Monday, July 23, 2007


When the tones went off I'd been asleep for maybe an hour, in the recliner. "Ladder 12, Medic 38, an unconscious unresponsive..."

Goddamn. We already worked one code tonight.

Outside, my partner is sitting in the ambulance, doing his crossword. I look at the computer as I hop in the driver's seat. Female, unconscious, heavy breathing, the notes said. Good. Not a code.

When we get there a quietly anxious man in his thirties leads us back to a bedroom, where a woman about the same age is in bed, barely awake.

The husband describes, while trying to wrangle a pair of small children, what sounds like a seizure, and she's acting like someone who's just had one. Vital signs are fine, and she's starting to come around. We wave off the sleepy firemen who come trailing in after us.

History, we ask? None, he says, shrugging, a kid on each hip. No medical problems. Oh, but she's had these headaches, real bad, for the past week. Nothing else, though.


I take the gear outside, bring the stretcher in. She's awake and halfway alert now, and gets dressed enough to go.

The house is the kind of happy shambles a young family makes, with clothes and legos on the floor. The older kid bounces around a bit, pointing to her younger sibling and saying, "Baby!" and then to us and saying, "Medic!"

It's adorable.

The father loads them up in his car as we load her in the ambulance. I walk back over to the front door. You know how to get to the hospital? Okay. We're not using lights and sirens; you can drive easy too.

On the way, as I drive, my partner does the necessary procedures and checks -- IV, EKG, etc -- and talks to the woman. She wants to know what's going on, and he explains she's probably had a seizure. Why? Could be a lot of different things, he says. Maybe a metabolic imbalance, blood chemistry off, something like that.

He says that and I want so hard, so much, to believe it, to believe that it's just a little metabolic imbalance, that she'll get checked out and ok'd and sent home in a few hours.

I want to believe that a week of headaches and a new-onset seizure at thirty doesn't scream brain tumor, malignancy.

I also want to believe that the little bit of welling in the corners of my eyes is just exhaustion, the end of a long night, but I can't fool myself there, either.

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