This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
I am a paramedic with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. During my twenty-four hour shift, I am likely to be confronted with any number of situations requiring my aid, ranging from assisting with a birth, to resuscitating a heart attack victim, to rescuing people trapped in burning buildings. It is a job full of challenge, requiring me to make quick assessments and life-and-death decisions at any
Craig Brice paused in his work, straightened, and turned around. His erstwhile partner, Bob Bellingham, was looming just behind him, peering down at the neatly-written lines in the loose leaf notebook. He was holding an extremely loaded, extremely greasy burrito in one hand--breakfast, no doubt. Brice had on several occasions lectured Bellingham on the importance of a good, nutritious breakfast, but obviously it hadn't taken hold yet.
"I didn't see you in the locker room. You're always there when I get in--usually, you're tying your shoes. That's how I know I'm on time." Bellingham took a huge bite of his burrito. "I almost thought I was late, till I looked at my watch."
Brice said, "I'm working the second part of a double. My apartment's being fumigated."
"You're kidding," Bellingham said, surprised. "The one you just moved into?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Roaches." Brice noticed the burrito was dripping dangerously and went off to get a paper towel. "About four nights ago, I came home from a lecture on advances in firefighting equipment--you should have attended, it was fascinating--and when I turned on the light…"
"Let me guess. Cockroaches on parade," Bellingham finished.
"Exactly." Brice returned to the table and wiped away the just-created grease-and-hot sauce pool. "I called the landlord and they put out a notice about the fumigation two days ago. I figured that I could just work until it's okay to return home."
"Only you, Brice." Bellingham nodded toward the open notebook on the table. "So what's that?"
"If you have to know, I'm writing an article," Brice said as he headed over to the wastebasket. "Reader's Digest is looking for 'day in the life' pieces. I thought that writing about one of our shifts would be an excellent topic."
"Assuming it's one of the good ones." Bellingham leaned over to read; a trickle of grease and sauce dangled on the edge of the burrito. "So--you going to write about me?"
"Bellingham…" Before Brice could get over there in time, gravity did its duty. A huge drop of burrito goop splattered on the page.
"Sorry," Bellingham said sincerely. He looked around for a napkin or towel, but Brice yanked the notebook savagely away. "I'll…go check the drug box, okay?"
"Fine." Brice waited until Bellingham--and more importantly, his burrito--were out of range, then carefully ripped the stained page (and the three after it, as the mess had leaked through) out of the notebook, folded the soiled paper neatly in half, and tossed the bundle into the trash. Sighing, he once again took up his pencil and began to write:
I am a paramedic with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. During my twenty-four hour shift, I am likely to be confronted with any number of situations requiring my aid, ranging from assisting with a birth, to resuscitating a heart attack victim, to rescuing people trapped in burning buildings. It is a job full of challenge…
Squad 16 rolled to a stop in front of a old brick building with faded paint and a slightly-battered sign proclaiming the location to be "Clancy's". Faux-neon beer lights hung in the windows, and a large portable billboard let the world know that the 21st reunion of the USS Hornet had been held there last night. Brice bumped into the sign as he carried the biophone and drug box to the front door; Bellingham was right behind him, toting the oxygen tank behind him.
A small crowd of portly, balding men stood around their fallen comrade. The paramedics swung into action, with Brice setting up the biophone and Bellingham getting vitals and history. "What happened?" he asked gruffly to no one in particular.
"Dunno," came the less-than-enthusiastic response from the man on the far right. He knelt down over his large belly. "We got here about ten last night from the dinner and hoisted a few. You know, telling old war stories and stuff. Harry here was having a great time. He hadn't been able to make the last one because of his heart attack…"
"Okay, go on," Bellingham said, whipping a blood pressure cuff around the stricken man. Brice had in the meantime made contact with Rampart and was telling them to stand by while he made sure the patient's air passages were clear.
"Well, you know how it is. We all lost track of time. Clancy closed up but let us stick around, and we were just getting around to talking about breakfast when Harry got up, kind of staggered around a bit, then just dropped like a rock. So we called 911."
"You get that about the heart?" Bellingham asked his partner; Brice nodded curtly. "Okay," he continued, "I've got BP of 150 over 110. Pulse is 97. Respiration is…call it 10. I'll set him up for a strip."
