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By C.B. Garris
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2015 C.B. Garris
All rights reserved.
I felt the gentle pressure of Anjoline's soft, full lips touching mine before she left for work. I viewed her in uniform but I must have fallen back asleep again almost immediately. I woke up for duty around 11:00 a.m. and indulged in my normal morning fitness breakfast: eight egg whites scrambled with diced green peppers, onions, mushrooms, 4 slices of multi-grain toast, a massive glass of orange juice and a bowl of pears and apples with yogurt and honey. Everyone always asked where I put all the food.
I called the animal hospital to check on AMBU and the Vet said that she was still sedated but stable. I drove through traffic in the Bronx near the 3rd Avenue Bridge and noticed that it got hotter when I passed Yankee Stadium. I was in kind of a funk from last night. I was so scared that AMBU was killed when she was struck by that car outside the station. I got stuck in a heap of traffic near the United Nations, which put me at the station just in time to get dressed. I changed out of my watermelon colored "Black Dog" T-shirt I bought on Martha's Vineyard a year ago and also removed my jeans. I put my uniform pants on first, a white undershirt and then my level 3-A bulletproof vest. I donned my uniform shirt and checked my collar insignias to ensure they were placed properly.
Something made me stop for a second. It was like I was hit from all over with this strange sense of awareness. I looked down at the ground and then straight-ahead. I knocked on the metal shock plate of my vest three times and something said to me that I would need it tonight. That didn't stop me from heading downstairs, in fact whatever my fate would bring I would face it.
I went down and began the process of checking out my radios, narcotics and checking my Lifepak monitor in the office. Danny arrived in the office and we shook hands. He looked at me like he knew I was in deep thought, "You okay man?"
"Yeah," I said, "I just got caught in a little bit of traffic," I said as I placed the paddles back in their respective holders. The office phone rang and Lt. Alan Yobi picked it up. I could tell by his tone that the Communications Division was briefing him.
"Okay, they're going where?" Alan's voice elevated inquisitively.
"Uh, okay, I'll get them rolling." Alan put the phone down and searched his desk for papers. He looked up at Danny and me, "Oh good, you're here."
"Lieu," I said with a smart-ass smile, "Where else would we be?"
Alan looked at me with an equally smart-ass look, "HA HA, check it out you two are going to Brooklyn. Apparently they are getting pounded and can't get units out fast enough. They have about 78 calls holding in the que and they need you to start picking up some slack. You might be there for awhile so I hope you remember your deployments."
I looked at Danny as he shrugged his shoulders, "Let's rock!"
"See ya," I said to Alan as we departed. I picked up my EMS portable and notified the Citywide Special Operations Logistics Dispatcher that we would be heading to Brooklyn and to let us know which calls they wanted us to pick up first. Ted, the evening Citywide dispatcher told us that most of the calls were BLS and he wanted us to get out towards Coney Island as fast as we could. Danny and I checked out our bus (ambulance) and equipment quickly: Lifepak Monitor/Defibrillator, meds bags, Advanced Airway tube kit, Advanced Life Support Trauma bags and the various necessities we would need to have on a busy night.
Danny and I made for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, towards the Verrazano Bridge. I figured that at this hour of the day we would have an easier time getting into the K1-K2 area (the K stands for Kings County) from the back end.
We hit a bit of traffic but nothing that lights and sirens couldn't get us through. As we approached the exit for the Belt Parkway, we got called for a stabbing close by on Ave X at 31st Street. We went 10-63 (enroute) and were forcing our way through traffic when NYPD notified our dispatcher that it was a hoax, or what we called an unfounded assignment.
By this time we were pretty close to Station 31 at Coney Island Hospital, so we stopped in to pay a visit. The first person I saw was Julie Mednick, who when I saw her last was a mess of tears over at Jacobi Hospital after the notification of Tanya's death. That was also the night that I lost Jennifer. She saw me and ran over, putting her arms around me. She squeezed me like she did not want to let go. Everyone at the station was trying to figure it out, but just went about their business.
"How are you doing?" I asked while we hugged.
"Christian, I think I should be asking you that question. I am so sorry." She wiped her hair away from her face as tears started to fall from her eyes.
