Boom-Boom didn’t come into EMS with that name. She acquired hers, like the rest of us earned ours. We would respond: “run-related,” when someone from the outside world would inquire as to how or why someone was called an odd name. We had our own secrets, codes, and names. No one else was privy to our secret society. There always would be that one run that you made, totally innocent of malice, intended error, or comedy, or an odd character trait that would define you. It would stick with you as long as you were in the service. Once you resorted back to the ordinary world, with ordinary people, from whence you came, your name, and the circumstances that created it, were gone forever. At least it seemed that way to me.
Boom- Boom was one of unusual beauty; the kind that God, Himself, bestows upon very few women. Even if one had the benefit of plastic surgery, Estee Lauder, and every artifice, a face like that would never emerge. The first time I met her, I walked into the equipment room and she turned to face me. “Ahh…”she said, “you’re the new street nurse”. I nodded in assent, not being sure that I was even close to being ready for the elite title. The most extraordinary luminescent blue eyes that I have ever seen struck me. They were a blue that I would remember in one hundred years, long after I might not be sure of my own. I was so mesmerized by their hypnotic depth, that I must have stared, because she suddenly laughed with a clarity of recognition. I realized that this reaction from the first sight of her eyes must be a very common occurrence for her, and I smiled at her without embarrassment. There are some people that you will know for a lifetime and not feel close to, or really know at all. Then, for whatever reason, you meet someone you know you’ve been around with before…in another life, perhaps. Such was the case with Boom-Boom.
A great confidence comes upon you after about six months. You get many saves under your belt, and it feels like you can handle anything. Such was the case with us all; such was the case with Boom-Boom. Life was good. In fact, life was great. We were bold, sure of ourselves, free, and the heroes of the city. What a heady, funny, daring lot we were. Those coming in from their shifts were rumpled, bloody and dirty. Those going out were pressed, clean and stain- free. Every shift change was filled with reports of runs made, craziness, and always, hearty laughter. Glory stories and banter were readily exchanged in the equipment room. I guess it should have been called the war room. There were no secrets. None. One of the occasional verbal transmissions was what Deafendum had done, or not done. If you had a kicking boy, he was surely it. No one wanted him as a partner, so he got passed around. You always dreaded having your partner call in sick for fear you would get Deafendum.
Boom-Boom had more sympathy than most. After all, even though he was a clod, he was attractive and nice to people. She was the one with the kindest heart, and thought he should be cut more slack, but, of course, it never happened. To tell you the truth, he just wasn’t very bright. I guess I could go one step further, and tell you he was downright stupid. The near-loss of a child due to this stupidity, was not a case readily forgotten or forgiven. It stuck on him like snot. None of his daily cosmetic efforts, his toothy smile, his efforts to ingratiate, could erase the reality of his incompetence. Dead people don’t bleed. They may have bled before life was completely taken from them, but once dead, they have no pumping heart. They only minimally ooze. Deafendum, and his stand-in partner, Joey, had made a run on a MVA (motor vehicle accident). This is a common run, as many motor vehicle accidents take place at night. Lots of drunks are out on the street no matter how many LPD officers are there to arrest them. The tragedy is really compounded when some drunk decides to take his kid out with him, as he makes the rounds of his favorite bars. In the MVA that Joey and Deafendum made, (which earned him his nickname,) he erroneously declared a kid to be 10-80, and covered him with an orange sheet. Had Joey not glanced past Deafendum’s paralyzed stance, the night’s events would have been tragic. As the report went, (that circulated around the service), Joey looked over at the sheet covering the boy’s body, and noted that blood was steadily continuing to run out from under it. With stunning heart-stopping realization, he ran to the child, yanked off the sheet and confirmed what his mind already knew. The child was alive. Ten minutes of no attention, thanks to Deafendum, made the situation critical. Joey staunched the bleeding as he radioed for a Code 3 backup. Luckily, the child arrived at Children’s Hospital in time to be saved. He went straight to surgery. I cannot tell you the numbing horror one feels at thinking everything was not done that should have been done. Deafendum earned his name that night, and he was called such, forever after.