"All right." Brice relayed the patient data to Rampart, and listened intently. "Morton's ready for the strip on line 2. He wants us to start an IV--Ringers."
"Got it…uh-oh. He's not breathing."
Brice was on it immediately, tilting the unconscious man's head back and prying his mouth open to get a quick peek inside. "Vomit." Bellingham paused in his snatch-and-grab for the IV kit and assisted his partner in rolling the victim on his side. The bystanders winced and turned away as a thick stream of emesis trickled from the unconscious man's mouth.
Brice reached back behind and grabbed the biophone, reporting the latest development to the hospital. "Insert esophageal airway, ten-four, Rampart." By the time he'd finished, Bellingham had already retrieved one from the box and was holding it out to him.
As Brice struggled to establish the airway, Bellingham scoured the overweight man's arms for a suitable vein. He quickly gave up and started searching for any vein at all, to no avail. "Damn it…" The paramedics exchanged a glance, and a second later Brice and Bellingham traded jobs. Within a minute Bellingham had the airway in; Brice had established a line and was back on the biophone with Rampart. "Ambulance ETA is one minute."
As paramedics, we must quickly assess the patient's condition and relay that information to the hospital. We must also be able to act immediately on their instructions and adapt to changing conditions on a second's notice. We never know when we will be called to action, nor do we know the severity of the situation until we get there. It is therefore important to remain organized, both in our approach and in how our equipment is set up.
During our shifts, we never know when we will be called. We can be woken from a sound sleep, pulled away from a hot meal at a moment's notice. Many times, we have to eat on the run, taking what we can find while on the road or in the hospital.
It was Bellingham's turn to ride in with the patient; Brice carefully cleaned up the debris from the work, nodded as the patient's buddies thanked him profusely for saving his life, and loaded the squad up before heading to Rampart. He found his partner in the lounge, banging and shaking a vending machine. "What are you doing?" he sighed.
"I want my candy bar." Bellingham pointed to the fourth row, where a Snickers bar dangled defiantly on the edge. The paramedic growled at it and gave the machine another good smack, but the candy bar refused to budge. "Dammit!" Bellingham bellowed. "Gimme!"
"Bob," Brice said patiently, "are you aware that the number one cause of accidental deaths in the workplace is caused by what you're currently doing?"
"Fine. I'll just kick the damned glass in, then."
Brice rolled his eyes. "Wait. Just…wait." He motioned for Bellingham to get out of the way, then moved so that he was directly in front of the machine. "Let's try a little finesse before we go overboard with force, okay?" He studied the position of the candy bar, considered the weight of the machine and thickness of the glass, then carefully drew one fist back and delivered a single blow.
The sound of shattered glass seemed to echo through every single hospital corridor, at least to Brice. He stood there, dumbfounded, as Bellingham casually reached through the gaping hole and grabbed his candy bar. "Thanks, Craig," he said, happily unwrapping his prize as he walked out the door.
We spend the majority of our free time at the station. Contrary to what some believe, firefighters keep extremely busy when not out on calls. We carefully inspect our vehicles and equipment, making sure that it will operate correctly when called upon. From time to time we review procedures and learn new techniques to help us do our job more efficiently and safely. In addition to all this, I work on a advisory committee, discussing recent situations with my fellow paramedics and hospital staff to see where we can do our jobs better.
"DeSoto, where is your partner?" Brice demanded. He checked his watch again--Gage was now three minutes, forty seconds late for the advisory board. Given Gage's antipathy toward him, Brice would almost think he was doing deliberately just to be an annoyance.
"Beats me," DeSoto replied, sipping at his coffee. "He said he'd be right here."
"Craig, we can get started," Dr. Morton suggested. "It's okay."
"No, it isn't. Would it kill him to be on time just once…" Brice began, but at that moment John Gage came bursting through the door, all smiles. He flopped down into the chair next to his partner, then lunged forward for the last available donut.
"So nice of you to join us, Gage," Brice said politely. "Lose your way?"
"Uh, not really." Gage looked around at the other paramedics and grinned. "I was talking to that new nurse in the ER--Susie Simmons. The redhead, you know? We're going out tomorrow night."
"Nice to know your priorities are in order," Brice muttered under his breath.