"Jesus, I don't even know what to say. I have wanted to call you but I didn't want to bring it all up again. How are you handling things?"
I accepted her hug and gave her another, "Thank you. You know you can always call and don't worry about stirring things up. It is something that has to be dealt with. Life has been different, very different. It is like there is this huge hole in my life, but I am fortunate to have someone in my life that is taking really incredible care of me. It is not that my days are not without feeling strung out, but this is an experience that I am taking day by day. Coming to work is kind of strange. There are reminders of Jennifer everywhere, especially when I get on a scene, I look up, and she is not there."
As I went to complete my sentence, my pager went off. It was Anjoline informing me that she is home safe and will be in the rest of the night. She also told me to be careful tonight.
"Is that the sparkle in your life?" Julie said quietly.
"Yes, just a check in to let me know she is there for me." I said mustering a smile through the sadness in my face.
Julie wiped tears from her eyes as she gathered herself, "Well if she is with you, I know that you are well taken care of."
The two-way portable radio on Julie's hip began to call her unit number, 31E3 (or in our service name - 31 Eddie). The radio on my hip shared the same message. Julie and her partner were dispatched to a call for a possible pin job (car accident with someone trapped inside) on the Belt Parkway. So she acknowledged the radio assignment, wrapped her arms around me gently, giving me a gentle, but deliberate kiss on my cheek and said we would speak later.
As I listened to the dispatcher on her frequency, I realized that there was no Advanced Life Support unit assigned to Julie's job, so I offered up and we were assigned. We followed Julie's unit out of the station, blasting out onto Ocean Parkway. As we made to the scene of the accident in tandem, it looked pretty bad; a Ford Taurus and a Nissan Probe seemed to have intertwined themselves. It was dusk, so as the four of us initiated patient care and pre-extrication procedures, I had the NYPD ESU units check the grassy and wooded areas off the parkway for anyone who may have been ejected from either vehicle on impact. The last thing you want to happen is to lose a patient in the shuffle of a bad scene.
Two of the three patients were in very serious condition, completely pinned under the dashboard of each vehicle. From what I could tell, it looked like one of the vehicles might have jumped the median and went head on into the other vehicle. A few more units going available out of Coney Island Hospital hopped on the call as well, so we were able to get extra hands on the scene quickly. Having the additional hands helped Danny and I concentrate on the two most critical patients.
We both initiated multiple IV's on both patients as FDNY (Fire Department, City of New York) and NYPD ESU (New York City Police Department, Emergency Services Units) started cutting the vehicles apart with their Jaws of Life. Once freed, Danny and I took the patient from the Probe; Julie and another ALS unit took patient number two. Julie's partner and another BLS unit took the third patient. We completed packaging our patient in full cervical spine immobilization and a few officers began to place him in the vehicle. Danny and I worked feverishly against the fact that our patient's blood pressure was dropping like the stock market in 1987 and that his respiratory factor was completely compromised due to severe chest and head injuries he suffered in the impact.
I began tubing the patient with a 7.0 endotracheal tube, while Danny punctured another 14-gauge catheter into his left jugular vein for IV access. He could have been bleeding internally from so many places that a patent airway and fluid replacement had to be accomplished faster than humanly possible. Once I secured the tube around his face, I notified Communications that we're enroute to Coney Island Hospital and to have the trauma teams ready. As we turned off the Belt Parkway onto a street I could not see from the rear, I heard the tech driving say, "Holy Shit, hold on!"
I heard a barrage of screeching from several directions and a thunderous, explosive bang. Next I remember an impact with incredible force and my feet coming up off the floor of the ambulance. The vehicle, Danny, the patient and I all went into a tumble, as I heard Danny scream. I tried to grab him but couldn't because of the vehicle somersaulting. I hit my head on something and I felt pressure on my back, and then everything went completely dark.CHAPTER 2
I kept hearing Julie's voice.
"Christian, Christian honey, wake up. Shit he is not waking up."
Everything was still dark. I wanted to answer Julie.
I heard commotion and bags being ripped open. In fact, I heard the sound of clothes being ripped open. The darkness was eerie, but peaceful. Since I didn't feel anything, I had no idea that I was wearing the clothes being ripped open.
