A Frequent Flyer

In the populations of emergency services consumers, some people are served more often than others. There are many reasons for the need of these patients to call upon rescue squads. As those who are already in poor health become increasingly ill near the ends of their lives, they require more and more medical attention. Their infirmities and poor mobility complicate the capacity of aging spouses and distant offspring to get them to definitive care. Less-than-successful prosthetic interventions, such as an artificial hip that dislodges itself on a regular basis, makes it difficult for one who lives alone to get herself to the hospital for the orthopaedic attention she needs. The terror that can accompany frequent shortness-of-breath episodes in an emphysema patient can cause him to forget how to inhale his medication properly and coaching from a calm emergency medical technician helps a great deal.

Some patients want someone else to take control of their chaotic lives, if only for a few hours, and EMS personnel are very good at doing that. Some folks are lonely, bored, or fearful. They discover that the genuine compassion and care of EMS personnel is a comforting validation of their value as human beings, so they call the rescue squad for the companionship and attention that they know they will receive, even if they have no discernable physical condition to warrant the call.

Such was the case with one Darius Scruggs, who lived in a humble abode set upon occasional blocks that punctuated the otherwise wide-open crawl space beneath. He lived there with his large-bosomed wife on a little road southwest of the high school. I was still new on the squad when I first heard of Mr. Scruggs over my squad-issued handheld radio in a dispatch that went something like this:

"7812 to the Mid-County Rescue Squad. You have an emergency call at the Scruggs residence on Rt. 609 behind the high school. Please respond."

Unit 42Pita and Hadley (Gifre's parents) marked on with Unit 42. Unit 42 was one of the Mid-County's earliest ambulances, purchased at a time when the organization was struggling financially.

The squad paid $1 to the East Hanover Volunteer Rescue Squad for the ambulance, then removed the patient box, sold the truck, bought a more up-to-date used truck, and put the East Hanover box on the new truck--a strategy known as a "rechassis."

The box was threadbare and cramped, but perfectly serviceable, even though it lacked the bright interior lights and ample storage of the squad's other (brand new) ambulance. Unit 42 was invariably taken out for basic life support calls, with the new ambulance reserved for advanced life support.

The dispatcher for the call, a wisecracker named Tracy, snickered as she asked Hadley if he needed directions to the Scruggs residence. Hadley responded "No thank you" in a dour tone.