"Be sure you point out Gage was late in your article!" Bellingham called from the sofa.
"Article? What article?" Gage asked.
Brice shot his partner a murderous look and took a deep breath. "Nothing important. Now, if we could begin…"
Bellingham's Handy-talkie went off. Sighing, Brice rose to his feet, made his apologies, and hurried out the door, his partner right behind.
Squad 16, woman down with multiple bee stings, Griffith Park, called Sam Lanier over the radio. Bellingham acknowledged and fired up the sirens while Brice quickly consulted a map for directions.
The paramedics pulled up to what had to be a movie location site. As Brice and Bellingham jumped out and retrieved their equipment, a balding, harried-looking fellow wearing expensive sunglasses and a spandex jacket rushed up to them. "About time you guys got here!" he bellowed, waving his arms around for emphasis. "Sharyn could be dead by now, while you two took your sweet time leaving the donut shop!"
Bellingham chose to ignore the jibe. "Where's the patient?" he asked curtly.
"This way." The loudmouth guided them through a maze of trucks, cords, and equipment. "I'm Harold Wiesner of Miracle Films. You know, 'if it's a great film, it's a Miracle'. We were filming our latest movie, 'Attack of the Bee Women', when the guy moving the boom mike accidentally hit a bee hive. We all scattered, but they went after Sharyn." He motioned toward a figure huddled under a bright yellow jacket; a nurse was kneeling beside her, talking quietly. "So take care of her and get out, okay? We got filming to complete while we still got light!"
Brice shot his partner a glance; Bellingham was struggling to keep his mouth shut. As they approached the patient, the nurse looked up. Brice was momentarily stunned by a pair of cool, pale blue eyes, framed by a perfectly-coifed sea of dark brown hair, meeting his.
"I'm the location nurse," she said crisply as she moved back to let them set up. "Thank you for coming so promptly."
"Not to hear him tell it," Bellingham said darkly, glaring daggers at Wiesner. He knelt down and presented his most charming, calming smile. "Hello, miss, we're here to take a…." His eyes went wide for just a moment, and his mouth dropped before he caught himself.
"I'm Sharyn LaRue," the stunning-though-swollen woman said with a wry smile.
"I know," Bellingham nodded breathlessly.
"Always nice to meet a fan," she said. "Though I could wish for better circumstances…"
"Um, yes. Well, we're here to make sure you're all right," he said, his voice shaking slightly.
"I'm all yours."
Brice turned from the biophone. "Vitals?"
"I'm…getting there." He smiled again at the patient. "Miss LaRue…I need to take your pulse and blood pressure."
She lifted a swollen arm. "Here. Just be gentle."
Meanwhile, Brice was relaying information from the nurse over to Rampart. "I counted at least twenty discrete stings," the young woman reported. "I immediately applied ice to as many areas as I could and administered 50 milligrams Benadryl. I then borrowed a jacket from one of the cameramen to keep her warm, and checked to see if anyone else had been stung."
Brice looked up at her and nodded. "Excellent work, Miss…"
"Van Dyne. Janet Van Dyne." And for the first time she smiled at him. Brice shivered slightly and forced his attention back to the patient; Bellingham had finally obtained some vitals.
"Rampart, patient's blood pressure is 142 over 99; pulse is 85, respiration is 18." He listened intently to the response, then turned to his partner. "Start an IV with D5W; be ready to administer Benadryl if we get an anaphylactic reaction during transport."
"TRANSPORT?" Wiesner appeared from out of nowhere. "You can't transport Sharyn! We have to finish the scene! We've got other scenes to finish! We're losing light and money! You aren't taking her anywhere!"
Brice cast a worried look to his partner; Bellingham's features were darkening, and a trademark growl that had in part earned him the nickname "Animal" was rising from his throat. Brice quickly stood up and placed himself between Wiesner and the other paramedic. "Mr. Wiesner, while I appreciate your situation, the fact of the matter is that Miss LaRue requires immediate medical attention. This is a potentially dangerous situation that if not properly monitored could result in a possibly fatal reaction. I'm sure that you wouldn't want your star lost forever due to your demands."