"31 Eddie, get me an NYPD heelo (a helicopter) to Floyd Bennet Field now, I have three MOS's down, one in traumatic arrest, one critical and the other is stable."
I heard Julie's voice speaking these words frantically, but it wasn't registering. Another lapse of time went by and I heard rotors. I wanted to stand up and say I was fine. I had no idea what was going on.
"Damnit Christian, open your eyes," I said to myself, and still there was nothing I could do. The sound of the rotors got louder.
When I finally opened my eyes, everything was water like; I was dizzy and nauseated. I was also not breathing on my own. I looked around the room and Julie was there with Davia; meanwhile someone was holding my right hand and I realized I was hooked up to a ventilator. I could hear the familiar beeps and air suction sounds that the ventilator makes, and it synchronized with my breath. I also realized that my head was somehow strapped or taped to a wooden backboard, and I was in full cervical spinal immobilization. I began to feel sore everywhere. I could tell by the fact that my arms were pretty much taped down that I had IV's in place.
I thought to myself, "What the fuck is going on? Where are Jennifer and Danny?" I realized how hard it was to even attempt to speak with a tube in my throat. I felt this gut-wrenching discomfort in the pit of my stomach, because I remembered that Jennifer could not be in the room, because she was dead. I kept getting these visions of a funeral, a procession and her. In the darkness I experienced, I felt as if I saw her if only for a moment.
I focused on Davia and Julie as best I could, though that wasn't much help.
Everything went dark again.
At some point I opened my eyes again and this time focused much better. My sister, brother and mom were all there, along with Davia, Julie, Captain Bob and Captain Lenny, Chief Tom Conroy and of course Anjoline (AJ). AJ looked like she was holding vigil for many hours. I could finally speak and I realized that the tube was out of my throat, though my voice was rather raspy for a while (common for just being extubated).
"Hey babe," AJ said as I looked at her completely confused.
"Where am I?" I said to AJ with this grimaced face from my back pain.
"You're at Bell," AJ said as she placed her hand on my forehead. "You were in an accident a day and a half ago."
"A day and a half ago," I said as I looked at AJ like I didn't even know her. "Accident? Where is Danny?"
AJ sighed deeply and a tear ran down her face, as Davia stepped forward in a freshly dry-cleaned uniform.
"Hi sleepyhead," Davia said affectionately, "Let's talks about Danny later."
I took a second to take in Davia's discretion.
"No," I said with great furvor, "Let's talk about Danny now, where is he?"
Davia knew that I wouldn't accept a trivial answer. "Christian, Honey, with everything you have been through recently, what I am about to say may seem a little bit overwhelming."
I took a deep breath as I felt the pit in my stomach grow even larger.
Davia looked at me with sadness in her eyes.
"Christian, Danny died in the accident."
I looked at Davia with absolute numbness in my eyes.
"Your vehicle," Davia continued, "was broad sided coming off the Belt Parkway and it flipped numerous times. So far as NYPD A.I.D. (Accident Investigation Division) can piece it together, Danny was ejected out of the rear doors on impact and was subsequently struck by a drunk driver."
I felt AJ squeeze my hand hard as I just sat there inhaling and exhaling quickly. I felt as if the entire world had come down upon me and as if I had done something wrong. I began to wonder about everything and all of those around me. Chief Tom Conroy, one of my closest friends in the service reached over to my ankle and wrapped his full hand around it. He applied gentle pressure signaling that he is there. Tom and I always shared an incredible bond, where many words didn't have to be said, but we were friends since my adolescence; and he was my life mentor.
Bob, another very close friend walked up to my bedside and tapped my leg, "Yo bro, I'm sorry."
"Dav," I said with a still raspy voice, "Danny was only twenty five."
I started to cry and suddenly realized how much pain I was in when I attempted to wipe my tears. Davia just looked at me with sadness in her stare. I laid there in the hospital bed surveying all of the equipment I was connected too, respecting the bond I shared with this group of people in my life that now surrounded me, coming to be there for me in my time of need. In my sadness and frustration, I began to recall all of the events that led me here.CHAPTER 3
"I was looking forward to a lobster or perhaps one of those bacon-wrapped filet mignons this time," Jennifer joked with me as we sat in the US Secret Service Advance Team Ready Room at the United Nations.
