Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Heat of the Moment

It was one of those unseasonably hot Sundays in the valley. If you live out that way you might remember the actual day a couple years back. I had picked up a valley day car that was available earlier in the week as an overtime shift. I was thinking it would be a nice break from the Oakland grind completely unaware of the impending heat wave that was coming. The thermometer on the bank’s digital sign blinked 104F, but it felt even hotter.

We were spending the bulk of the day between calls looking for shade spots to park. It’s a kind of game you have to play in the summer if you are going to be out on the street all day. A large eucalyptus tree here, an overhang there; a bridge overpass will do nicely. Anything to escape the relentless heat that was building up and fuming off the asphalt. Our inadequate air conditioner in the ambulance was doing a poor job keeping up being an older model and probably mostly out of Freon. These poor ambulances get run so hard 24/7 we are lucky to get five years out of them.

The supervisors that day were tasked with chasing all the units around with coolers full of water and Gatorade. If they found us hiding in our shady corners, we had to drink a full water in front of them on demand. Dehydration was a serious concern and given the heat, the exercise was justified. They didn’t want us becoming patients too. To make matters worse, the call volume was up from heat related illnesses so we were working even harder. Hot days like this, especially in succession tend to thin the herd a bit.

Anyway, as I was saying, it was a blistering day. We had been run pretty hard. I remember noting that I had drank close to a gallon of water without having to go to the bathroom all shift. I was sweating it all out. We stopped into 7-11 for popsicles when the call came in. It was for chest pain. I had no trouble wolfing down the frozen treat by the time we got to the call. Nice to have some ice in my belly and the windows down on the way provided some relief.

My partner this day was an exceptionally laid back guy. Nothing seemed to faze him. We’ll call him Doug.

We pulled into the parking lot of a steakhouse up by the interstate to find a single car and the fire engine over in the corner of the lot under a shade tree. The restaurant would not be open for several hours and the parking lot was deserted.

The body language of the firefighters was that of uncertainty. They were standing around a brand new, glistening model of Mercedes that I was unaware even existed. It had to be an $80,000 car at least with gull wing doors; the driver’s side was open and fully extended up. I could not see what they were looking at, all I saw was a wall of turnout coats as the firefighters were circled around what I assumed had to be the patient with the chest pain.

“Wait on the gurney Doug, I’m gonna hop out and see what we have here”. I said to my partner.

“Sure” he said in a tone that really said “whatever, I’m hourly”.

As I approached the car, I thought maybe the heat was getting to me. I could see a pair of long legs with fishnet stocking terminating in stiletto heels sticking out to the side. “What was I getting myself into?” I wondered. I could hear the firefighters talking and a faint whimpering from the direction of the as yet faceless but leggy patient.

I rounded the wall of firefighter backs to a fairly shocking find. It was a young lady in her late twenties sitting sideways in the driver’s seat with those long legs sticking outside the car. She was wearing an impossibly short black mini-skirt and low-cut halter-top combo with plenty of silver accents. It was the kind of clothing you would expect a stripper or maybe a showgirl of some sort to wear. She had a large bouquet of long stemmed roses and baby’s breath bound together with tulle and cellophane draped over one of her forearms similar to the way you would expect Miss America to hold it. I half expected to see a tiara on her head and a “Miss Livermore” sash draped over her shoulder. If this wasn’t odd enough, one of her halter straps was undone and hanging freely and the other hand was cradling one of her naked oversized, obviously surgically enhanced breasts in a move of mock modesty. She was openly weeping and having trouble choking the words out through the tears. I sensed these were not tears of pain. Something else was going on here.

“What do we have?” Doug yelled over to me from the ambulance. This was more a “What do you need” kind of question. Once he knew the nature of the call, he would know what equipment to grab.

I shrugged back at him with the international sign of “I don’t know”. I really didn’t know what to make of this. Was this an assault of some sort? Was this a psych case? “You better get over here and check this out”.

“So what is the story?” I asked the Captain. He was a burly middle-aged guy. He had a balding head, walrus mustache, and the kind of belly that takes years of firehouse eating to develop. He was a little on the grumpy side today, probably the heat.

“I guess her breast hurts?” he said in a questioning tone. They must have arrived just before us and I don’t think they had gotten anywhere with her yet. I could tell this call was making him uncomfortable being that she was such an attractive young lady and looked like something out of a Calvin Klein ad. I took their uncertainty as a cue to jump in. I squatted down next to her and put on my best concerned look of authority.

“Ma’am, what seems to be the problem?” I asked trying not to choke on the fumes from her sickeningly sweet and quite liberally applied perfume.

