Sunday, October 28, 2007


Out back of an apartment complex, one warm summer night, we find the man, pointed out to us by a concerned neighbor.

He's altered, inexplicably, unusually. Sweaty, staring into space, awake but not tracking, not interacting. Blood sugar, vitals, all fine. No track marks, no bottles, no evidence of substance abuse. No one knows him, at least not well.

We put him on the cot, put him in the ambulance. I wave off the firemen. Just gonna pop a line in. Take it easy, guys.

I set up a line, uncap an IV needle, grab a wrist securely, and poke the back of his hand. I barely break the skin before he jerks back sharply, groaning. The most response we've provoked so far.

I cuss, start to ask my partner to help me with the line. But even as we watch, his agitation level rises.

He goes from groans to an eerie yowling wail, and shakes his head from side to side. His limbs start moving, slowly at first.

I grab for the restraints. My partner starts getting the seatbelts on the stretcher lashed down tight. By the time I've got the zipties out, he's thrashing actively now. We're not going to make this work, not the two of us.

I rip my radio out, and shout over the screaming. "Medic 38, send fire back, code 3, we're fighting with one here."

However, this is what the dispatcher heard:

"Medic 38-- *GLAAAARGH!* --code 3-- *WAAAAAAAAAARG!* --fighting with-- *AIEEEEEEEH!*"

I toss the radio over my shoulder and jump back into the fray. I think I missed a few status check calls from the dispatcher. My partner is sitting on the patient's chest, trying to keep him from coming off the stretcher altogether. I am trying to get zipties around his ankles.

Ninety seconds have elapsed since I dropped the radio.

Suddenly I see, from the corner of my eye, a flicker of motion, out the back of the ambulance.

Motion, and lights.

I turn my head to see no fewer than six patrol cars sliding to a halt around the back of the ambulance, lightbars shutting down, doors flying open, and then a horde of grey-uniformed deputies are pulling our back doors open.

Shortly thereafter, our patient is secure, though still thrashing and screaming. One of the deputies pauses at the back doors, watching me draw up a syringe of chemical restraint.

"You gonna be okay?" she asks, concerned.

I reach down from the airway seat, swab the man's deltoid with alcohol, grab it securely. Slam the needle home and thumb the plunger down. "Yup," I say, sharpsing the syringe. "We're cool now. But thanks for the cover."