A nugget of Big Medicine for your consideration. #97 Carpets.
Carpets have figured prominently in several of my more memorable EMS calls.
Yes, that’s right. Carpets.
One of my least favourite carpet calls came in as difficulty breathing and then got re-prioritized as respiratory distress. The address was a very fashionable apartment building. We rode up with the doorman in the elevator.
The elevator was a statement in ostentatious with more than enough wanna-be gold trim and almost-wood paneling. The doorman kept giving us dirty looks as we leaned up against the walls of the elevator. He was going to have to arrange for it to be cleaned yet again.
When we got off the elevator we could hear the patient wheezing and we were still the full length of the corridor away from the closed door to his apartment. The doorman walked brisky ahead of us and knocked on the door to announce our entrance. The patient’s wife answered the door.
The wheezing was intense. The sound of full-up congestive heart failure well on its way to becoming cardiac arrest. There wasn’t a whole lot of time left between pre-code and code. We grabbed our gear and our stretcher and started to make our way inside.
The patient’s wife stepped in front of us.
“You will have to take off your boots and leave them outside, and under no circumstances are you to bring that stretcher into our home. God only knows what kind of filth its wheels have rolled into today.”
The doorman smiled smugly, “You heard the lady. Take off your boots and leave your stretcher in the hallway.”
My partner and I glanced at one another. We didn’t hesitate for a moment. We hauled the stretcher, our gear, and ourselves into the bedroom where our patient was busy dying and worked our hearts out trying to save his life. My partner radio’d for police assistance while the patient’s wife screamed obscenities at us about tracking garbage into her home and ruining her carpet. Her husband ended up dying on the floor while his blood, vomit and other bodily fluids became one with the carpet his wife had tried so hard to protect.
I responded to my most incredible carpet call as a firefighter.
The call had come in as a possible kitchen fire. En route to the scene, dispatch came on the air to tell us they were receiving multiple calls for this and it was likely a working fire. We were a couple of blocks out and we could see the loom-up as black smoke boiled up into the beautiful morning sky.
We arrived on-scene to find a detached home with flames and heavy smoke blowing out the back windows. The officer called for an aggressive interior attack. We BA’d up and were headed up the front steps when the front door of the home opened and out stepped the man of the house. We could see the fully-involved kitchen over his shoulder – the flames venting upward through a now broken skylight. The man held his ground.
“You’re not dragging those hoses through our house. You’ll ruin the carpets!”
Things that make you say, “Hmmmm.” And not in a good way.
The officer ordered us to back down the stairs. He confronted the home owner. “Sir, are you aware that your kitchen is fully involved with fire and in just a few moments those flames will spread to the rest of your home and a new carpet will be the least of your concerns?”
Shock is an awesome thing. It makes people say and do the weirdest things. The homeowner actually paused to consider the officer’s words before finally stepping aside and allowing us to get on with the task of saving his home.
We put a knock on the fire. The kitchen was a total loss. The rest of the house was saved although, truth be told, the carpets were a bit of a mess when we were done.
Be well. Practice big medicine.