and made my way to Local ED. Once there, I saw the staff meeting that was a pediatric critical child. The ED physician was in the room, my daughter and baby daddy, two ED nurses, a respiratory therapist, the lab, and a couple of other folks that I could not make out in the crowd. I spoke to my daughter, and told her that I was off to work, and I’d stop by in the morning to see how things were going.
I called my daughter the next morning, on my way out of work, and met her at the Big Hospital Peds ICU. She told me that, unsurprisingly (to me), Local Hospital had tested, x rayed, oxygen-ed, and IV-d Carmen, and then transferred her to Big Hospital, via Peds Mobile ICU ambulance. Carmen was considerably improved over last night. I could not hear any wheezing, and she appeared to breathing easily within her oxygen tent. I said my hello to Carmen, ascertained if my daughter needed anything from me, and said my goodbyes to return home, and to bed.
Carmen was discharged the following day, and Brenda had a ream of instructions, as well as the opportunity to administer breathing treatments, as well as oral medications, to an infant several times daily. As a civilian, not a nurse.
A couple of weeks later, I was again preparing for work, and, again, received a phone call from my daughter, again inviting me to visit Carmen. “Always delighted to visit. What’s the occasion, this time?”
“She’s struggling to breathe, and the breathing treatment did not seem to help today.”
I instructed Brenda to immediately go directly to Local Hospital ED. “But, they will simply send her to Big Hospital again!”
“Yep, that is entirely likely. As is the fact that they will send her in a peds MICU, with a physician, respiratory therapist, and a couple of paramedics. All of which I highly approve of. Now, get going, right now!”
I, again, met Brenda at our local ED, again Carmen was the center of a veritable staff roll call in the treatment room, and, again, that evening she was whisked as described, approvingly, above, back to peds ICU at Big Hospital.
I stopped by the next morning. Brenda greeted me. “Dad, just like you said, they transferred her by ambulance back here. When we arrived, all the ICU nurses remembered Carmen, and were crying as they brought in the vent, the crash cart, and the intubation cart. Mom was here, and, gotta tell you, I was trying as hard as I could to keep it together for Carmen. The nurses’ crying was *NOT* helping! If mom had not been here, I would have lost my mind!”
I replied, “Honey, your mom is a pretty good nurse, and she keeps her head really well in a crisis. I’m really glad that she was here for you!”
And, at that point, I did the smartest thing I had done in a while. Right then, I shut up!
So, I see children from time to time. Commonly, they are dubious about the entire “Going to the doctor” thing (yeah, I DO realize that I am not a physician, I am a midlevel. May I observe you explain that distinction, to an anxious child?) With that as a starting point, you can imagine that my approaching said anxious child with a stethoscope, and then with an otoscope (“the ear looking thingy”) might not end well. Yeah, me too.
One of the lessons I learned on Da Street (besides knock from the side of the door, and always have a second way out of any room I enter, and always have a knife, and…well, the important lesson is…..) is misdirection. On the street this manifested itself as changing the topic of conversation, as, on a hostile scene, announcing, “WE have to go and get the stretcher!”, and then both of us doing so, and motoring merrily away from the threatened free fire zone. Returning, if at all, with police.
In a more sedate clinical setting, this manifests itself with my (now) stock spiel for kids.
“This here (hold stethoscope up) is my body tickling thingy. Now, this is really, really tickley, but I only have one, right? That’s not enough to share. So, if you laugh, everybody will know how much fun it is, and they will be sad. ‘Boo-Hoo! (insert child’s name here) got tickled, and I didn’t! That is so unfair! I am so sad!’ Now, we don’t want them to be sad, do we?” (generally, toddler-sober negative head wag) “So, try very hard not to laugh, so that they are not sad! Okay?”
Once heart and lungs are auscultated, I continue with my misdirection. “You did so very, very well in not laughing, now we move up to the ear tickley thingey! Same rules, try not to laugh so that they do not know how much fun it is, and they are not sad that I cannot share, okay?”
Generally, again, “Okay.” While the child is trying to identify what the heck is so darned tickley about otoscopy, I finish.
One bonus point, is, even if the child screams and kicks and writhes, I can congratulate them. “Wow! You did so very well! I don’t think that they even suspect how much fun that was! You can stop pretending, now! You have successfully finished! Well done!”
Sometimes it is healthcare stagecraft, that lets you complete your job.
In our county, emergency personnel are generally volunteers. The EMS is paid/full time, Sheriff and local PD are paid/full time, but the firefighters and rescue are volunteers, dispatched by pager. The tones dropped for a cardiac arrest, CPR in progress, in the outskirts of the county. Now my county is rural, primarily (by surface area) farmland. The ambulance was called out, as well as the County Seat Fire Department (Hereinafter, CSFD).