“My breast is killing me” she said looking down at her breast. The body glitter on her chest was catching the sun and was distracting me. Making me squint.

“OK, do you have any chest pain or shortness of breath?” I asked. Had to stick with priorities even if I am talking to a human Barbie doll.

“No” she blurted and got back to sobbing.

“Any other medical conditions I need to know about?”

“No” again.

“Did you hurt it somehow?” I asked. “Did someone hurt you?” adding the next question with more emphasis before she could answer the first.

“No, nothing like that.” She said as she regained her composure for a moment. “I think it popped” she looked up at me with mascara streaking down her cheeks. This girl was wearing a lot of make up. Her hair and nails spoke of hours of expensive treatments. Her sculpted body told me she was concerned with appearance, this was hard for her to have a problem with a part of her body that she obviously held so dearly both figuratively and now literally.

“What popped?” I asked.

“My implant, I think it popped” she stated flatly.

That’s when the call took a turn to the bizarre.

“Look, see how different they are?”

She dropped her hands down and let both sides of the halter top drop exposing both of her enormous breasts. The Captain let out a strange noise that was half snort and half cough. I looked over at him and thought his head was going to explode.

“Jesus Christ!” he said, took two steps backwards, turned away and said to me, “this one is all you Jon”. He made a bee-line back to his rig. Something in him said “get out of here” and he was listening. I tried not to chuckle. A big, tough, grown man paralyzed by breasts was a sight to see.

I looked back at Doug and he was just standing there transfixed as were the other firefighters. Mouths slightly open. Everyone was just soaking it in and not sure how to proceed. This was definitely not in the training manual.

I had to do something. I was a bit uncomfortable with this scene. Five grown men, servants of the public no less, in a parking lot standing around an attractive young lady dressed, or should I say undressed, to the nines. This sideshow had run it's course, time to get back to business.

“OK, dear, let me help you” I pulled her straps back up and walked her over to the ambulance signaling to my partner with my eyes to head over that way. I had Doug help her step up into the back of the ambulance, which was no easy feat with those spikes she was walking on. He got started gathering info and taking vital signs for me freeing me up for a moment.

I walked over to the fire crew. They were all red-faced and quietly chatting with smug looks of humor in their eyes. This was a strange call for a bunch of young men to go on. Not in any way emergent and quite surprising. The heat was not making it better.

“You OK Cap?” I teased.

“What the hell was that?” he asked through his bushy firefighter mustache with his hands on his hips. He almost looked exhausted “I thought I was going to have a heart attack when she pulled those things out!” he said.

“I thought you were too” I joked. “You guys can clear, we got it from here”

“OK” he said and walked back over to the back of the ambulance with me. The shock was wearing off and he was getting back to his jovial self. The back of the ambulance was still open. The Captain popped his head in to say his goodbyes and wish her good luck as good Captains do to wrap up their portion of the contact.

Unfortunately he walked in on the wrong part of the conversation. Again she had bared her chest and was demonstrating to my partner the differences in how they moved, bounced, felt, etc… My partner did not seem to mind the demonstration.

“Will you stop that!” the Captain said to her gruffly and walked back to his rig shaking his head. “I am too old for this crap!” I couldn’t hold back the laughter anymore. I walked around the side of the rig. The whole fire crew was laughing now. Luckily the patient was out of earshot in the back of the ambulance with the A/C blasting.

In the end it was a non-emergent call and all went routine from there on out. We transported the patient to the emergency room at her request even though in our opinion she really did not need this level of care or transport. I am glad we did as it turned out that she had a good amount of alcohol and cocaine on board though we did not smell or detect anything. Perhaps our minds were distracted enough to dull our normal “Spidey-Senses” for things like alcohol. If we had let her go on her way, she could have really caused a horrible accident and injured herself or someone else. That would have been tragic.

The emergency room doctor concurred that she probably did have a rupture of an implant and prescribed her some mild pain-killers to hold her over until she could see her regular physician. She put on her little asymmetry demonstration for whomever at the hospital was willing to sit through it. Being mostly female nurses, there were not many takers.

After the call, my partner and I spent a good amount of time over popsicles speculating who she was and what her back-story was. This young lady was something of a mystery and it was fun to try and make something more out of her than she probably was.

Was she a beauty queen on her way home from a contest?

Was she a high-priced call girl on her way to service a celebrity?

Was she some kind of secret agent on a mission undercover as a stripper?

Was she just some superficial gal who had landed a rich sugar daddy?

We will never know, but that call will go down in my memory as one of the more unusual and entertaining calls I have ever been on, and probably ever will.

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