Saturday, February 15, 2020

A request for a ride, an unexpected stranger and the beating of a lifetime

Emergency - Royalty-free Ambulance Stock Photo

Working the evening shift on 18 Boy with my regular partner Max. We had just transported a patient to Harlem Hospital. Max was the tech while I was driving. I helped Max get the patient out of the vehicle, returned with the empty stretcher, placed it back in the ambulance and got in the drivers seat to wait for Max to present and sign over the patient to the nurse. It didn't take long, about 5 minutes till Max jumped into the passenger seat. As I was about to turn on the ignition the back door opened and someone got in and closed the door of the cab. I looked at Max as to say "who are we giving a ride to". Sometimes we'd give one of the nurses a ride to pick up dinner or drive another member a few blocks to their car. To my surprise Max looked at me in the exact same way.
Interested, we got out of the ambulance, opened the side door and looked inside to find some stranger laying across the side bench, hands propping up his head. He looked like he had more of a right to be there than we did.
Max spoke up "Yo, what the fuck you doing in here?"
The gentleman looked at both of us and said, incredibly "Drive me to Wyoming!"
Now there was me, 6 foot tall, weighing in at about 220. Max was about 5 foot four, head like a bowling ball and body like a bulldog. Damn! We're Harlem EMT's! We don't take shit shit from anyone. Reaching into the ambulance we each grab a leg and drag the bastard out and shove him against the side of the vehicle.Now we have him standing. It was then that I realise that this is not some ordinary drunk. My face reache about nipple high on him. Max, who would have been four inches taller if not for his bowl legs reached to his waist .Son of a bitch must be seven feet tall!

 Fully aware of what we're up again I finally comprehend the meaning of the old Biblical saying
"Pride goeth before the fall". Max must be thinking the same thing as we both try to make a bolt for it at the same time. No way. The guy reaches out,grabs us both and begins to  beat the crap out of us.. Up against the ambulance we were thrown, underneath the ambulance Max was pushed while I was lifted and set down with a painful thump onto the hood.Punches rain down on us continuously. This guy was throwing us around like a cat two frightened mice.
"Max! Crack him in the head with your flashlight!" "Rocco I can't reach his head!!" Max screams back. Finally, after a good ten minutes, either because he was tired or no longer amused, the guy throws us both to the ground, looks down and yells "Fuck you motherfuckers!" and walks away. We lay there, our bodies aching and bloody, our pride dissipating  in the July night's air.
I turn to Max laying next to me.
"What do we do now?".
Max looks at me incredulously "I ain't going after that motherfucker!". "
"Should we call the cops or something"
Max, now sagelike in my eyes "You gonna explain how the both of us got our asses kicked"
I bowed my head to the sage in respect. We help raise each other up from the ground , limp over to the station, change uniforms in the locker room and gingerly walk back to the ambulance. A lesson learned and never forgotten.

Friday, December 27, 2019

My First Day at Harlem Ems. And what a greeting I got!

Original NYC EMS
Upon graduation from the EMS Academy I receive 2 things: my badge and my orders. My preference was to work out of the Jacobi Station as it was just about 5 minutes from my house and I knew the area very well. I didn't own a car but the bus stopped right on the corner of my apartment building and it was a perfectly straight 5 minute run to Jacobi Hospital.
I received my badge proudly, received my orders, saluted the chief and walked back to my chair. It was then I looked down at my orders and one word jumped out at me almost making me fall out of my chair:"Specialist Cassetta please report to Station 18, Harlem tomorrow at 9am". HARLEM! There has to be something wrong here. I mean I'm not prejudiced at anyone but I've never been to Harlem!All I heard were stories about it and they weren't all good. Especially for a guy named Rocco who  was white as pasteurized milk. Oh shit I'm in trouble. Just then one of my classmates asked me where I was going. I answered "Harlem". She said she was slated for Jacobi and would I mind a transfer with her. "No problem" I gushed to her. We made plans to meet in the following days to get the paperwork set up.

