How about something funny today? Many times firefighters have to be problem solvers, and not problems of the mundane but extra ordinary problems.
The call came in early in the morning just at shift change. Shift change can be a confusing time for a job. Some people are getting off work, others are coming to work and a handing off of the metaphorical torch is in progress.
So a job right off the bat had a tendency to catch us unprepared, mentally unprepared I should say, for we are always at the ready. There is a difference between having the resources at the ready and having your mind at the ready.
The call was a rescue, a person trapped. Dispatch informed us that this call was initiated by children and that it was in reference to their mother being trapped in a bathroom.
As always my mind jumped to likely causes for the situation. I was drawing a pretty big blank on how a person could become trapped in a bathroom. I supposed the doorknob might have come off, that could happen.
I had seen a woman trapped in a bathroom by a teenage boy’s pet alligator once. The woman had taken a shower at her sister’s house, her nephew owned a small alligator maybe as big as a foot and a half or so, and he had been playing with the little guy prior to going to school. But had failed to return the tiny beast to his cage.
The ferocious little reptile had wandered down a hallway and decided to take a nap outside the bathroom door for some reason; I don’t know maybe it was attracted by the humidity of our victims shower. Anyway when she opened the door to exit the restroom she was confronted by the hissing and snapping creature, and totally freaked.
We arrived to find two women, one in a towel dripping wet, and the other with a broom and dust pan in hand trying to corral the alligator and he wasn’t having any of it. The little guy was very agitated and doing his best to defeat his much larger opponents.
My parents owned and operated a pet store most of my childhood so I was somewhat acquainted with most exotic pets and how to handle them. I excused myself, stepped around the alligator wrangler, and picked the gator up by the tail. By the reaction of the nearly nude woman you would have thought I had just carried her out of a fire.
Her towel dropped as she gave me a huge hug after I had caged the pet. Now firefighters in this kind of situation, a nude woman do have a chivalrous spirit, we averted our eyes while she retrieved her covering. We got cookies out of the deal and undying devotion.
The airbrake hissed as we stopped in front of the house, jolting me out of the memory. Two young children a boy and girl under ten each were waiting for us. “Help, mommy is stuck in the bathroom.”
We hurried into the house and down a hallway to the bathroom where we found Mrs. Sthuck, really. Mrs. Sthuck was a large woman and it seemed that while showering for work she had slipped in the soapy environment and tumbled out of through the curtain.
Her fall ended with her stuck tightly between the toilet bowl and tub. She looked kind of like risen dough. Her skin was pasty white and shinny from the water, and she was in real distress.
I introduced myself and first wanted to ascertain if she was physically injured from the fall had she struck her head or broken a limb, anything like that. The quick exam indicated she was for the most part uninjured.
She had a history of back injuries and her primary complaint was just that, her back hurt. Now we tried to determine a course of action. Being firefighters our first instinct was to just grab her and pull her out of there. She was soaped up and wet so we had a chance of slipping her out we thought.
No go, she screamed in pain and the attempt. Now what? The lieutenant suggested we try and lube her up with medical lube. That was our next unsuccessful plan, she wasn’t budging and now added a complaint that her legs were going numb.
I was concerned that given her history of back problems she might have some sort of spinal trauma. One of the other guys said “Let’s just pull the toilet and get it out of the way.” Great idea.
We gathered tools for the job all the while reassuring Mrs. Sthuck and her frightened children that it would be over soon. During the process Mrs. Sthuck modesty began to wan and she became uncovered frequently despite my efforts to continually cover her. I even added some large bath towels in an effort to preserve her dignity.
Now toilet bowels for the uninitiated are held in place by two simple bolts at their base. First you turn off the water, flush the remaining water down the drain, and bail out the water that is left.
The first bolt was no problem as it was plainly exposed. It took me a couple of whacks with a screwdriver and a hammer to knock it off. A strange phenomenon occurred during the removal of the bolts, Mrs. Sthuck began to giggle with each strike of the hammer and the towels again fell off.
As she couldn’t see us and neither could the children we all exchanged a curious glance. For the second bolt I had to lay on my belly in the cramped little bathroom, my knees against the wall across from the toilet, my feet in the air.
To gain access to the offending bolt Mrs. Sthuck flesh had to be held out of the way as I didn’t want to hit her with the tools. One firefighter had to position himself in the tub, lean over and roll her bulk out of the way. The other had to actually stand on the commode bend down and try and control more of her abundance, a difficult task as the medical lube although wiped off did leave a slippery surface.
My lieutenant asked if we were all ready and gave a countdown to the first hit. I don’t believe I have the skills to exactly explain my view at this point, but it might have resembled what the ring on a bakers hand sees as dough is formed.
I lined up the screwdriver.