The fourth degree

Late Saturday night in Sin City. I would usually be home with my family, but tonight I’ve picked up an extra shift on the transfer truck. Life has conspired with circumstance to leave me short on hours for the week.

The tones drop, the lights come up. One of the other medics bursts into the bunk room and grabs his jacket. He mumbles the address of a well-known elderly high rise along with the words “car vs building – fire – entrapment.” He’s out the door in a flash, and the radios are busy.

Partner du Jour and I stumble into the day room. Fire Alarm is delivering updates in staccato fashion. Fire. Ejection. Multiple patients. Burns. Status on the burn center and the helicopter? Units responding and arriving.

Two engines, a truck, and a deputy chief. Two paramedic units, two BLS ambulances, an EMS supervisor. PdJ and I listen in awe, standing in our t-shirts and stocking feet. We are the last ambulance available in the city. This is a call no one will soon forget, and we aren’t there.

That may be a good thing.

Two critical burn patients are whisked to Big City Trauma Center in short order, and three less critical ones go to local hospitals. We hear a few details from the returning crews, and a bystander video even turns up on YouTube.

In the parlance of the business, it’s a ‘good’ call. There was lots of work to be done and a critical chance to make a difference. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our busy days are life-changers for our patients.

When I get home, Deputy Dad calls and asks if I was involved. At first I expect professional interest, but then he says that one of the critical patients is a good friend of a friend, a mere four degrees of separation.

Suddenly it’s not such a good call anymore. Godspeed, sir.