I heard EMS acknowledge, and the duty fire chief as well. He (the chief) directed that the firefighters respond without him, as he was a couple of miles from the scene and would respond directly.
Dispatch then filled in the dispatch information, beyond the address. A 70-something male had collapsed. CPR was in progress. He was vomiting, and the family was clearing his mouth as best they could. A couple of minutes later (likely that seemed like days, to the folks on the scene, performing CPR on one of their family!), the fire chief called out on the scene “Chief on scene with one firefighter. Sheriff on scene. Dispatch, roll one engine for manpower.”
So, let’s “dolly back”, and consider this. With the possible exception of the deputy (who might have responded, off duty, from home in his patrol car), all these folks were snug in their own homes, fat, dumb and happy, savoring the anniversary of The Birth of Our Saviour, as well as immersing themselves in the excitement of the children at All! The! Presents! they had received.
They carry pagers because, well, that’s what they do. More likely than not, they do not see themselves as heroic, or making sacrifices, because, after all, in most of America (hell, I suspect in most of the world), the men and women performing these jobs simply see themselves as doing what needs to be done, because they are able to do so.
And therefore, when the pager alerted them, they grabbed their coats, put on their boots, and left their warm and happy homes, heading to somebody else’s home, someplace where, as Chief Dennis Compton of Mesa, AZ Fire once described it, “We are responding to somebody’s worst day of their life”.
So, as I imagine it, the duty chief was enjoying a Christmas with his family, the tones dropped, and off he went. Before he could get out of the door, one of his sons, or maybe a son in law, (or daughter or daughter in law, here in the 21st century) said something like, “Hey, Dad! Hold up a second! I’m taking that call with you!”
These folks voluntarily immersed themselves in another family’s tragedy. Strove to hold the line, to reverse the evident course. Went to work on Christmas.
When the firefighter came on the radio requesting the sheriff department’s (volunteer!) Victim Support Team, I could call that play. I do not know if I teared up at the family’s terror, at their loss, at the fact that forever more Christmas would not hold happy childhood memories, but, rather, would be “the day grandpa died”, or if I teared up thinking of the folks who, simply “doing their jobs”, had left their warm homes in response to some stranger’s plea for help.
But, I wept.
Please, give a thought to those who respond to those calls, today and every day of the year, all over the world.
And offer a prayer on behalf of those they go to rescue.
Occasionally, I receive a comment to the effect that my acronyms are confusing, and my correspondent has been unable to divine their meaning. (which would be why I have a tab captioned “Abbreviations, Acronyms, Jargon and Terms of Art”). Perhaps it might be entertaining (well, I might be entertained!) should I review how that particular preamble arose.
Something on the order of 40 years ago, the magazine Soldier of Fortune had an article about “War Stories”. Near as I can recall, from the mists of time, there were three essential elements of any good war story.
First, the Obligatory Disclaimer: “This is no shit!”
Second Required Element, The Required Preamble: “There I was, fighting disease and saving lives….” (In the SOF formulation, it was more along the lines of “fighting communists and defending Freedom…”)
Third Required Element, The Compulsory Thematic Element, wherein The Narrator is a HERO, of Olympian proportions, overcoming impossible adversity.
So, there I was, seated on the bench (yes, reminiscent of “The Group ‘W’ Bench” of Arlo Guthrie/Alice’s Restaurant fame) outside the Department Doctor’s office. The preceding evening, while carrying some soul out of their house on West Boulevard, the gusts had lofted some speck of debris into my eye, and I had reported same to my supervisor, who had sent me to ED and those worthies had sent me home for the evening. In order to return to duty, I had to be cleared by the Department Doctor.
I was seated among a batch of firefighters, and we all were swapping stories of how we had come to receive orders to report here. This fellow slipped on wet pavement and had wrenched his back, another had injured his knee, and was only awaiting clearance from the department to return to duty, since his orthopedic surgeon had released him post operatively.
The next guy to tell his tale clearly had been schooled in The Grand Tradition of Firehouse Stories, and rolled right into his story. “Yeah, we caught an alarm, and the first floor was pretty well involved. We knocked it down with the deck gun, and started an interior attack. So, there I was, fighting fires and saving lives, and the floor fell in! Dumped my ass into the basement! Everybody was pretty excited, until they dragged me out, and found I was only banged and bruised up. The chief sent me to the hospital, they sent me home, and now, here I am!”
My turn. “I was on a run on The Boulevard, and some dust got blown into my eye…” (“….and they all moved away from me on The Group ‘W’ bench…”) “…and the lieutenant ordered me to go to ER, and they put me off for the night. I thought that it was overkill, but, what are you gonna do?”
They all moved back, and one offered, helpfully, “Kill a morning outside the department doctor?”
