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The Musings of a Stubborn Believer

Category: EMT

When Words Save Lives

I settle into the airway seat while we wail down the interstate. Mental checklists line up like a rabble of elementary boarding scholars waiting for roll call. All set. Light blue latex waits on my lap. (Medium please.)

The radio crackles; they’ve called the bird. We almost always do on a rollover.

At long last we cross the median to join a parade of flashing lights.
The secondary beat us there by three minutes, but this is our territory.
It’s mayhem. The kind of mayhem an overloaded pickup truck leaves on the road when it tumbles.
And it looks like the Army, Navy, Marines, and National Guard are all on scene too. (figuratively.)

We elbow in.

Patient looks remarkably good considering. Ugliness on his hand and shoulder and sticky swelling questionableness on his head, but awake and talking. Just one thing:

“Does anybody speak spanish??”

I’ve got the head. We load him just in time to escape rotor wash. The bird hot drops a crew and takes off again.

“I kinda do.”

Medics from three crews on one rig. And FD and LE orbiting around the outside, circling for turns at the open door, to fire more questions in.

I lean down to hear him. Me, the link between him and the guys that know way more than I do.
I’ve got the chart too. And I ask him questions, and I ask them for procedures and numbers and assessments. And I put everybody’s answers on paper.

Then after ten minutes start to finish, I’m back in the airway seat with my feet up, headed for base.
He’ll fly, we’ll go back to listening to the radio.

It’s in the peace of a quite firehouse that it hits me.


Love it. Spend almost an hour a day, every day, learning a new one.

But how many times has Heaven come to my rescue, sent down it’s agents, stopped an interstate to land the bird,
and been almost entirely unable to give me any real aid at all, because I didn’t know the language.

Because I’d never taken time to learn it.

To hear the voice of God is one thing. To understand it is another.

Almost Obedience [of lights, lanes, and a lecture]

It’s pouring rain. 
I’m half in your lane because the only way I can keep out of the standing water is by straddling the yellow line. 
I’m all lit up, and have been watching your headlights oncoming for the last three miles– 

and you’re going to play chicken. with. an. Ambulance.


–As my dad would say:

“Work with me.”

I have to laugh.
We rumble along. I just raise my eyebrows as they go by, me fully in my lane, driving in deep water.
(because we prefer smart driving to brave.)

The rain slows and we pick up pace again. And three drivers in a row have their cars in park a half mile before I get there, and the next driver just crosses the white line enough to spit gravel everywhere and endanger my windscreen.

I can’t resist a little lecture in the moments before we meet and part.

Eh hem…, driving with one wheel barely over the white line still verily qualifies as being on the road. Especially at that speed, bro. And driving with all but one wheel on the other side would too. Know what I’m saying?

[car streaks by]

This ‘almost off the road’ thing is really a misnomer. 
You’re either on the road,

or you’re… off. the…


And suddenly, it is as if He is sitting in the passenger seat, pointing towards the next car– the one that is almost stopped, and almost all the way off…
It is as if He turns a kind face from it to me, locks with my eyes and just raises His eyebrows a bit and smiles a little, that smile that betrays a bit of something like sadness and a whole lot of Love– That smile I’ve seen too many times to count…
So… whose idea was the lecture. mine, or Yours?

–  –  –  –  –

His, I think.
I suddenly see how they are one and the same. The guy who blazes past, and the guy who almost stops. Both still on the road.

And I think of the times I mostly obey…

Just Like Your Father

Radio in my lap, yellow lines blink by out the driver’s side.
The feeling is familiar, but the road… not so much.
I’m not coming from home. And I’m not wearing my uniform.

I am, in fact, wearing light blue with french cuffs. And my tie is branded Kenneth Cole Reaction.

But just the same…

“Catron S.O., 2466 on Davenport”
“On Davenport, go ahead.”
“Yes ma’am, we’re on scene at the rodeo grounds.”

I loosen my collar a bit, single windsor slightly adrift.
And I push open the back door of the ambulance to smile down at a mother and two seriously good looking little boys.

“Hi there…”

“Hello, my son hur– [gasp]

You must be Dr. Nebblett’s boy!!”

And I wish you could have seen her smile.
I wish you could have seen mine.

“Yes ma’am, I am indeed Dr. Nebblett’s boy.”

I sit on the gurney, across from the brave little boy with big dark eyes. He with his cowboy hat, me with my cufflinks.
And I examine, and poke, and ask questions, and watch his eyes. And compare and consult… and tell his mother what she should do.

And we are instantly friends.
And someone pulls a pack of instant ice out of the cabinet, and I squeeze it until the bubble breaks, and it transforms in my hands.

And when he steps down from the ambulance, his mother tells me to tell my dad I’d seen them, and that they sent greetings.

And I did. And my father lit up the same way she had…
Because those boys were his friends, who’d moved away. The ones that would reach for him whenever they came to the office, starting at 4 months of age…

I watch them go for a quiet moment. And I turn to Jared, stethoscope around his neck–

I think I look like my dad.

He smiles; man of well-chosen words.
“You think?”

–  –  –  –  –

I ponder. I wonder

That reaction– Do people see in my face the likeness of my Father?
Is that likeness striking enough for them to catch His features at first glance?
Even when distracted by some other stress?

Even if they’ve never met Him?

