"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us."
I have a difficult job—jump when others call, wallow in their blood, manage life-threatening emergencies and occasionally save a life—and I’m proud of it. But my pride has its limits. I depend on others more than I’d like to admit. I could never do this job by myself. No way!
“Pat,” Captain David Young shouted as I climbed from the ambulance. “You need to intubate him, dude. He’s crashing fast!”
I grabbed my trauma bag and started toward the scene. It looked bad, a Ford pickup wrapped around a tree, its front end crumpled in upon itself like aluminum foil.
“Bring your suction unit too,” Young yelled. “He’s full of blood!”
I ran back, grabbed the necessary equipment, and trotted over.
“It ain’t good,” Young said. “He was leaning against the tailgate when the truck hit the tree. Flew into the back of the cab headfirst.” Young pulled away a blood-soaked trauma dressing. Blood poured from a gash in the center of the victim’s head. He quickly recovered the wound and applied direct pressure. “Like I said, not good.”
I climbed aboard the truck and gazed at the victim. His eyes looked lifeless. He breathed in short gurgling gasps.
“What’s his name,” I murmured.
“Jose Gonzales,” someone answered, “Why?”
“Never mind. Someone open his mouth.”Young grabbed the victim’s head and forced open his jaw. I inserted a hard plastic catheter.
“Okay,” I said. “Turn it on.”
My partner hit the switch. A long line of bright red blood coursed up the tube. The catheter sucked and hissed, but I was unable to keep up with the steady stream of blood flowing into the mouth. I felt myself begin to panic.
“We’re losing him. Help me!”
“What can I do?”
I handed Young the catheter.
“You suction…I’ll intubate.”
And so, we did the job. My partner, the firefighters, all of us, we worked as a team. We suctioned. We intubated. We dressed the bleeding head wound and immobilized our patient. We did everything within our collective power to achieve the impossible, but I could tell by his injuries, I knew in my heart, Jose Gonzales was already gone.
I transported a young woman a few years later. She spoke of a bad wreck—pickup truck versus tree. She’d been the driver, her cousin, Jose, the victim. "He almost died,” she explained. “The impact threw him forward. He hit his head on the cab. He lives on Holloway Street now. He’s—”
“Wait a minute,” I said interrupting her. “What’s your cousin’s name?”
“Gonzalez?” I felt my eyes widen. “Are you telling me he’s alive?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “His fingers tingle a little, but he’s fine. The paramedics saved him.”
It wasn’t just the paramedics who saved Jose Gonzales, it was the entire team. My hat goes off to the men on Engine-5, and to all of the other firefighters who work so tirelessly to make my job easier. They make a difference. They save lives. And sometimes, when we work together, we can even accomplish the impossible.
Thank you, guys. I couldn’t do it without you!
Pat Patterson is a novelist, a paramedic, and an instructor of Emergency Medical Science. His stories are true, based on real experiences from the streets of Durham, North Carolina where he has served as a paramedic since 1992.