"Come on! She was just stung a few times! What's the big deal?" Wiesner's face was growing increasingly red. "I've got to get this film in the can and under budget! I've got important friends at City Hall, and they'll make sure you never work another day in this city! I…I…" The producer suddenly grew sheet white and clutched at his chest. "I…"
Brice and the nurse quickly lowered the stricken man to the ground. While she began taking his vitals, the paramedic pulled the biophone over to his position. "Rampart, this is Squad 16. We have a second patient, repeat, we have a second patient, apparent heart attack…"
Brice and the nurse watched the ambulance carrying both actress and producer to the hospital. "I wanted to thank you for your help," Brice said to her. "It made things much easier, having a trained professional there."
"My pleasure," she replied with the hint of a smile. "A favor, if I might ask?"
"Certainly, if I can."
Van Dyne handed him a card. "If you could be so kind to call me and let me know their status tomorrow, I'd appreciate it." She flipped the card over. "My home phone number. Feel free to call…anytime." Her eyes held his for what seemed the longest time.
"Of course, of course…" Still somewhat transfixed, Brice locked up the side panels of the squad, climbed in and drove away.
We meet a variety of people in our work. I would have to say the overwhelming majority of them are very kind and helpful to us, knowing that the best way to assist us is to stay back and let us work. Given the high amount of stress that a dangerous situation can generate, it amazes me that we have such relatively few difficulties with bystanders. While the paramedic profession is not the best job for meeting new people, occasionally it does have its rewards.
"She was nice," Bellingham commented on their way back to the station.
Brice nodded absently. "Yes, she was. And professional."
"You going to call her?"
"I…don't know. Maybe," Brice shrugged.
"You going to put her in your story?"
"Shut up, Bellingham."
The peaceful drive back to Station 16 was abruptly shattered by a wail of sirens from behind. Bellingham immediately pulled over to the side; seconds later a shiny red super-stocked Dodge came roaring past, followed by no less than three squad cars, lights blazing and tires squealing.
"My God, what was that?" Brice yelled.
"You don't know? It's the little old lady from Pasadena!" Bellingham said, delighted.
"Are you kidding me? What's she doing here?"
"Dunno. Maybe she's shopping?" Bellingham pulled back into traffic; only a steely glare from his partner kept him from hitting the sirens himself and pursuing. "Mom met her one--she's her hero. She drives real fast and she drives real hard."
Brice snorted. "She's the terror of Colorado Boulevard."
"More power to her. I firmly believe that senior citizens should get out more."
"Getting out is one thing…" Brice shook his head. "She's going to get a ticket now."
"Sooner or later," Bellingham agreed, thinking to himself but not today.
"That's right. Because she can't keep her foot off the accelerator." Brice leaned back against the seat. "I swear, people today have no respect for the law…"
As his partner continued to rant, Bellingham fired off a mental salute to the old lady and muttered under his breath, "Go, Granny, go…"
There is a great deal of camaraderie at a fire station. When you have several people eating, sleeping, working ("Shitting…" "Shut up, Bellingham." "Just trying to help, Craig.") together, the mix of personalities can be difficult if everyone doesn't pull together, especially while fighting a bad fire. Teamwork and respect are essential factors in our profession.
"So, Brice, how's your story coming along?" West asked as he set his infamous Wild West Chili on the table. Chambers, Crandall and Allen were setting the table, with Captain Garrick sitting in his usual spot reviewing some paperwork. Brice glared at Bellingham, who said nothing but sat down to eat, his face the picture of innocence.
"What's this about a story, Craig?" Garrick asked as he ladled a spoonful into his bowl.
"Brice is writing about what it's like to be a paramedic," West informed him.
"I'm…putting some ideas down to see if it's something worth pursuing," Brice slowly conceded. He was rather grateful for his long hair for the moment--it neatly covered his bright red ears.
"Sounds like a good idea," Garrick nodded. "A good article like that could really promote the idea of paramedics around the country."
"Play your cards right," Allen added, "and you could sell it to Hollywood."
"Oh yeah, like anyone is going to want a movie or TV show about paramedics. Get real," West laughed.
"You never know," Allen said around a spoonful of chili and onions. "Course, you'd need a pretty girl in there somewhere. You know, the romance angle. Maybe a nurse or something."
"Or maybe a pretty nurse they meet during a call," Bellingham said casually. Brice choked on his food a second later.