Some things in the service are sacred. Kids are one of them. You always break your neck to save kids, no matter what. It’s just the way it is. I can’t say that we can save every kid, but it is not for the lack of our maximum efforts.
Boom-Boom seemed to have sympathy for everyone. She even tried to call Deafendum by his real name for a week or two afterwards, but even she slid into the pattern of the name that best described him. She knew in her heart that she would never ever in the whole world let a child die because of her negligence or oversight. That was the sorry thing. Shit happens.
Boom-Boom was unarguably one of the best street nurses at EMS. She was not without her soft underbelly, but was generally not judged harshly because of it. Better the softness of her heart, than that hard alligator efficiency of Deet. Deet might have been a near-infallible nurse, but she was hard, worn, humorless, hateful, and ugly. She was often referred to as Nurse Ratchet, in reference to the nurse in, “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”. She was also car 3… not to be regarded lightly, but she almost always worked day shift, and was thus easily avoided. But, Boom-Boom…we would take her softness, and guard her back. She could be trusted and was highly regarded. Thus, after I had been in the service about three years, I was surprised to note that Boom-Boom was downcast. It was not like her to be melancholy. It’s critically important to keep your fingers on the pulse of every street partner, whether your own, or someone else’s. We were a team. At first, I thought she was having an “off night”. But, then, as time went on, the easy laugh and the brightness of her eyes seemed faded. Even though all of us knew pretty much everything there was to know about each other, Boom was keeping a secret. I pondered it much and worried about it more. Perhaps it would pass. It didn’t.
She became hesitant on runs that would have been child’s play. She would call for backup when she didn’t need one. Her confidence was waning, and I didn’t know why. I needed to find out. I sensed it to be a sensitive personal issue. I was worried. Street strength was what it was because of the players in the game. We all knew that Deafendum was useless, but it was a “known”, and no one depended on him, anyway. Such was not the case with Boom. I remembered when I first learned about her name. I was just one month in the service when the truth came out. She had gone on a run with Mick, her partner, a paramedic. They had been dispatched to a 7th Street run. The bordellos were on 7th Street. One after another, the beckoning neon signs of scantily clad women, would compete with each other, as to which had the vice most tempting to vulnerable young, and not-so-young men. Lap dances, full nudity…well you get the drift. A run went out to Med 38 that there was a “man down” at the “Boom-Boom-Room”, one of the more popular dives of seedy Seventh Street. Now, it could not be said that Boom was naive or lacked knowledge of the more base ways of people in the run-down, vile dumps of the coarser parts of the city. But, for whatever reason, Boom-Boom had never seen the inside of a place quite as frank and disgusting as the “Boom-Boom Room”. Her partner, Mick, also known as “New Yawk”, was to become unmerciful in his recounting of the experience of his partner, in the “Boom-Boom Room”. I would be hard pressed to claim that she was ever again called by her proper name. For, after the entire lot of us heard of her experience, it was repeated and exaggerated, frequently, at shift change. The teasing was endless. The laughter was uproarious. She ignored us all, rolled her eyes, and tried to get past it with indifference. After a time, she refused to even get huffy. But, she was forever after called Boom-Boom, and eventually, even came to identify herself as such.
Now, my sunny, happy friend was in trouble. It didn’t pass. It was worrisome. I regarded her each night as we loaded up, saw the strain on her face and in her countenance. I wanted badly to find out what was wrong, and try to help. I knew it was serious, because she didn’t confide in me…or anyone else, for that matter. Questions were few, showing respect for what we sensed was no laughing matter, but none of us knew what had happened. Finally, I approached her partner, New Yawk. He loved Boom. We all loved Boom. But Mick wasn’t talking.
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