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How To Save A Life

How To Save A Life

I jump back on the chest, and one of the other guys pats me on the shoulder, silently letting me know that he’s ready to take over when my arms get tired. The AED monitor shows that good strong rhythm as my hands compress the rib cage repeatedly.

Radios crackle behind me and I know the ambulance is pulling into the driveway. As the paramedics push their way into the room they take over and I get to step back and take in the scene. Everything is moving like clock-work. Here are my friends, the guys I eat pizza and play video games with, now total professionals as things click into place.

One man moves in with the ambulance stretcher and strips off the straps. Another flushes the regulator on an O2 tank and hooks it up to a BVM. One of the department chiefs has showed up and has taken command, getting the different apparatus situated on the narrow driveway to give the ambulance a quick exit.

The captain is talking quietly with the wife, collecting a medical history and steadily reassuring (while at the same time not promising anything we can’t deliver). I see them all in a totally different light when we’re on scene like this. Goofballs and jokesters become cool-headed heroes.

My respite is brief, though, as this call isn’t over yet. I start clearing our scattered gear out of the way while the ambulance crew sizes up the patient. The paramedic crouches by the head and a laryngoscope pops open in his hand. He tries to get the tube twice, but the throat is pretty swollen and it doesn’t go in.

They continue to ventilate him by bag valve mask as the backboard is brought in. I pitch in, clearing the straps from the top down and lining it up next to the man’s body on the ground. I look back to see how the medics are doing, and things are now on a totally different pace.

I can’t believe what I’m seeing. This man who was grey and lifeless the last time I looked at him is awake and talking, asking the paramedic what everyone is doing in his house. He isn’t exactly healthy; he’s understandably weak and a little disoriented as we move him into the ambulance, but he’s alive and conscious which was way more than I expected out of this call.

This one came back.

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