Looking in my direction, Jennifer rubbed her tummy and licked her lips while she added, "You know, the one I got with the sauteed spinach and Yukon Gold garlic-mashed potatoes when we were with the Prez two months ago."
"Sorry Jen, I believe this will be a short trip this time. Boss man is addressing the UN Assembly on his annual world hunger budget, and then he is back to Washington." I said to Jennifer adjusting my black nylon utility belt around my waist.
Jen and I were working the Medical Protection Detail for NYC EMS in accordance with the United States Secret Service. Although the president has his own physicians on staff, we are the emergency paramedics assigned to him, the Vice President or any dignitary the Federal law enforcement agencies request us to provide emergency medical care for whenever one of or all of these individuals are within the confines ofNew York City.
We even had the opportunity to sit down and have dinner with the President and his family on several occasions when the events would be informal.
Our bosses would have probably flipped if they knew we were eating with the President and his family.
Adjusting my NYC EMS portable two-way radio on my belt as I looked in the direction of Secret Service Special Agent Jack Trudor, I asked him, "Is this going to be one of those long speeches like the last time we were here?"
Jack was an ex-NFL Defensive Back turned Chief Security Agent for the President. He was a tall black male, standing 6'2", weighing in I would guess at about 240, all muscle. If his shoulders weren't already broad enough, the numerous weapons he had at the ready under his sports coat made him look even larger.
Excerpted from Paramedic: M.O.S. by C.B. Garris. Copyright © 2015 C.B. Garris. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thoughtful, raw, wholehearted, and real. Just a few words that describe the authors retelling of his adventures as a Paramedic in New York City. The greatest fire department in the nation, and the best Paramedics anywhere in the world, Christian, the main character was on the front lines of great saves and great tragedies. This book is not just for first responders, this book is written for anyone who has ever loved, anyone who had ever had friends that changed our lives, anyone who has ever given everything and defined themselves by the job that they do. Any incredibly intense and honest portrayal of the kind of people who work the job of EMS, and also of the kind of human beings we should all try to be for each other and for ourselves. Having to overcome obstacles, endure personal hardships, striving to be there for our friends and loved ones, and still being dedicated to doing something for the greater good. This book isn't just about street medicine, and adrenaline rushes, this book is about people, connections, and contributing to the world at large. An excellent read, I eagerly await more books from this author.
Heroes may come in all types of forms. When 9/11 occurred, our whole world was shaken up. From police to firemen to the New York Paramedics, this situation changed countless lives. There are, however, heroes that have gone unrecognized to the public eye. I agree with the author when they say that those men and women are the EMT's and Paramedics who rushed to the scene should be known. C.B. Garris brings to us the inside look into the lives of these men and women who save lives day after day. It is shocking to learn what they endure on a daily basis when it comes to the job. I have a friend who is looking into going to college to be one. After reading this book, my eyes were opened and I'll be passing it along to him. If your loved one's career is in this field, read this book. If you are looking to go into it-same goes for you. Everyone needs to learn about these unrecognized heroes!
An incredible read - I have had several friends and a few family members who have worked in emergency services and have always been mesmerized by their stories. The career is something that has always struck as being both a calling and a great ongoing adventure. I have often wanted to experience this to an extent but am a bit lazy so limit my experiences to the pages of fiction. This is the first memoir-type book that I have picked up on the life of a paramedic and I don't think that I could have picked a better one. "Paramedic: M.O.S." is an incredibly well-written description of what living the emergency services life is like in the most bustling city in the world - NYC. Author C.B. Garris takes the reader through his own experiences of being a paramedic in New York City, from the very beginning with his training until he makes the tough decision to give up the strenuous life after suffering injuries from an in the line of duty accident. There are some very real and touching stories in this book that make the daily life a paramedic both relatable and almost superhuman. While I had respect for these people before, it has gone through the roof after reading some of these stories. One of the things that struck me the most about this book is the way that many paramedics seem to give their entire beings over to this profession, and oftentimes pay a very high price for doing so. Many end up having emotional, family and other issues and, while the job may be rewarding beyond measure, it comes at a high personal cost. Fantastic read.