Monday, May 10, 2010

The things that get to you.

You know how you sometimes see people walking down a street, and you think "man, that guy is just ASKING to get hit by a car"? That's what happened recently.

Delta response, auto pedestrian accident. The further is "a distraught complainant just keeps saying 'I hit her'".

First on scene, setup command. I really should have given a better sizeup. I should have said something useful like "one car, on it's wheels, moderate damage, patient is lying in the southbound lane apparently uncouncious with a serious amount of blood, make this a trauma alert". Instead I just got out something like "on the scene with *street* command, patient contact" before grabbing C-spine (I could hear her breathing, and my hands on her head could feel her pulse pounding in her temples, so there wasn't much to do but wait for backup).

She was hurt. About as bad as I've ever seen someone who wasn't already coding. One big laceration over the eye, another one down her back exposing some of that yellowish fatty tissue, blood and urine trickling out in a slow river downhill. She was twisted up like a rag doll, head facing one way, shoulders turned 90 degrees, hips another 30 degrees after that. No compound fractures that I could see, but with my hands tied up holding her head in place I couldn't do much but try to talk to her. It wasn't useful. All she could get out was "Hnnngh....Hnnngh....Hnnngh", every exhale another moan. I glanced over at the car that hit her, and the windshield was busted in like a bowling ball the size of a tractor wheel had been dropped on it. Hood was dented up, bumper flexed in, and the only thing it had hit was her body. The driver was a mess; physically fine, but crying and moaning.

The ambulance had been nearby and arrived quickly, and I was happy to see a paramedic. As she did an assessment, the clothes just came off in her hands, hardly had to cut a damn thing. a few other firefighters arrived too, and we managed to get her boarded and loaded pretty quick. In about 3 minutes, she was on her way to the hospital.

Finally I got to hear the story. This poor driver had been driving down the road late (no streetlights, no shoulders on the road, 45mph). He crests a hill, and there's a guy in front of him, wearing black, in the middle of the lane. With good reaction time, he swerves left....right into where the walker's friend (the patient) is walking in the other lane. Took her out hard, and it was probably her forehead and shoulder that busted in the windshield. Couldn't believe it, being in the middle of the road on a blind hill like that.

Yeah, the girl was hurt, but I don't mind so much looking at injuries anymore, after the first couple times, you're able to swallow most of the "horror" reaction. The driver is what really hit me. This was not his fault, not by any stretch of the imagination, and he was mentally broken up worse than anything I've seen before. Crying, gibbering, saying things like "I killed her...she's just a child...she's 17...I killed a CHILD". I know, sometimes people fake emotional responses to avoid lawsuits, but they usually say things like, "Oh god, I'm so sorry, there was no way I could have known!", not "I killed her" or other things that indicate it was his fault. I'd be willing to bet it's a few weeks before he sees anything else besides that girl coming through his windshield when he closes his eyes.

I didn't sleep really well that night, or the next. Luckily I have a new baby girl, so when most people ask why I look tired I can truthfully say the new baby keeps us up sometimes. In reality, I had a couple nightmares where I was that driver, unsuspecting, coming around a blind curve or over a hill and hearing the crunch as my bumper strikes an unsuspecting pedestrian.

I've heard it said before that everybody gets affected by different things. I've seen a man killed and baked by flames, a motorcyclist with organs protruding from the side of his body, a woman in labor drunk out of her mind, and I've felt pain for all of them. But the first thing that's really gotten into my mind since I've been a firefighter was this driver. His sobs echoed in my head the rest of the night, and I can still hear them sometimes. I guess what's most scary about it is that could so easily be me. You can't control what other people do, where they walk, what they think is a good idea. When you follow the rules of society you expect that everyone else will do the same, and suddenly when they don't you find that, though no fault of your own, you've potentially destroyed someone for the rest of their life.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

1 comment: