The tones hit at 0330, waking us up from a sound sleep. We were responding to a person suffering seizures. The address sounded familiar, perhaps one that Engine 225 had gone to earlier in the shift.
We arrived at the house, a neatly kept home in a nice neighborhood. As I grabbed the wrong radio and had to go back to the rig, my crew found the patient first.
I entered the house and found the crew already at work. I peered into the front bedroom and saw a bed with a young male in it. A wheelchair and crutches were next to the bed, indicating something more than just seizures may be going on.
Our patient's wife was in the room, she was obviously upset and was telling the medic that her husband was having seizure after seizure, a condition that was not normal for him. He had suffered several seizures just prior to our being called. The patient was awake, but his answers to our questions were lethargic in nature and confused.
As it was crowded, I decided to remove the wife from the bedroom and obtain the patient's information from her in the living room. It was quiet in there and I knew that I would be able to communicate better with her.
"What medical condition does your husband have that causes him to have seizures?" I asked.
"He was injured by a roadside IED" she replied, shaking. "He lost his leg, had penetrating brain trauma and had a lot of internal injuries"
The lump in my throat grew from nowhere. My voice cracked as I asked what his normal mental status was.
She answered that aside from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, anxiety, insomnia and the occasional seizure, his mental status was usually pretty good, that he was usually alert, aware and very coherent. The six seizures in one day was not normal for him, nor was the vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. She was worried sick. I could also tell she was nearing the end of her rope.
It was then I started to notice my surroundings. The medals displayed in a frame on the wall. Challenge coins displayed neatly on a shelf. A photograph of a young U.S. Army infantry soldier, displayed on the wall.
The patient's wife began to open up. "I don't know what to do. You guys took him to the hospital twice today, they didn't do ANYTHING for him. No CT scans, no medication adjustments no IVs no anything. They just watched him for a little while and sent us home. I haven't slept in I don't know how long, we don't have anyone here,I can't do this by myself!"
I didn't know what to say, except that we would explain the situation to the ambulance and that she could insist the patient be transported to a different hospital, one that might handle things differently.
Inside, I was screaming to myself. "Are you fucking kidding me? Is this what we do to the people that are being maimed while serving our country? We fix them up, best as we can - then cut them loose? Can't we do any better for him?"
The ambulance arrived and we briefed them as to the situation. They agreed to transport the patient to another town, one with another hospital. We told the patient's wife of the destination, she broke down and began to share with us how difficult their life had been recently.
Thankfully, my medic and my engineer had moved into the primary communications role with the patient's wife, as my emotional in-basket was suddenly full. The roller coaster ride of my kid's recent career choice compounded the outrage and sorrow that I felt about this soldier's plight and that of his wife. I left the house and walked a few houses down as my crew listened to the woman as her angst boiled to the surface.
After a few minutes, my issues resolved themselves and I returned to the house, just as the patient's wife hugged my medic. Somehow, he had been able to provide something that she needed, another human filled with compassion, willing to listen and to offer some practical advice.
We asked her if she needed anything else from us, she said that she was OK for now. We said good by and cleared the scene.
I am sure that we will see these people again, I don't mind. Our petty issues are nothing compared to what they are going through, I just wish that there was more that we could do for them.
The woman was wearing a Wounded Warriors Project sweatshirt, so I know that she has been in touch with them. I really hope that our patient was suffering a temporary setback and that he will bounce back to a less severe condition. Time will tell on that. Regardless, I just hope that they can find a way to get through this. 26 is a pretty young age to give up hope.
Sorry for the language, sometimes that is the word that works best for me. I actually did use self-control while writing this, you should have read the first draft.
Thanks for reading,
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