Trauma Center


Part 7 of a multi-part seriesIt begins with San Diego With Jet Blue

Ironies are sometimes humorous, sometimes sad. Sometimes they’re just ironies.
I worried that Linda had bruised her heart, punctured  a lung or had some internal injury that affected her breathing. I’ve always had lower back problems so I was sure I’d just aggravated or bruised it. A 65-mph head-on impact jolts the body.
And this damned back board wasn’t helping anything.  On the other side of the curtain Linda insisted that the board be removed.  “I’ll take responsibility!” She yelled.  They finally removed it.  Meanwhile I told Nathan to take mine out from under me.  As he pulled on it, I felt something tugging.  It was caught on the IV tube and was ripping the needle backwards out of my arm.  We unwound it and got the board off. It definitely not like the movies where the actor rips out his IV and adhesive.
Mick watched quietly with his one good eye and said nothing.
They wheeled Linda out for a CAT scan. I followed. When the scans came back, the doctor told Linda she had three broken ribs, probably from the side airbag.
I had compression fractures of three vertebrae.  It was me who was in serious condition.
They didn’t have the equipment or expertise to take  care  of me  so they made arrangements to transport us to Elmira, 70 miles away.
Nathan left to find our car and retrieve  our luggage and computers.
A new ambulance crew came in.   The accident happened  at 9 p.m.
It was now 5:30 a.m.
Two of the crew members were young.  The leader was my age, burly, quiet, professional. “I’m Ed.”
“I’m Dennis.”
“We’re taking you to the Arnot Ogden Trauma Center.”
“There are places I’d rather be but that’s good enough for now.”  They made their preparations and lifted me onto the gurney.  How many times tonight had I been lifted by people who knew I had a broken back and that one slip could cost me dearly?  How  many times did I give myself over to strangers and put my complete trust in them?
“We’re ready,” Ed said.
“Listen, Ed.  Can you take the long way to the ambulance?”
He looked puzzled.  “It’s just outside.”
“I need a smoke, Ed.  I smoke a pipe.  I just need a few puffs.”
“We’re not supposed to.”
“I know.”
When I was wheeled outside. Weak dawn light yawned away the darkness.
Ed pointed ahead and said to his young assistant:   “Take him around to the side.”
The assistant stopped pushing me. “For a smoke?  That’s against policy. I just tell them no.”
With quiet authority he repeated, “Around to the side.”
Rules are made by people.  They’re broken by people, mostly by those with enough life experience and empathy to know when to break rules and why.
I lit my pipe and basked in the gentle buzz.
A few  minutes later I was ready for the rest of our journey.
The day had only started.

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