"That wasn’t so bad. We’re safe and snug here." I kept a running commentary for the next twenty minutes or so. And as I talked, it occurred to me that this young man seemed to be about the same age as my own son, which inspired me further to keep talking, crazy though it might seem. If this were my son, I knew that I would want a caring voice speaking to him. Everyone was playing a part in this dramatic scene: the paramedics kept on top of his vital signs and the IV, the firemen were busy with equipment trying to extricate him, and the police were vigilant of the whole scene, keeping their eyes on everything. I felt I was holding this young man’s life in my hands. This could have been my son. I felt compelled to keep talking.
"Okay, now the firemen have pried the door open and they are going to carefully get you out of the car. We are all trained to do this, so just try to relax and let us do all the work. I’ll be with you all the way, still holding your head steady. Can’t you feel my hands on your head?" I said. I pressed just a bit more firmly. "The rest of the guys will turn you gently and get you onto the back board. Someone will swing your legs to the right, carefully. Okay, here we go!"
They got him out of the twisted car, onto the stretcher, into the ambulance, and we raced to the hospital. On the way, the paramedics kept in touch with an MD at the hospital and gave the patient fluids and meds to keep him alive. I was along for the ride, still talking; holding his hand now, instead of his head. A large jagged piece of metal was imbedded in his shin, but that was the least of his problems.
After several minutes we arrived at the hospital. As the rest of the crew got him ready to depart the ambulance, I gripped his hand a little more firmly and said, "We’re at the hospital now and they will be taking you into the emergency room. You are going to be fine. You’ll be in the best of hands. I hope I didn’t chat your ear off, I know I am a big talker, but you have been a good listener!" And with a swift motion, his litter was swept into the emergency room and he was swallowed up by the other EMTs, paramedics and hospital staff who came to get him.
My crew stood around for a bit, collecting our thoughts and our strength. I saw the attending MD come out and heard him tell the young man’s parents how grave the situation was and that the prognosis was not great. He might not make it. It was heartbreaking. Then I overheard the name of the young man and recognized it: Chris and my son had been on the same soccer team when they were in 7th grade. It had been more than 12 years since those games; I hadn’t recognized the boy’s face, but I knew his name. I looked at his parents. I did recognize them. My first impulse was to go over to them, to say something, but the strain of the past hour caught up with me and the realization of what just happened made me feel slightly lightheaded and nauseated. And what were the right words to say to them? I didn’t know. So I turned and with my other crew members walked down the hall to the exit. My hands were still blotchily stained with Chris’s blood.
I went on with my life and about four weeks after the incident I happened to be visiting someone at that same hospital. On a whim I checked to see if Chris was still a patient there, and he was. I thought about whether I should go and see him. He had to have gone through a great deal. I didn’t know what sort of condition he would be in or whether visiting him would invade his privacy or if it would be the right thing to do. I considered those things for a while and then decided that if the tables were turned, I would welcome a visit from him.