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The Ambulance Ride | Lois Keating Learned
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“Jesus, it’s 6 a.m. and I’ve ambulance duty today! I better get showered, dressed and down to the station. I think I can grab some breakfast there. Suzy, the nurse on duty tonight, usually leaves some good muffins.” Tim muttered to himself as he struggled to get out of bed and perform his morning ablutions. He’d been retired for a year now and had volunteered to drive the ambulance for the small retirement community. After all, driving an ambulance wasn’t that much different than driving a city bus - something he’d done for 40 years. Oh, boy, I guess I shouldn’t have rushed so much. That pepperoni pizza I had last night is giving me fierce indigestion. And that third beer didn’t help. Maybe there’s some milk and Alka Seltzer at the station.” He drove to the garage which housed the ambulance and a small office and parked his jeep in the parking area. Fred, the over-night volunteer happily greeted him, “Glad you made it on time, Tim. After my nap I’ve a dozen things to finish from my wife’s ‘honey-do’ list. Suzy just left, but she did leave you a bran muffin!” Fred then grabbed his coat and flew out the door saying, “Not a thing happened all night. Hope your tour is as quiet.” Tim signed in, found the Alka Seltzer and washed it down with some almost-stale milk and took a seat in the creaking old swivel chair by the ancient and warped wooden kitchen table that served as the office desk. Yesterday’s paper was scattered on it, along with a well-used deck of cards and the call book where the volunteers recorded what happened on their shift. Just as Tim was getting comfortable, the new, very young E.M.T. arrived. Paul Jones was a high school sophomore and had yet to take Driver’s Ed., so he was dropped off by his father and Tim would take him to school at noon at the end of their shift. This volunteer work was part of Paul’s Biology class. Before they could even say, “Hello”, the phone rang. “Tim Boswell here,” he answered, “How may I be of assistance?” A frantic voice pleaded, “Oh, please come quick. I think my husband is having a stroke! I was able to give him some aspirin.” After getting a few more details and the sick man’s address, Tim phoned the substitute volunteers to come and cover the office, and called the local hospital to advise them he’d be coming with a patient and gave them all the pertinent information. Arriving at the house, the patient, Bill Gross, elected to walk to the ambulance. With some help from his wife and Paul, he climbed on to the gurney at the back of the ambulance. Paul closed the door and sat at Bill’s side. Bill’s wife was still in her night clothes and would dress and meet them at the hospital. The traffic was minimal, even though the rush hour was in progress, but Tim was not feeling at all well. He was woozy and a bit sweaty. The pain in his abdomen had gravitated to his chest and his left arm wasn’t working properly. “I feel lousy,” he mumbled as he pulled over to the side of the road, put the ambulance in ‘park’ and opened the door to get more air. Young Paul came from the back of the ambulance and took one look at Tim and exclaimed, “You don’t look so good, Tim. Maybe I should take your blood pressure. We just learned how to do that last week and the teacher said I was a ‘natural’!” He carefully attached the cuff to Tim’s arm and tightened it while he held the stethoscope to Tim’s inside elbow. “Wow, you’re off the scale! I think you’re sicker than the guy in the back! But I can’t drive this thing. How am I gonna get the two of you to the hospital?” Just then Bill spoke up. “I’m feeling a bit better. I drove one of these in Nam”. “Why doesn’t he,” pointing at Tim, “Get back here, and I’ll drive.” After pondering the situation for a moment, Tim and Bill changed places and then, with Bill behind the wheel, they sped off to the hospital. “Now let me get this straight, young man,” said the attendant at the emergency desk, “you have two patients for us to check-out and one of them drove you here? We’ve only Mr. Gross on the in-coming call.” Breathlessly, Paul explained again the crazy circumstances to the attendant. As sometimes happens, a reporter from the local paper was in ear-shot and recorded the whole incident. The next day’s first page headline read: Stroke Victim Drives Ambulance to Hospital While Driver Fights Heart Attack