Against my will, I have been aware of the news reports of many, many protests over the circumstances surrounding death of George Floyd.
Against my will, I have been subjected to the noxious virtue signaling malarkey from many quarters, braying about how anti racist they are (“acta, non verba!”).
Again, against my will, I have been subjected to the chant of racist, violent police being The! Single! Greatest! Threat! to black men, In! Da! World! (notwithstanding the 24 fatal shootings in Chicago just the weekend of May 30-31)
( see https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/6/1/21275944/chicago-weekend-shootings-most-violent-weekend-2020-may-29-june-1)
I request that we all keep in mind that we are all fallen, all imperfect, all in need of improvement. Police are part of that set. And, like some of our neighbors, some officers do felonious things. Mr. Chauvin appears due to get his day in court, which, should things work out as they are supposed to, will bring to light evidence supporting, or refuting, the cloud of assertions surrounding these events.
Tl: DR summary: Lotsa heat, little light, Facts will come out, and theories and bullshit will be tamped down.
Now, that I have stepped off of my soapbox, let’s hear a story of “Protect And Serve Policing”, of the sort that I have seen repeatedly myself.
Observant readers will note that this is a re-run.
Patient Care Is Everywhere! (small town life)I had the opportunity, a couple of years ago, to speak with an police officer who personified the
“Protect and Serve” mindset. An elderly, very confused gentleman, with a baseline mentation
deficit, was brought in to the hospital at the instigation of the officer. Having been dispatched
for a "welfare check", he found this soul confused, and in the officer's estimation, "looked sick."
We evaluated the patient, and tried to (start to) fix his medical issues. While waiting for the lab
results, the officer and I chatted. The officer related to me that he was an officer, “not for the
attorney with a 150,000 dollar car and a nice house: he doesn’t need me. That guy, over there:
he depends on me to do the right thing. He is why I took that oath.” Once we had finished caring for the gentleman, and were ready to discharge him, another
officer from this same (yeah, rural) department came and took him home, seeing him safely
into his apartment.Another occasion, same rural police department, same officer. This time he accompanied an
EMS transport. This soul was in custody, so the officer parked himself outside the room, to
keep an eye on his charge. During their stay, in the room across the hallway, was a child, who
was very dubious about the entire "going to the hospital" thing. This officer was approached by
the fearful child, who momentarily had his fears overcome with curiosity about a live-and-in-
person police officer. This officer was very engaged with the child, producing wide eyes
interest as the boy lectured the officer on the ins and outs of frogs, and minutiae of their lives in
the wild. He (the officer) offered a few frog insights of his own, and the two of them had an
animated conversation there in my ED hallway. The rest of my encounter with the boy was made considerably smoother, when the officer
asked the boy, "Are you behaving for my friend Reltney? Yeah, he may be a doctor (well, a PA
at this point, but, ya know...), but he's pretty nice. Give him a chance, wontcha?"My point? There has been come conversation of “Officer as social worker” becoming part of the
police toolbox. This theme is not new, although it used to be called "walking the beat, and
knowing your beat". Some officers, who are each a credit to their profession, have been
employing that tool for a long time. And, in some regards, to steal a phrase from the American
Nurses' Association, "Patient Care is Everywhere!" Some of the practitioners are not formally
licensed in health professions. And, some of us simply see it as being a good neighbor.
While my blog is commonly about lighthearted things, irritants, and such like fluff, occasionally I have to pause, and honor better folks than I. This post, which I placed last year, is here again. Haerter and Yale are emblematic of those who go in harm’s way, on behalf of their buddies, on behalf of people that they will never know.
Those MEN (and, nowadays, WOMEN) need to hold a place in our hearts.
This is Memorial Day 2020. This the day set aside, to contemplate, to remember, those who have stood in harm’s way, have said to Evil, “you shall not pass!”, and have died so doing.
Today we recall those immortalized in Francis Scott Keyes’ fourth stanza, opening,
“Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!”
Then, read the story. Lifted directly from Business Insider. This–THIS–is how MEN face DUTY. I pray that, should the need arise, I can be worthy to stand in their presence. Corporal Jonathan Yale, Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. This is what we remember, on Memorial Day.
via Marines Magazine
Five years ago, two Marines from two different walks of life who had literally just met were told to stand guard in front of their outpost’s entry control point.
I had heard the story many times, personally. But until today I had never heard Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly’s telling of it to a packed house in 2010. Just four days following the death of his own son in combat, Kelly eulogized two other sons in an unforgettable manner.
Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.
Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.
The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.
They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.
The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.
A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.
Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.
When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.
The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.
I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.
All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”
What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”
“No sane man.”
“They saved us all.”
What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.
You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: ” … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”
The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have know they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.
The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.
Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.