Who is My Neighbor?

The simple thought struck me profoundly…

I snap the mic back onto the console and turn out my window to see the man that had led us in to his neighbor’s lot, in the back of a beautiful little subdivision in the middle of nowhere.
I’d seen his bumper stickers. They told of a war we were ashamed to own, and his full grey beard and tattered hat told the rest of the story.
But this was his neighbor who was sick…

He’s been waiting for my look. Out my open window he snaps a salute.

I nod.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Be careful now.”
“Yes sir.”

I touch my own forehead and put the ambulance in drive.
Lights glitter red. He watches us go.

And I find myself glad for a chance to drive the 90 minutes it took to get to the scene
Glad for a chance to serve a community where neighbors lead the ambulance in. (He wasn’t the first.)
Lots of neighbors, lots of places, don’t care.

And I thought of a Samaritan man a long time ago…
And wondered not so much, “Who is my neighbor?”

But rather, “Whose neighbor am I?”

Heaven’s Hands

You are called to be Heaven’s hands… and Heaven’s voice.
This is happiness…
I was already in my pajamas. In fact I had just plopped down on the couch in the living room, Spiritual Leadership in one hand, and my iPad in the other, waiting for family time.
Then the dispatcher down at the county seat hit a button on her console… The button that gets us moving faster than any other button in the world. 
And the pager came alive. 
“An ambulance is requested at _____for a s__ty-___ year old female with difficulty breathing…”
So much for the PJs. 

Joshua, Natasha and I were out the door by the time she finished repeating the tone. 
And driving down the road towards town, I prayed the same prayer that is in our hearts every time we jump into our uniforms and grab our radios. 
“…and let us be Your hands to our patient this evening. In Jesus’ name…” 
She really was in trouble. Enough trouble that when we got her in the rig, she got three lines of oxygen instead of one. But God knew she needed more than just our medications and a ride to the nearest hospital. 
She needed a song. 
It was the farthest thing from our minds…  
But no matter. He has His ways… And before we were halfway to the hospital, the three of us found ourselves singing O Lord, You’re Beautiful… 
And she was leaning back on the cot still wheezing heavily, but with her eyes closed and a smile on her face. 
When we finished, the panic was gone. She said she could die in peace… because her angels had sung for her.
I just looked at her. 

I promise you, we’re not angels. For one thing, angels sing in tune. We could barely hear each other from the three corners of the back of the ambulance with all the road noise…
But I learned that sometimes all He needs is for us to be willing to lift the lid on protocol for just one second and move our lips so that He can sing… 

By the time our charting was done and we left the ER, every staff member there had heard the tale of her angels.
All I could do was shake my head.
And wonder at what we might have missed… 
We are called to be Heaven’s hands… and Heaven’s voice.
This is happiness. And an honor entirely undeserved.

An hour later I pulled back through the dark streets of our quiet little town, and up to the white metal building we affectionately call “the barn.” 
Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for riding this ambulance today.

“Catron S.O. this is 2*67 on Davenport”
“Catron S.O. on Davenport, Go ahead 2*67”

“Good evening ma’am, we’re back in service.”
“10-4. Thank you. Welcome home sir.” 

One Little Digression

Pardon me if digress from my normative tenor momentarily…
There are plenty of blogs that serve as little more than a landing pad for 100 perfectly unrelated YouTube videos, and this is not one of them.
But the EMT in me wants to assert itself just this once to make one simple plea: 
Please wear your seatbelt. I’m serious… 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Frightened? I would have been too.
Wouldn’t you have been, if you had been in the vehicle when the tires started whining on dry pavement like a bottle rocket? Imagine looking out the window when it launched off of the bank sideways. Split seconds must have seemed like minutes…and the cycle of light and dark must have well reflected the fight between hopes and fears as the vehicle silently rolled in midair. 
Or maybe your eyes would have been closed…
And maybe his eyes were still closed when the tree trunk started them spinning (still in midair) on 2 axes, not one. Maybe when all was still again the blood and broken glass convinced him to keep them that way. 
Yes, I think I would have been frightened. Especially if I hadn’t yet seen my sixth birthday.   
It took me a few minutes to get to him, (being outnumbered by victims at a scene by a factor of 2 is not ideal) but by the time the rest of our colleagues got there with the ambulances, he had taught me something beautiful about service, and about life… 
It was in his face. Wide eyes told me the story. He was terribly afraid. And even in the bystander’s car with the heat all the way up, he was shaking like a little leaf.
“Hi buddy, my name is Sean. I work on the ambulance. Can I help you?”
“What’s your name? Does this hurt? Ok, hold really still for me. Good boy… I’m just going to hold your head like this… Is this your brother?”
“Yeah… We were, we were just going to the lake…”
But he wouldn’t stop shaking. Even after 5 minutes. 
“Is my mommy still in that car?” 
Oh, I get it…
“Yes. But she should be out soon. They’re working on it right now.”
“But is it going to explode?”
I wish you could have seen his little face. Scratched and swollen as it was, to me it was the ultimate theater of Grace for one beautiful moment. The moment when I said “Oh no, definitely not. They’re taking care of her.” 
His neck relaxed.
Ohhh… good.”
That’s when I decided few privileges compare to healing hurts, and calming fears…
Thanks, my little friend.
I’m so glad you all made it home…