"Oh, Brice--almost forgot," Crandall said after the paramedic had recovered. "You got a call while you were out. Some guy who says he's your landlord, and you need to call him back as soon as possible."
"More trouble?" Bellingham mused.
Brice shook his head. "Probably just informing me that it's okay to move back in." He headed for the payphone; Bellingham took the opportunity to fill his co-workers in on his partner's situation.
"Jeez," Chambers said at story's end. "That really stinks."
Allen shrugged. "Could be worse. Could have been rats. There was this one place I lived at for six months…"
"Enough with the rats, Barry," Chambers exclaimed. "I hate hearing the rat story…" Before the other firefighter could press his advantage, the tones went off again, calling for Station 16. Bellingham headed back to the squad and waited for his partner, who came running over a minute later.
"What have we got?"
Bellingham took the note from Captain Garrick and handed it to Brice. "Heading a bit out of our way, looks like."
"The Nuclear Medicine building at UCLA?" Brice shook his head. "You know, there are times I think our territory encompasses most of Southern California…"
Our work takes us all around the city, from residential neighborhoods and industrial sites to rural areas. Over time, my partner and I have learned the best routes around Los Angeles and can usually get to a site quickly. In our profession, every minute counts, and a delay could mean the difference between life and death.
"…Were giving the students a tour of the facility," a tall, slender man in a white lab coat was saying as Brice and Bellingham hurried toward their patient. "We were showing them the education reactor from the top--you can look right down into it--and suddenly this young man yelps in pain!" The scientist ran his fingers through his wavy blond hair. "It happened so quickly…"
Brice knelt beside the victim, a skinny, auburn-haired boy with coke-bottle glasses. He was huddled under a worn wool blanket, shivering visibly and looking rather clammy. "Can I see the injury, please?" The boy held out his hand in response; there was a huge red blotch in the middle of the back side.
"Wait," the scientist ordered before Brice could begin the examination. Bellingham looked up from setting up the biophone.
"Doctor Pym, we need to treat him immediately." Brice began.
"You don't understand. The boy swatted the insect and it fell to the floor." Pym held out a culture flask; lying at the bottom of it was the slightly-squished remains of a black widow spider. "As it so happens, we had a Geiger counter nearby to demonstrate its use to the students, and when the specimen was brought close to it…" He waved the wand over the dead insect, and instantly a loud, static-like clicking came from the device.
"It's radioactive," Brice breathed. Bellingham dug into the drug box and tossed his partner a pair of latex gloves. As he applied them, Doctor Pym played the device over the boy's hand. "Low levels," he noted.
"Bellingham, inform Rampart that patient has had some exposure to radiation," Brice ordered.
"Could you do something about this?" the teenager demanded. "It hurts!" He shuddered violently.
Bellingham relayed the information to Brackett at Rampart, then listened intently. "Put a dress wound over the bite, start an IV of Ringers and administer five milligrams Valium, prepare for immediate transport. They'll have antivenin waiting."
"Got it." Brice methodically retrieved the necessary materials from the drug box and went to work. "Doctor Pym," he continued as he worked, "we need an ice pack as quickly as you can get one." The scientist nodded and hurried off.
Bellingham nudged the patient. "Hey, kid--what's your name?"
"Peters," the boy replied. "Paul Peters."
"Feel funny at all?" Bellingham continued, grabbing the kid's wrist and taking his pulse. "Energetic? Powerful? Ready to shoot webs from your wrists, hang upside down from the ceiling, bench-press stuff with the proportionate strength of a spider, that sort of thing?"
Peters looked at the paramedic blankly. "No," he said slowly. "It stings like a pin-prick, that's all."
"Damn," Bellingham said sadly. "Too bad, kid. My sympathies."
"Hey, you never said what your landlord wanted," Bellingham said on the way back to Station 16.
The bespectacled paramedic winced. "I'd forgotten about that…until now." He leaned back against the seat and sighed. "Apparently the landlord hired his nephew to do the fumigation, and a problem developed."
"A problem," Bellingham echoed.
"I don't know what they were using, but it was strong enough to start peeling the paint from the walls." Brice shook his head. "There's no telling what it might do to the furniture. Thank God most of my belongings are still in storage."
"You haven't moved completely in yet?" Bellingham asked.
