Saturday, November 27, 2010


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,


  1. Thank you for sharing this story. I know fro my own painful experience that the VA as a whole, while improved very much from 13 years ago when I got out of the Marines, is still a long way from taking care of our veterans like it should.

    Especially these young men coming home from Iraq and Afganistan with major injuries. The up side is that young men like your patient are surviving injuries that in previous conflicts would have resulted in their death. The support structure for these men is still being developed.

    The DAV (Disabled American Veterans, of which I am a Life Member) is a HUGE help to these men. I, once again from personal experience, can say that every wounded soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine should join or at least seek them out for help. DAV National Service Officers are experts at helping Disabled Veterans on the long journey. The sad truth is, those of us who have been permanately disabled in the service of our country have had our lives changed forever. It is not just physically challenging, but mentally taxing.

    Thank you again for posting this story.

  2. Here’s someone else who's trying to do something for our wounded warriors. I'm proud to have been Paul's captain for a couple of years, and prouder still of his efforts.

    We on the front lines of caring for these men and women need some tools, and now that Firecap5 has enlightened me about DAV, I'll add that to my toolbox.

    Thanks for posting this difficult call.

  3. Tough call. I would be willing to wake up any time to help them out. I hope they get the help they need.

  4. Cap,

    Don't know what to say, and it's tough to type through the watering eyes. I've been there, the vets and kids always get me the worst. When you've lost friends to war, and know others who have been wounded, it's tough to put those feelings aside and "do the job". Sometimes we need to take a minute and get control of our emotions-a good crew always takes care of each other in such situations. But it is worth it, the families remember, and if it helps them, I'm willing to pay that cost.

  5. Capt.,
    How about your fire house do something for them? I don't mean money, or even a lot of your time. I once responded to a home where a middle aged gentleman found his mother passed away in her car in the driveway. There was something different about this call, like the one you mentioned above. Through a little investigating, I learned that he wasn't eating to well after her passing so my wife and I made him some home made/ from scratch spegetti. A lot of it! And I delivered it to him while on duty one day. No one ever knew at work and this is the first time I've ever spoken about it. Maybe you and your guys, or just you, can think of something meaningful to help the wife out. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.

  6. I'm bleary eyed and angry, never a good combination. Thank God for you and your people, well done, sir.

  7. Fire Cap5 - frankly, I forgot about DAV. If we see them again (very likely) I may mention them. I know the VA is doing better, they were totally unprepared for the number of wounded / disables vets from the recent conflicts but have made improvements. They don't show this outcome in the video games do they?

    Cap11C - Interesting man and article, he has done far more than far too many.

    John and Michael - thanks for your thoughts, emotions can be a bitch. I tried real hard not to let this one get to me - but it did if only for a short while. My crew picked up on it, some of have been together for a while. As I said - my in-basket was full.

    Me - I am struggling with this. If you are called Me, and and my reply to your comment is addressed to Me, does that mean I am replying to myself? Shouldn't I reply to You? I must be losing it.

    Actually a random act of kindness sounds like a good plan to me. I don't know if Spaghetti will be our answer, but we will probably come up with something. I am going to be off a while (vacation / trades) but I keep in touch with the crew and I am sure something will happen.

    Thanks everyone for the comments. This one picked some scabs.