A Charmed Life
Chapter 45: Adding On
Copyright© 2016 by The Outsider
15 December 1997 - Main Street, Clinton, Massachusetts
“ ... after you block your opponent here, you want to follow with a strike here, Emily. An opponent throwing a punch like that will often be overextended, off-balance and vulnerable. Action, reaction; cause and effect. Just as you’ve been learning for some time. Understand?”
“Hai, senpai,” she replied.
“Good. You’ll be ready to test for your own black belt soon I would imagine.”
“Maybe. You know how strict Dad is.”
“True,” Jeff replied. He caught someone staring at Emily and him out of the corner of his eye. “I think you’ve got an admirer, Emily.” Jeff flicked his eyes to the person in question and back.
“Tall for someone my age, thin, brown hair?”
“Yep, Mr. Mattson.”
“I think he’s had a crush on me since we started karate together seven years ago at our old dojo in Bolton.”
“Did he follow you over here?”
“He lives over on Mill Street here in Clinton; our dojo is more convenient for him so, no, not really. He’s a good student, serious.”
“Sounds like you like him, too.”
Emily blushed. “He’s nice,” she replied in a quiet voice while looking down and kicking at the mat.
Jeff smiled at the young lady in front of him. “I don’t envy your Dad. Let’s get back with the rest of the class.”
“What did Carl say when you told him?” Jeff asked. “Carl” was Carl Hammond, the principal of Devens Regional High.
“There is not much he could say, Jeffrey, not legally. Carl would not in any event; he was very pleased with my performance in the classroom last year before the boys were born. I received many positive comments from many of my students and their parents, as well. Given that my due date for this pregnancy is after the end of the school year, I do not foresee any issues in that arena.”
“No issues with the teacher’s union or anyone because you don’t have your tenure yet?”
“It is called ‘professional status’ now, Jeffrey. And, no, since I should be able to complete the current school year there should not be any issues.”
“Well whatever it’s called ... we all set for our guests tomorrow?”
“Yes, we are ready.”
“Hey, Heather, how are you?”
“Whatever, buddy. Where are my nephews?” Heather asked while pushing past Jeff the following morning. Jeff stared in disbelief at her retreating back until she disappeared around a corner.
“Well, that makes it official,” TC muttered as he stepped through the front door. “You are chopped liver.”
“I guess so. How are you, Reb?”
“Just fine, thanks. I think you know these folks with me?”
“I sure do. It’s been far too long.”
“I agree, Jeff,” Jean Pelley said, giving him a hug and a sloppy kiss on the cheek. “You look great!”
“So do you and the good doctor, Mrs. Pelley.” Jeff shook hands with TC’s father. “And this young lady must be Mackenzie! Hi, Mackenzie!” The almost two year-old tucked her face into her mother’s shoulder. “She’s a cutie. You two are in for a bunch of trouble when she grows up!” he told her parents.
“Don’t I know it,” Travis Newcomb muttered. “I’m already working on my speech to her first date; that’ll be when she’s thirty, by the way.”
“Hi, Jeff,” Miranda said, kissing him on the cheek.
“Let me take your coats, everyone, then we’ll try to track down my family and my former sister.”
“We can’t keep them?” Jean asked. “It’s kind of cold out there.”
“It is? It’s like forty out today! You’ll see someone riding their bike in shorts while drinking an iced coffee today I’m sure!” The folks from Dixie looked at him like he’d just grown another head. “Seriously, we’ve got radiant heating everywhere on the first floor; you guys should be fine. Come on in.”
Jeff led his friend’s family into the kitchen where Heather and Keiko were talking. The boys were in their high chairs enjoying a snack; they looked at the newcomers when they approached. “Ol’ Blue Eyes on the left is Alexander Kenji; his brother, to the right, is named Ryan Isoroku.”
“How old are they now?” Jean asked.
“They just turned nine months old.”
“They seem to like their Cheerios, that’s for sure.”
“They like anything edible placed in front of them, Miranda. Don’t get too close while they’re eating or you might lose an arm.”
“Jeffrey! That is a terrible thing to say about your sons!”
“Keiko, when was the last time you saw them turn their noses up at anything we’ve served them? They’re healthy eaters! I’d rather have them be vacuum cleaners than not eat at all.”
Travis drifted away from the group and into the living room. He checked out the view through the large windows before turning back to the interior of the house. A framed photo on the far wall caught his attention, as did the black ribbon across the top corner. He studied the image before returning to the kitchen.
“Keiko, what are the boys’ names again? Their middle names?”
“‘Kenji’ and ‘Isoroku.’ Why do you ask, Travis?”
“So your brother was named ‘Kenji Isoroku Takahashi?’”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“I’m a mathematician, Keiko; two plus two usually equals four. I saw your brother’s photo in the living room. Given the boys’ birth order, their middle names, and your brother’s last name from his uniform it made sense.”
“Did Thomas tell you about Ken?”
“Only that your brother was Jeff’s roommate at Fort Bragg and he’d been killed in the Gulf War. He never told us his full name.”