Next day at 8 in the morning I show up the at Harlem. I'm standing in the middle of the roll call room. I'm not sitting so as not to appear rude. I'm standing, sweating, moving from foot to foot anything to pacify the damn butterflies that feel like hornets in my stomach. Others are walking in every few moments, taking a look at me like " shit I hope they don't put this rookie with me today". Then this guy walks in. Medium build, medium height with a head as as smooth as a brand new bowling ball. He light skinned Hispanic with round, wire rimmed glasses. He's about 50 years old. He looked like a Gandhi but one who wouldn't say no to a good steak presented to him.
He walks in, I look at him and I nod "Hello". He runs right up unto my face and yells:
"Are you a homo?"
I'm stunned. I don't know what to say, what to do or where to run
"I said are you a fucking homo" again and I'm still in that petrified state I can't move or talk'
"Do you want to bend me over and fuck me in the ass?". We're almost nose to nose
Finally somehow I find my voice and weakly say "No"
"Then why the fuck you looking at me for?". Then he cocks his hat to the side, crosses his arms and bends his head to the side. Before I can say anything, a big smile comes over his face, he reaches out with his right hand, shakes my right hand and says "Welcome to Harlem. My name's Allende". Then he walks away whistling leaving me to wonder to myself " What the fuck did I just get myself into here?

P.S. Three weeks later I declined the transfer. I was never leaving Harlem. That you can thank Winston Maxwell and Sy Collins for.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

6 Children, A Mother's Death and Me at the Crossroads

I was working a rare morning shift when we received a call for a cardiac arrest, CPR being performed by the victim's daughter. Lights and sirens screaming we pull up to the building in no more than 2 minutes. We hustle up to the apartment where the door is opened. We walk inside. I look to my left into the bedroom and see a woman on the floor on her back. Doing chest compressions is a girl approximately 12 years hold. I gently take the girl by the arm and move her out of the way and as I do I see 5 children probably between 5 and 10 years old looking on, mouths agape and eyes stretched wide open, trying to comprehend the scene before them. None crying.. I look down at the woman, do a quick check and immediately see that the woman must have died hours before during the night as when I put my hand on her chest and it was cold as ice. I tried to pick up her chin to close her mouth:Rigor Mortis (we had specific guidelines who we could pronounce dead: those obviously dead from trauma, dependent lividity: signs of pooling of blood inside the body and rigor mortis which manifests itself as stiffening of limbs and joints)
Now we had the right to pronounce the patient dead right there and not carry her down 5 flights of stairs acting as if she still had a chance.Then the doctor in the emergency room going to be a pain the the ass for bringing an obviously dead person into his emergency room Too bad. Not Jesus or the Devil was going to make me leave that woman in front of those six kids. I at least wanted them to relive that day with the thought that at least everything possible was done for their mother.Also didn't want that to be their last memory of her.So we started going through the motions of performing CPR. Just then I looked up and saw a female police officer moving the children into the next room. In an instant I was overcome by an emotion that literally shook me. It took a moment to realize but what it was. It felt as if I received a jolt to my soul:

 At this exact moment the lives of these children would change for ever. Their mother, their protector was now gone and their lives would be changed forever. She was being carried out the door never to return Those children were standing at the crossroads that would likely shape the rest of their lives. AND I WAS THERE!. I was part of the whole thing. I was part of this gigantic hole that would change these poor children's lives forever.
It was one of the most soul shaking events of my life and after 20 years I can still feel it at times when my children are asleep and the house is quiet. What happened to those kids? Do they remember me? Over and over these thought run through my head.Sometimes I wish I knew. Sometimes, no.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A young child's hand in a freezer and a doctor I wanted to choke

Max and I were working 18 Boy one night when we received a report of a "severe laceration on st. Nicholas and 155 street. So we fly over there. We pull up and there's about 30 people screaming from a window on the third floor. We grab our trauma bag and as soon as we enter the building we hear people screaming and crying. We rush up and are ushered into an apartment. Max is in front of me and I'm behind. As I walked in a guy grabs me and pulls me over to the refrigerator and opens the door and points.. Looking in I saw something that, even with my 5 experience (Another frightening finding)

