Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Firefighters have to be creative on many calls

The guy must have been down for days, the report from dispatch asked us to check the welfare and that the reporting party hadn’t been able to get a hold of the patient for the past four days, and it looked like it had been a few days for sure.

There was a line of blood down every wall at almost the exact same height, around 2 to 2 ½ feet. I figured this was the height of the patient’s head when he was on his hands and knees.

The blood was in various stages of drying out. Some was fresh still bright red; other spots were deep, deep red almost black now and tarring in appearance.

The air was heavy with the smell of it. Blood and old blood especially has a distinct aroma and the closer I pushed my face against the window the more aware of the smell I became.

Then once again I jumped backward as the huge dog inside lunged at the window and my face. I swear that dog was going to break the glass at some point and then we’d have a couple of dog bites to go with our head injury.

There were two startle factors with the dog. First, just the sheer size, speed, and aggression of the animal made me freak a little, and second the fact that his face, mouth and head were covered in matted dried blood gave the whole thing a distinct Cujo feel.

Captain Weird (we called him Weird for many reasons and it would take an entire post to explain his nickname, so just believe his name was well suited to him) stood on the front porch with two cops discussing our options.

We could see the occupant lying on the living room floor. He was breathing but didn’t respond to our banging and noise making. The dog would make a run at one of us and then return to guard his owner, so that was a problem.

We didn’t want to shot the dog and we didn’t want to get bitten by him either and we still hadn’t gained access to the house. A crowd of neighbors was forming in the front yard and in the bordering yards.

The presence of a BRT, cop cars, and a bunch of uniforms was a powerful draw on an otherwise lazy Saturday morning. A mild mannered and very concerned older lady approached me.
“Is he drunk again?” she asked.
“I have no idea. Is that something he does on a regular basis, get drunk?”
“Unfortunately yes, poor dear he’s been on and off the sauce now for a few months.” She shook her head in sorrow.
“Do you know him well? Does he have any other problems? Like diabetes or seizures or a heart condition? Anything like that you can think of?
“Not that I know of, his heart condition is a broken heart. His wife was… with one of his friends and he found out when she had their little boy tell him they were getting divorced. He’s been drunk ever since.”
“Do you know where she is? We need to get in there to help him.”
“Oh I have a key, I’ll be right back.” And she hurried away.
“Hey Cap, neighbor has a key, she’s getting it right now.”

Now we had to decide who would be the dog bait. The plan was to get the dog to go after one of us and then lock it up in another room.
I being the paramedic needed to get to the patient, Tommy being a totally brave firefighter said he’d be the bait. So we opened the front door for me, and then Tommy went around to the back door.

Tommy would open the backdoor and make enough noise to draw the dog away. I would slip in the front door and then quickly isolate the dog in the kitchen while Tommy backed out.

Using our radios Tommy gave a countdown. The dog was pacing in a circle around his downed owner.
“Three, two, one!”

Tommy banged the backdoor open loudly and the dog was immediately on the move. I remember its paws digging in and slipping on the wood floor. Silently I pushed the door open and trailed the huge beast toward the back.

The dog rounded the turn into the kitchen and now lost traction on the tile floor there. He slid sideways into the refrigerator and with his size and speed he knocked some kiddie artwork lose.

Tommy held his ground as the dog ricocheted off every surface in the kitchen. I closed the gap and pulled the kitchen door shut. I heard the backdoor slam as well and leaned against the door shaking.

The smell was really powerful inside the house, the irony and slightly acrid odor of dried blood was pungent but not repulsive in the way decomposition is.

I hurried over to the downed man and rolled him from his stomach on to his back. His eyes were covered over by a large flap of skin. At his hairline the skin of his face was peeled lose and hung down over his eyes, his skull was plainly visible.

The wound, although a few days old by all accounts, was fresh and clean and still leaking a steady flow of bright blood, not at all what I expected.
I was startled now by Tommy rushing in the front door and slamming it shut behind him. He was breathing hard and his eyes were wide and panicked.
“What the hell Tommy?”
My breathing accelerated now to match his.
“Doggy door. I didn’t think about the doggy door.”

Then a loud bang coincided with the bowing of the door and a steady stream of vicious barking. I also heard screams coming from outside.

“He jumped at the door and then he must have remembered the doggy door too. Next thing I know I see this giant head stick out the flap on the door and I just ran. Figured I’d be safe in here and you could probably use the help. Right?”
Here we are at the dreaded 1000 words. I’ll wrap it up tomorrow


Jenn said...

Oh my gosh Tim-- how frightening!! Isn't there a way to subdue an animal like that so you can get to your patients? Just curious. I love dogs--for the most part they like me. Even the growly ones. But I've had a few surprise me over the years. Still..Yikes!! What kind of wound was this exactly?? I guess I'll just have to wait til part 2!! Great post :) Cheers! Jenn.

Jo said...

I am catching up with my Fireman Fix! Hangin' on and movin' to the next one! ♥