“Ken was Jeffrey’s roommate for nearly three years; he taught Jeffrey to speak Japanese and introduced us to each other after my graduation from high school in 1989. His death in 1991 left a large wound which will never fully heal for any in my family, Jeffrey included.”
“TC, we’ve spoken about this since you came to our wedding,” Jeff mentioned to his friend. “While I can’t ever know what you went through after Ricky’s death in Panama, I know something of the pain you experienced then since I’ve had to live through losing my best friend as well.” Jeff turned back to TC’s parents. “That’s why I think it was so easy for me to welcome TC as a friend when he showed up in ‘96, because I understood to some extent.”
“We’re just happy you were finally able to reconnect, Jeff,” Dr. Pelley said.
“Heather, Jeffrey tells me that you and Thomas have chosen a date for your wedding?”
“It’ll be October third next year; that’s the first weekend of the month. We’re hoping to catch the peak of the Valley’s foliage from the overlook of the Cliffside.”
Jeff let out a low whistle. “The Cliffside, huh? Not the Inn on the Common in Greenwich?”
“Greenwich Common is pretty but we love the view from the Cliffside looking east, especially in the fall,” Heather said.
“Speaking of pretty, this house is pretty impressive,” Miranda said when the conversation began to wane.
“Would you guys like the nickel tour?” Jeff asked. Everyone but Jean and Keiko said they’d like to see the house; Jean and Mackenzie stayed with Keiko and the boys while Jeff led the rest of the guests through the house.
“The rest of the house is certainly as impressive as the downstairs, Mom,” Miranda said upon their return to the kitchen.
Jeff pulled a platter of burger patties from the refrigerator and placed it on the counter. “Do you think Mackenzie would want a hot dog or a burger, Travis?”
“Hot dog,” said four adults at once. All of the adults laughed.
“We’ll have simple cookout stuff for lunch while we get caught up,” Jeff said. “We’ll teach you folks how to eat a lobster later today.”
“Hey, partner! Happy New Year!” Shawna chirped from the side door of Paramedic Thirty-one.
“Hey, Shawna, how are you on this first day of 1998?”
“Ready to go pick up all those folks who over-imbibed last night!”
“We shouldn’t see those folks for a couple of hours. Hopefully we won’t see them at all, but if we’re lucky they won’t call until we’ve had our second cups of coffee each.”
“We should be so lucky. Hey, hand me some gloves, a bottle of peroxide and a towel would you?”
“What do you see?” Jeff asked, handing her the requested items.
Shawna didn’t answer but poured the peroxide on the floor; where she poured was a thin metal plate designed to stop the wheels of the stretcher from wearing a hole in the floor. The peroxide ran under the edge of the plate and immediately began to foam a pinkish color flecked with black.
“Okay, that’s gross,” Shawna muttered.
“They did have that stabbing last night,” referring to the crew they’d relieved. “Aaron and Tim cleaned it as well as they were able, but I guess I know what we’re doing today.”
“Happy New Year!”
They called dispatch to explain what they needed to do, and an extra paramedic truck was sent to the Medford line to give them some coverage while they cleaned. Borrowing a mop from Engine Five’s crew, Shawna and Jeff finished re-cleaning the floor of Thirty-one in only five minutes; there were benefits to being based at a fire house.
“All clean now!” Shawna said while she spot-checked random places with peroxide.
“Um, I just had a thought, Shawna.”
“Why is that statement making me nervous, Jeff?”
“How did that blood get to the floor?”
“The patient was on the stretcher, right?”
“Right,” she sighed. Walking over to the stretcher she pulled the mattress off; pouring peroxide on the bare stretcher brought forth more blood-tinged foam.
“Great,” Jeff muttered while handing Shawna a red biohazard bag. “I’ll go call dispatch if you get the straps off. I’ll see what the guys from Five have for cleaning brushes.”
“See if they have any bleach, too.”
Cleaning the stretcher took another hour’s time. The stretcher’s mechanism trapped many small clots which needed to be coaxed out; disassembling the stretcher would de-certify it under the maintenance contract.
“We should have just had them bring us a spare stretcher,” Shawna grumbled while scrubbing the top of the stretcher with disinfectant for the third time.
“Tried that,” Jeff grumbled back. “All the spares are broken, waiting to be serviced. Of course the stretcher maintenance company is coming next week. Plus that would leave this one still contaminated while sitting in the garage in Malden.”
By the time they were finished both Jeff’s and Shawna’s uniforms were soaked with sweat, wash water and flecked with bleach.
“Guess we should have thought that through first,” Jeff commented while looking at their appearance.
“Yeah. You have your spare uniform in your car?”
“And to think I used to think I wouldn’t get dirty doing this job.”
“I used to watch Emergency! growing up; the ambulance guys who came to help Johnny and Roy were always wearing white. Somehow I must have thought that equated to this being a ‘clean’ line of work.”
“They sure fooled us!”
Shawna and Jeff wandered into the fire department’s side of the building once they’d changed. They made sure the equipment they borrowed from Engine Five was in its proper place; they were given mugs of coffee when they returned.
“Hey, thanks, Chief.”