Friday, October 19, 2018

Jumper in the East River. His logical reason for jumping will surprise you

Nice Summer day, August 1993. I'm working the 5pm-1am shift with my longtime partner Steve. We had just dropped a patient off at Metropolitan Hospital, made a left on 96 street and headed toward the FDR north to get back to our area. As I swing the ambulance left onto the service road of the FDR and head for the highway itself:
"32 Charlie" blares over the police division radio.
"32 Charlie K"
"32 Charlie I'm getting multiple reports of  man in the water approximately 135st and the FDR ESU and Harbor on the way"
"32 Charlie 10-4. We're on the way". And so were we. Steve picks up the mic and advises the EMS dispatcher to put us on the job.
Approximately 1 minute later we pull up to the railing at 135 street and the Harlem Drive and sure enough, in the middle of the East River there's a black dude, looks about 20 years old threading water. No not drowning but swimming calmly like Mark Spitz doing leisure laps.  All of a sudden he stops and looks above just as two divers leap from a helicopter beside him. More surprising to Harlem's version of Aqua-man, the two flipper-ed cops ascend back to the surface and grab hold of of him just as the police harbor boat pulls up. Suddenly he's grabbed from all sides by close to a dozen cops and hauled aboard the boat, slammed onto the deck and quickly handcuffed with some cop standing over him with his foot firmly planted on our soggy friends back.
Steve and I are directed to meet the cops at 125 street and Marginal Street to take partial custody of our emotionally disturbed man who set to end it by jumping into the East River. I go to the back of the ambulance, open the doors and our patient is dumped on the stretcher. I climb up the back step and go to the head and try to get some info while Steve checks the guy for injuries.
He's face down handcuffed. He lifts his head, looks at me and goes:

"What the fuck is going on?"he yells

It takes me a moment to answer him.

"Hey man, what the fuck is going on"he yells louder this time

I look at him and explain nothing personal but attempted suicide is a crime in New York. If you succeed that's different. Steve lets out a bit of chuckle

"Who the fuck is trying to commit suicide"he asks me with a quizzical look on his face I immediately took as genuine.

"My brother, my clothes I are dry" I say to him

"Yo!Yo! I wasn't trying to commit suicide!"

"Then why'd you jump in the water'
Yo! It takes 45 minutes and $2.00 dollars to get across to the Bronx on the bus. I can swim there in 20 minutes and I ain't gotta pay shit!"he answers indignantly
I turned and look at the cop sitting next to me and said " Let him go. He's sane as shit" The cop looks at me with a smile on his face " I heard him too.But the only place he's going is to Bellevue"

I look back at the guy " sorry my brother. Nothing I can do"

Steve closes the back doors and to the hospital. No of us said a word the whole trip.

Monday, August 14, 2017

"The Baby Is In My Stocking" and that's not the only surprise

"Manhattan to 18 Boy"

"18 Boy, go Central" Sandra replies

Take it over to 110th Street and 8th Ave for the OB out (woman has already given birth).

"Ten-four, Central. On the way"

I start the vehicle up, make a quick u-turn and start heading down 7th Ave. Lights and sirens blasting in the mid-July afternoon. I learned after a while that it's not so much that people don't want to get out of your way. Sometimes they freeze, slamming on the breaks or coming to an intersection where the siren is bouncing of the buildings all around thus hard to figure out where it's coming from.

Anyway we get there quick. If the baby is already out it needs to be dried, warmed, possibly suctioned, cord needs to be cut, CPR, etc. We quickly pull up to the building and get our equipment out. We walk into the vestibule and start making our way up to the 2nd floor. Good the door is open. I hear nothing as I'm walking in. No baby crying. Mentally get myself ready to start running a code.

"In here" comes a male voice from the bedroom. We walk in and see a man and a woman on a bed. The man is laying on his left side with his head propped up by his hand and resting on his elbow. The woman, fully clothed is also laying on her left side with her head propped on his chest. Both calm as could be.

Friday, July 7, 2017

"White motherf--ker"... between friends

That's Sy There at 7 months due

I'm sitting in the EMS station lounge during some downtime as my ambulance is getting fixed. Sitting on the couch about 5 feet across from me is my partner Sy. No Sy was not just my partner but my best friend. I was (and still am) as close to him as my own brother. We both saved each others lives several times over the years we worked together.
Again we're just sitting there hanging out went one of the chiefs walks in. A bit of an arrogant son-of a bitch. He looks at as both as he walks between us without even a sense of acknowledgment. We nod in respect to his rank as he opens the door to Sy's immediate left and begins to walk into the supervisors office. Sy turn to his left and whispers " white motherfucker". Now I'm looking right at him as he says it. I'm non-pulsed. In fact it didn't even register in my mind what he said. Now again, Sy saved my ass more times than I could think of, ; he was in my wedding party, slept over my hundred times. I swear, It didn't even register what he said. Suddenly he turned and saw me looking at him. Instead of being embarrassed and stuttering something awkward he looked me right in the eye and shouted "what the fuck you looking at motherfucker, you a nigger just like me motherfucker, just like me". At that moment I realized what he said. I shot back " Go fuck yourself. Let's get out of here before that asshole comes back". We got up like nothing and headed back to the streets.