Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tommy, You Shit-Stirrer, You

Tommy, You Old Shit-Stirrer, You

The call came in as “a man unconscious”. Nothing special, just the same type of call I’ve responded to hundreds of times in the past. So I thought nothing special as we headed through garage door and sped toward the scene.

Pulling in front of a pitch-black house at 3:00 AM is nothing unusual either, despite the fact that someone here had dialed 911 with an apparent life threatening emergency. Sometimes people will meet us in front of the house screaming and waving hysterically and sometimes they forget to put their lights on or even unlock the door for us. Sometimes they even go back to bed!

We walked to the darkened doorway, wiping the sleep from our eyes, and rang the bell. Rescue 2 was on the way but wouldn’t arrive for another 2 to 3 minutes. When we didn’t get a reaction right away I began to pound on the front door, “Fire department”! A short time after that an 80 year old woman meekly cracked open the door looking like she had just been roused from a sound sleep. “Yes?”, she said. By this time I was beginning to think that we were at the wrong house. “Did you call 911, mam?” “Yes, come in.”

We followed her into an immaculate home as she began to guide us to the rear of the house. “He’s lying on the bathroom floor, and I don’t know if he’s breathing or not”, she said as she pointed to a closed door. “Tommy. Tommy, are you all right?”, she asked through the door. No response.

I moved her back to the living room as we tried to force the door open to gain entry to the bathroom. The door wasn’t locked, but it was being held shut by something on the inside. As I peeked in through the thin space we’d forced I could see his feet on the floor moving franticly to keep himself pressed up against the back of the door. “Tommy, open the door and let us in”, I said. At least we now knew that he wasn’t lying dead or unconscious on the bathroom floor. I walked into the living room to tell the old lady that he seemed fine and was moving on his own as my guys continued to try to gain access.

Around the same time Rescue 2 entered the home. When the door was forced open enough to get a good look at Tommy (the old lady’s 64 year old son) we saw that he was naked on the floor trying desperately to keep his body against the door to keep us out. He was not verbally responsive and seemed to be completely disoriented. And, he was literally full of shit!

It was all over the white tile floor, all over him, in his hair, his mouth, his eyes – everywhere! We sent a man out to the rescue to get towels and sheets as we regrouped in the hallway trying to decide how to handle him. As the FF returned with the towels we decided that the guy and girl from Rescue would wet the towels and try to wipe him down as well as possible under the circumstances while the two FF’s with me would hold him down with the sheets and attempt to wrap him up in them. While they were doing this I attempted to calm the mother down and lead her to a different side of the house and distract her while they struggled with Tommy.

As I attempted to ascertain a brief medical history from mom I found out that, as a child, Tommy had been struck in the head by a golf ball. Apparently he suffered from occasional bouts with dementia-like symptoms. In between these bouts he was, according to his mom, a normal man who held a job and had served in the military. Somehow it seemed even more pathetic that someone who reportedly lived his life in a normal manner could be reduced to this type of behavior at random.

As I kept mom’s attention in the kitchen I could see that they had him wrapped up in the sheets and were carrying him outside to the gurney awaiting his arrival on the sidewalk in front of the house. I told her that we would take good care of him and get him the help he needed at RI Hospital. As he was put on the stretcher and strapped in his mom came to the front door to wave goodbye. He was covered by the sheets with only his cleaned up face peeking through, so mom never saw what a mess he had made of himself. We didn’t want her to see him like that. It was bad enough that she was going to have to deal with the mess in the bathroom, but at least she didn’t have that mental picture sticking in her memory.

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