Being “street” is not everybody’s cup of tea. I have a husband who is an Electrical Engineer (talk about mismatched).‑ He lived in a world that was so lacking in excitement and danger that I surely would have dropped dead had I had the misfortune to spend a day at work with him. So, you can well imagine that the prospect of spending a night out on the dangerous streets with me would not be something that he would relish. Still, deciding he should be educated to the baser side of life, I did talk him into spending a night riding out with us. I thought Derby Eve would be a great chance for him to see the world as it really is, not the sheltered placid place he thought it was. Derby Eve offers the best of everything. Central Avenue is lined with people who put up tents and await the opening of Churchill Downs. They are as rowdy a lot as the infield. I’m trusting that everyone knows what the infield is like on Derby Day. I had some pictures of a fat guy sliding naked in the mud with others waiting in line behind him, but I have no idea where they are. If I ever unearth them, I will include them at a later time. If anyone is sober, it is a fluke. The cops are out in force, as well as, EMS. Extra units of both are on the streets making ready for what the night will hold. It is one of my favorite nights of the year. Thus the story…I had gone to a GE dinner with Spike…he’s my husband…and we were dressed in semi-formal wear. After the dinner they had a dance for all the nice normal people, while I headed out the door with Spike in tow. We parked at the barn, and walked up the ambulance ramp.‑I pressed in the code, raising the huge door allowing us entrance to the “innards” of the barn. After changing clothes in the ready room, we met up with Mick in the equipment room. Mick was already checking our gear, throwing in extra stuff that we were sure to need.‑ Prior to leaving, Spike had to sign a waiver stating that if he were injured or killed we couldn’t sue EMS. Almost everything, from the time we entered the barn, to the end of the shift, was a “first” for Spike. It started with his signature that, in itself, made him a bit concerned for his well-being.
Tick was already passing out runs like dealing cards by the time we hit the street. As soon as I radioed in that we were 10-8, we were dispatched to a 10-39 right off the bat. The shooting was at a residence, and caution would be needed, as we never know if the assailant is still at the scene. I had advised Spike not to exit the ambulance until we knew what we had. When we pulled up, LPD was not yet on the scene, and we scanned the area with our spotlight, which is attached to the ambulance on each side. We saw no one.‑ For some reason, Spike opened the door and stepped out. In that instant, a guy who was in the shadows by a house stepped forward, went down on one knee, and leveled his gun at Spike. It was an occurrence so foreign to Spike that he stood stunned. I threw open my door and yelled, “Drop! Drop! Drop!!!”‑ Spike stood still. LPD was nowhere in sight and, now, I could see a body lying close to the gunman. It made no sense. I yelled for Spike to get back in the ambulance and Tick cleared, whilst I radioed in that there was a gunman at the scene, and we had a 10-39, possible 10-80. The night was too busy for us to dilly-dally around whilst the cops got there and the assailant apprehended. We took another run. I still remember Spike asking…”what about the guy who was shot?”‑ Mick and I said in unison:‑ “Who cares?”‑ Because Spike was from another world in his thinking, he was concerned about the guy who was shot, whilst Mick and I were concerned about the next run. We never did make it back to that scene, and I have no idea how it turned out. Spike was pretty quiet.
The next run was also a 10-39. I know in the Fort, that you guys probably don’t have shootings every night, but in Louisville, it is not unusual to have it be so. This night was no different, although most of the runs were of fights, drunks, and general mayhem. The next run is one that will live in my heart forever, because it was a young boy of approximately 14 years old. We were dispatched on a 10-39, as I mentioned, and we screamed with lights and sirens to the scene. A young boy…this was going to be bad.‑ This was also a residence. It was no where near Central Avenue where we had anticipated most of our runs would be that night, considering that that was the district we were assigned.‑ The house was dimly lit and we were met by a hysterical mother.‑ She was unable to form words but kept pointing upstairs whilst sobbing and choking. We asked her if a gunman was on the scene and she shook her head adamantly. We headed up the steps with Mick and I both carrying jump kits. Spike brought up the rear, and had a look of complete dread on his face. As we entered the room the child was facing a bedside stand on his knees.‑ A twin bed was alongside the stand; the room was small. He was facing the stand and the noises emitted were inhuman. To give you an idea, get spit in your mouth and suck it in and out, noisily. That’s what it sounded like. He was on his knees, with his back to us.
His room was orderly;‑ “boy things” were about…a baseball bat and several hats.‑ The sounds he emitted were unearthly. I was initially not sure how much damage we had, but Mick and I cautiously stabilized his neck as we leaned him backwards to a lying position.‑ The full horror of it all then hit us. He was without a face. There were two holes where mucus was passing in and out with each inhalation and exhalation. Part of his face was black with gunpowder. One eye was staring ahead without seeing. The other eye was gone. The gun was dangling from his hand, which hung limply at his side.
Rescue work is an odd thing. When there is something to be done, the plan of action in your head is well defined. In this case, not only was there nothing to be done, but would not buy him any time, let alone his life. There was so much damage that intubation was impossible. Mick headed out to the ambulance for the scoop stretcher, and oxygen. We got him on the scoop and placed the mask on his face, what was left of it. Screaming anew was heard from downstairs as more people filled the house. He was a lightweight, so we transported him to the ambulance on the scoop stretcher, the two sides of the scoop stretcher had locked easily as we slid the two parts together under his back. The oxygen mask was placed over his face, even whilst the futility of it was apparent.‑Grief threatened us, and was postponed, as always. Spike held one end of the scoop stretcher as Mick held the other. I felt that Spike needed to do something. The horror of such a sight would, I knew, live with him forever. The beautiful, unfulfilled life ebbed away before our eyes.‑ This precious child would never be. We sadly, efficiently, placed the young boy on the stretcher and into the ambulance. I rode in the back with him.‑Spike and Mick rode upfront. Nothing could be done. I prayed for him, then, silently, and the stertorous sounds became less and less. When we reached the Children’s Hospital, he was gone.
I never talked to Spike about this run. Some runs are never discussed. The crazy night with drunks and fighting and chaos was overshadowed by the death of this young boy whose life into manhood had just begun. What could have driven him to take his own life?‑ Those eternal unanswered questions linger in discomfort and bewilderment. Life on the street sometimes brings almost unbearable sorrow.
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