Deputy Chief Paul Giaconti waved off the thanks. “You guys were out there for almost two hours straight and you made sure everything was put away before you cleaned yourselves up. You guys all set now?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Jeff replied. “We just had our dispatch release the cover truck.”
Before Shawna and Jeff took a sip of their coffees the tones went off for a response.
“Engine Two and Ambulance One, E-Two and A-One, eighty-six Sharon Street, eight-six Sharon, outside for the man down.”
Shawna and Jeff stared at the speaker while the message repeated. Jeff held his hand out for her coffee mug; he dumped their contents down the drain and rinsed the mugs.
“Murphy’s got a hard-on for you two today,” Chief Giaconti commented as the paramedics moved towards the apparatus bay. Public safety personnel were big believers in Murphy’s First Law: if anything can go wrong, it will.
The pair signed on for the response with Medford Fire Alarm, then with Brophy; the cover truck was turned around and sent back for coverage in Medford. Fire Alarm updated that the arriving police were calling for them to “step up” their response. Shawna and Jeff rolled their eyes. Shawna was already driving as fast as she safely could; that’s how every response was. Jeff tried to get an update on the patient, but didn’t receive a reply.
Engine Two signed off three minutes later. The fire officer’s voice came over the radio seconds later. “Engine Two to A-One?”
“Engine Two, go ahead, sir.”
“A-One, your patient’s been badly beaten, had his throat cut and was then shoved into a snowbank. Multiple injuries to the face: broken nose, possible broken jaw. We can hear air movement through the neck wound; we’ve placed a non-rebreather near his face but not on it due to his injuries, and lightly covered his neck. Strong, rapid pulse. We’re not going to move him much until you get here.”
“Roger, Engine Two. We’ll be there in less than five minutes.”
“Here we go...” Shawna muttered when she turned onto Sharon Street. The wall of emergency lights was impressive even in the daylight; at night it would have been dizzying. An unintended consequence of the overwhelming response was that Shawna couldn’t pull onto Sharon Street; she had to park out on the main road, Harvard Avenue.
They steered their stretcher through the maze of police cars and the massive fire engine, finally reaching the snowbank where their patient was; the patient’s blood dripping onto the dirty snow turned it into a giant, grotesque snow cone. The cold from the January air above him and snow below caused the lightly dressed patient’s blood to be shunted away from his skin; this gave him an unwanted pallor but was probably the reason he was still alive. Engine Two helped them get the patient onto a backboard. The patient began trying to cough once face up.
“Shawna, you know those 4-inch-by-4-inch gauze pads that are slit up the middle for trach patients?” Jeff asked while pulling an endotracheal tube from the airway kit.
“Make me a big one out of one of the trauma dressings?”
“You got it!”
The patient’s face was a mess. His lower jaw was definitely broken; his upper jaw was suspect also. His cheeks were swollen, his nose broken. The broken nose added to the blood pooling in the back of his throat. Jeff saw only one option.
“Hey, hold the top of his head? Here?” Jeff asked one of the firefighters. “Turn your face away so he doesn’t cough on you.” Jeff placed the 8.0 mm endotracheal tube into the patient’s trachea through the laceration on his throat. Shawna nodded after listening to lung sounds; the tube was in the right place. The large gauze pad went around the tube; a commercial tube holder kept everything in place.
“Let’s get him in the truck,” Jeff said to the firefighters helping Shawna and him. The crew of Engine Two followed them back through the maze of vehicles to their ambulance. Jeff jumped in first and cranked up the heat. He stripped off the outer gloves he wore and pulled off his coat; Shawna did the same. Engine Two’s lieutenant tasked two of his firefighters to assist in the ambulance. Jeff made sure they took off their heavy bunker coats before the temperature inside rose.
Shawna and one firefighter began cutting off the patient’s clothes. Jeff untied the tube holder so he could get to the patient’s neck. Shawna didn’t have any luck finding a vein in the patient’s arm, even with a tourniquet on; he was still too cold for his veins to carry enough blood for them to stand up. With Shawna holding the base of the tube Jeff placed an IV in one of the patient’s neck veins, the external jugular. Morphine went into the IV after Shawna got a blood pressure on the patient.
“I wish we could give him something else,” Shawna muttered to Jeff while putting restraints around their patient’s wrists; he’d already reached for the tube, the thing keeping him alive, three times in the five minutes they’d been en route to Mass General.
“His blood pressure was barely high enough for the morphine before he got it. Even if we were allowed to give him some Valium to calm him down, the combination of the two could bottom out his pressure. I’ll probably catch enough heat for how I placed the tube.”
“Are you the one who cut his throat? No? Then what’s the problem?”
“We’ll see when we get to the General.”
Jeff made his radio report; the person who answered advised him they’d be going to the trauma bays. They bypassed the short line at triage and walked into the treatment area. Jeff gave his report to the trauma team and prepared to step away.
“Who’s the idiot who put the tube through the patient’s neck?” an unfamiliar voice called from the patient’s head.
Jeff turned back to the bay. “While I dispute your characterization of me as an ‘idiot, ‘ I did. Why?”
“Did you stop to consider that an endotracheal tube goes in the patient’s mouth?”