A nugget of Big Medicine every day. #76 Boy racer
Sometimes it’s the emergency flashers that brings them close like moths crowding a bright porch light on a warm August night. Other times it’s the mesmerizing slalom through slower traffic on long stretches of highway. It looks so easy they ease on up close to the back bumper and tag along for as long as the ride stays true to their own course.
Often they get so close the patient can see their face through the blur of the oxygen mask and the perma-dirty back windows of the rig. So close they disappear and only occasionally provide any kind of profile in the rear view mirrors the driver checks on repeatedly during the run. They imagine themselves as getaway drivers or police officers providing a backwards escort as they tuck in behind the ambulance carrying a patient in distress to the ER. Especially on rush-hour emergency calls where their reckless behaviour provides them with a quicker route through miles and miles of bumper-to-bumper cars and trucks.
Sometimes they are family members who choose to ignore the sternly delivered warning about trying to stay close to the ambulance transporting their loved one to the hospital. Our patient was a seventy-something-year-old man whose seventy-something-year-old wife did her not-so-level-headed best to keep their old farm pickup truck up-close-and-personal with our ambulance through a couple of counties in West Virginia. My partner stopped twice along the way to tell her to back off to no avail as we continued to see her flashing hazard lights looming close behind all the way to the ER.
Sometimes the sheer stupidity of their actions provides unintended comic relief in the midst of a real emergency.
There was the telephone utility truck driver who decided he would try and draft in-tight behind our ambulance as we worked our way rather gingerly down 695 with a spinal patient aboard. We weren’t focused on speed. We were going for slow and smooth through slogging blinded-by-the-setting-sun-on-the-outer-loop traffic. He zagged when he should have zigged and braked hard as his truck hit the shoulder. Two of the ladders on the top of his truck broke ranks with the rest of the vehicle and our last image of him was with both ladders down across the front window and hood.
Sometimes they get a bit too close for comfort and bad things happen.
We were rolling down the Ville Marie Expressway with an unstable cardiac patient aboard inbound for the ER at the Royal Vic. This was back in the days when ambulances were either very big or very small. We were on a big rig that day. We picked up a bumper hitcher several klicks out. He was driving a brandnew candyapple red Corvette. No kidding. A red Corvette. Doesn’t get any more stereotypical on the boy racer identification chart.
He was in-tight and up our butt as we rolled down the passing lane with occasional forays into the miniscule breakdown space and between lanes. He flipped on his headlights and his four-way flashers in the hopes that perhaps other motorists might mistake him for some type of sports emergency response vehicle instead of a Darwin Award winner-in-waiting. Our patient took a turn for the worse and went into respiratory arrest. I was bagging him in the back of the rig while my partner was trying to find a way to get us through the traffic.
All the while boy racer was about eight feet off our rear bumper and staying close. We rolled into the Ville Marie Tunnel and took the Mountain Street exit. We made the hard left and then the hard right onto Saint-Antoine. Boy racer was keeping pace in the extreme danger zone.
People do weird things when they hear a siren closing in from behind and look up in the rear view mirror. Sometimes they pull over to the right and wait. Sometimes they lock it up as if an electro-magnetic-pulse just disabled their vehicle and there’s no moving it forward, backward or to either side. A guy driving a delivery truck in front of us stopped absolutely dead in the intersection forcing my partner to go from sixty klicks to zero in extremely short order while simultaneously switching lanes to avoid contact with the truck and anyone else.
The patient was strapped and didn’t move. I was strapped into the attendant’s seat at the head of the stretcher and had a front row seat as boyracer failed to follow our evasive maneuver and slammed directly into the unforgiving back bumper of the delivery truck. The hood of the Corvette pretty much disappeared beneath the delivery truck. Both front tires were flattened on impact. The boy racer himself seemed to have fared well despite having permanently wedged his pretty car under a truck. He was able to signal he was okay through an open window. He couldn’t open the doors because the frame of his car was so wondrously compressed.
There was a police car on the scene in seconds and both cops were smiling as they walked up on that scene. Sometimes even boy racers get caught by the Karma Police.
Be well. Practice big medicine.
Respect the space behind and in front of emergency vehicles.