"I haven't had time," Brice explained. "I've been working for a lot of people."
"Craig, I've been wondering something," his partner said slowly. "Seems to me that you work a hell of a lot, but I've yet to see all that money reflected in anything. You drive a used car, you rent a small apartment, you don't splurge on clothes, women or anything that I can tell."
Bellingham stopped at a red light. "So…where does all that money go?"
Brice smiled. "Real estate investments," he replied. "I co-own a few small properties. Other people manage and maintain them, but I've got nice percentages in several apartment complexes." The smile widened. "Including the one John Gage lives in."
"Does he know that?" Bellingham asked.
"Not yet," Brice answered, still smiling in contemplation. "I'm waiting until it's time to raise his rent to let him in on it."
We have to be ready for anything. When we respond to a call, until we get there we have no idea of the nature of the situation, much less the severity. On occasion it might involve someone or something that has a personal connection. We have to set all feelings aside and concentrate on resolving the crisis in the fastest, safest way possible.
The Station 16 crew was just settling down for that evening's episode of "Charlie's Angels" when the tones went off. As the squad and engine roared out of the garage, Brice glanced at the address on the slip of paper Captain Garrick had given him. The color instantly drained from his face. "Bob?" he croaked.
"What?" Bellingham said, his eyes fixed on the road ahead.
"This is my address!" The paramedic's hands trembled slightly. "My apartment complex is on fire!"
"Are you sure?" Bellingham spared a glance at his partner. "Hey, it's a big complex. What are the odds that the one you happen to live in is the one that's burning down?" At that moment the squad rounded the final corner, and Brice's worst fears were confirmed. It was indeed his complex, and from the looks of things, the most intense flames were coming from his floor.
"Well, son of a gun," said Bellingham.
Brice said nothing.
Night had fallen by the time the fire had finally been extinguished. Brice and Bellingham had been kept busy tending to the other tenants, most of who had escaped with minor cases of smoke inhalation and the like. The worst case by far was a skinny, bearded fellow in tattered clothing who'd apparently passed out from smoke inhalation…or so it had seemed at the time.
Brice was administering oxygen to him when Captain Garrick walked over. "Craig, we need to talk."
"Yes, Captain?" Brice stood up and faced his superior; Bellingham took over treating the scraggly patient.
"From what we can tell, the fire started in your apartment."
"Mine?" Brice's voice was a squeak.
"From the look of it, someone" at this Garrick looked over at the patient, "was in there painting and really slapping it around and using a lot of thinner. Somehow the gas pipe got dislodged from your stove, and…well, you can guess the rest. Sooner or later, the fumes hit an ignition source and the fire started. The gas leak helped the fire spread rapidly. It's a damned good thing we got called when we did."
"I wouldn't go up there, if I were you," Garrick said not unkindly. "It's a complete loss. Hope you had insurance."
"No…actually I didn't," Brice replied faintly. "I'd just moved in…I hadn't had time yet."
"Sorry to hear that, son. There anything I can do?"
At that moment the victim looked up and stared at the charred remains of the apartment building. "Oh man," he cried through the oxygen mask. "My uncle is gonna kill me for this!"
Brice turned around slowly. "You," he said in a voice that was far too calm.
"It was an accident, man! I was movin' stuff around to get the paint on, y'know? And the stove wouldn't move till I pushed off against the wall! Oh man, he's gonna kill me…"
"I don't think so," Brice informed him, taking a step toward him.
Brice shook his head. "I'll do it before he gets a chance." And with that the paramedic lunged for the young man's throat; they tumbled to the ground, Brice screaming incoherently as his fellow firefighters struggled to remove him from the also-screaming victim. Only Bellingham refrained from joining the melee; instead, he picked up the biophone and sighed.
"Rampart, this is 16. I've got a paramedic, late 20's, trying to kill one of our patients. Request permission to administer 10 milligrams Valium immediately…"
I am proud to be a paramedic. It is a challenging and dangerous job, but the personal satisfaction I receive from saving lives and helping people makes it very worthwhile. Knowing that I have touched someone's life and made an impact on it gives me a great deal of pride. When I go home at the end of my shift, I can get into bed knowing that I have one of the best jobs in the world, and I would never want to be anything else.