One of the redeemable qualities of the human race is the infinite range of responses that it can have to a crisis. Spend any time working in Emergency Services and you will be surprised by what people will do under stress. Eventually you will stop being surprised and learn to just go with it.
“Respond for a chainsaw injury to the leg.”
Chainsaws are notorious creatures. One slip, and even the most practiced handling of one can
turn to a life or limb-threatening injury. “Chainsaw” is one of those words you add to a dispatch when you want to impress upon the responders that this might, in fact, be a bit messier than the average call.
They have loaded him into a car and are en route to the hospital, with plans to meet us en route. With only one hospital in the region, this is a common occurrence and can significantly improve treatment and transport time – sometimes by as much as hours. In this case, an empty parking lot at a roadside attraction will do the trick.
I pull up a few minutes behind the ambulance. There is an SUV parked with its tailgate up. One of the medics is standing at the back, speaking to whoever is inside. The other strolls over to me, her tongue firmly embedded in her cheek. There is nothing spurting, no drip drip drip of blood out of the back of the SUV and from what I can see nobody is carrying a spare limb on some ice, we’ve got that going for us.
She says, “We’re not getting a lot of cooperation here.” Together we walk over to the truck, I can hear someone faintly moaning.
In the rear portion of the SUV sprawls a tall, thin, pale gentleman. He is shirtless, with the side of his face pressed against the window. His one leg sports a tourniquet fashioned from a leather belt, and it is secured to a homemade splint fashioned out of some spare drywall. The leg is glistening (we’ll come back to that) and his chest is covered in scratches.
He is obviously irritated with attempts to obtain information, answering in bursts punctuated by more weak moaning and carrying with it the smell of beer. Alongside his knee, he has a long, narrow, jagged cut … wound … laceration … scratch, no doubt made by a chainsaw skip that barely touched him. It’s not even bleeding, and I’m certain that is no thanks to the loosely applied leather to his thigh.
He is shiny, not with the telltale sweat of those in hypovolemic shock, but rather because he has been liberally applying Vaseline jelly to his entire leg. The petroleum product has created a resin effect, allowing his leg to pick up all sorts of colorful debris from the back of this family car. This includes everything from crayon bits, toy pieces, and possibly some stale potato chips.
He’s in no danger of bleeding to death, or even to dizzy. He did however, turn himself into a petri dish.
He wants nothing to do with the ambulance, says he cannot afford it. No amount of discussion will dissuade him from exiting the back of the SUV. When he gets tired of discussing it, he presses his face against the window and closes his eyes. This interview is over.
There are children secured in car seats in the back seat. They are absolutely unphased by the drama occurring in the trunk. I check with the driver … who smells suspiciously like our patient. Confirming that there is alcohol here too, we notify the mother, who had no idea any of this was transpiring and immediately agrees to meet us on the scene. I can tell from her clenched teeth response that she is less than pleased.
She arrives on the scene in a Prius, and helps us persuade him to seek medical attention, agreeing to drive him there herself. She has brought an equally sober friend to commandeer the SUV and the children and get them home safely.
Now, all we need to do is get him in the car.
Refusing to listen to reason, he insists on getting in the back seat of the Prius himself. He lurches out of SUV and begins shirtlessly hopping through the parking lot, holding his tourniquet-wearing, drywall-splinted leg at a 90⁰ angle in front of him.
We’re not even going to chase him at this point. “No. Wait. Stop, or I’ll say stop again.”
Arriving at the Prius, he grabs the roof and jumps, sliding both legs into the backseat and landing with a dead stop and yowl of pain and crunch of drywall on the far side door. He is obviously too wounded to realize that he is longer than a Prius is wide.
He is no longer speaking to us. He folds himself up, pulls the back door shut and leaves his face smushed against the side window. His girlfriend sighs heavily, thanks us and off they go, south to the hospital.
Nancy and I stand there silently, watching them leave. We even waved.
Not taking her eyes from the road and still waving she says, “Did you see those scratches?”
“Did you see what they were?”
“I did not.”
“They were numbers.”
I stop waving and turn to look at her, “What?”
“He was carving his wife’s cell number into his chest with a pair of tweezers."
"For God's sake, why?"
She shrugged, "He said it was in case he passed out and someone needed to contact his next of kin."
(Author's Note: For the record we did not, in fact, read his chest in order to call his girlfriend. We simply had his friend make the call. We did observe both crayons and paper in the trunk with him. One can only assume he was delirious from shock and was using the pain from the rusty tweezers to help him maintain consciousness.)
We continue to stare at the road in silence for a moment, then walk back to our vehicles.
Also, that is not the strangest call Nancy and I have ever done together, ask me about the Albino sometime …