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LAST NIGHT'S SHIFT
by Russell, owner of Life on the Beat website

Last night was a tough shift.

The night started out slow. There was not a lot of calls out there. It was raining quite hard and my desire to pull people over and stand in the rain was not very appealing.

My second call was a tough one.

It was exactly like the call that "Cuz" wrote about on Christmas.

Dispatch advised of a medical call, code 3 (lights and sirens).........32 year old male not conscious/not breathing. Another officer was dispatched to it, but because I was nearly ready to clear the call that I was already working, and because I was very close, I decided to take the medical call.

As I arrived the paramedics had already entered the house. I walked up to the house as one paramedic came out asking for my help. He said that they needed the "Gurney" and a backboard. I helped him get it out of the ambulance. He said "this guy is in deep." I already knew what he meant, even though I had never heard it quite that way.

When I went into the house I saw a woman in a T-shirt with a badge with her name on it. On the front of the shirt was the name of a local restaurant. There was several small children around and they all looked somewhat interested in our comings and goings but not too much. One little gal about 4 years old hid around a corner when I came in. She poked her head out, smiled and then waved at me shyly. I waved back and smiled, she then ducked back out of sight behind the wall. Then I went into the bedroom where the paramedics were working on the man, the father and husband to these people.

He was pale white. No color. He was completely out and had no response to anything. They were getting tubes into his lungs and veins. All seemed to know exactly what to do. They worked like a machine. I offered to help, knowing that there was something I could do. They told me to pump the bag that was filling his lungs with air. I began to do that and they threw out medical jargon like it was going out of style.

I looked around for anything out of the ordinary. I looked for any sign of a reason that this guy was unconscious. There was nothing. While they were doing CPR and getting the I.V. going I looked up. In the hallway was the 4 year old girl that was waving at me when I came in. She was watching everything. I told one of the paramedics quitely to "get her into the other room", there was no way that I wanted her to see what we were doing to her "daddy".

They worked him for several minutes and then quickly loaded him onto a backboard and then onto the gurney. I stopped in the front room and made sure that the wife had a ride to the hospital. She said she was fine to drive. Then I asked if there was some family I could call, I explained that we needed someone for the kids. She said that family was on the way, but in the meantime the 13 year old daughter was going to watch the kids.

She told me how she was getting ready to go to work. She said that he had felt sick all day and she just noticed how bad he really was so she called 911.

By that time the ambulance was pulling out. She started to follow. One of theparamedics stayed behind and began to clean up all of the papers and garbage that was left behind in the bedroom. I began to snoop around for anything suspicious. Then I found it!! There was a piece of paper folded up by the bed. I just knew it was a suicide note. I quickly opened it and read it......it was not what I thought at all. It was a drawing from one of the kids. It was a stick man and scribbles. There was more pictures like that on folded up papers throughout the room. No suicide notes.

Now the last paramedic had left and I was alone in the room. I covered up the blood on the bed so that the kids could not see it. Then I walked out of the room.

Standing in the hallway was all five kids. The 13 year old was holding a baby, the only boy. She was crying, she asked if he was dead. I told looked at her plainly. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I said "I am not going to lie to you". She said, like a grown up, "I would not want you to". I then said simply "It does not look good." There was another girl there. She was crying and having a very difficult time with it. I knelt down to talk to her. I asked her name. "Katelyn", she said. "How old are you", "Eight" she said.

Then she ran up to me and hugged me and would not let me go. I could not talk, I could not move, I could not get rid of that huge lump in my throat. I held her. I thought about my daughter, I thought about Katelyn growing up without a dad, I prayed for her.

At that time I thought that I just might be in the wrong profession. Who am I to try and console these kids. Who am I to try to justify or explained the death of their father. I dealt with it the best I could. Tears flowed on the two older girls faces. The younger two girls began to play and giggle on the floor in the hallway. Not many words were said. Not many were needed. None would fit the situation and few seemed as though they would explain the problem.

After a while someone knocked on the front door. It was a lady from the church. She was there to do whatever she could. I could not talk to her. I just left.

Outside there was two neighbors. They began to talk to me. It was simple talk with no subject. It was a time that I did not feel like talking. They asked how he was doing and I said not very well. One guy said, "I can tell by your actions what you are thinking." Nice observation.

I got into my patrol car and began to drive. Dispatch gave me a call of a "gas skip" that had just occurred. I went to the gas station and got the information from the clerk. He was very concerned. I asked how much was stolen. It was a few bucks worth of gas. A few lousy dollars, who cares about a few dollars. I told him that I would work on it and see if I could find the person.

I then pulled around to the back of the station and called my wife. When my son answered the phone I nearly cried. "Get mom" I told him. When she got on I told her. Then I cried. And I cried for a long time. She did not say much. I did not want her to. What can a person say. There is nothing she can say. I kept crying. I saw those 4 little girls and that baby. I felt Katelyn hugging me so tight. My tears were dripping off my face. I turned the police radio off. The rain was falling very hard on the windshield, so I knew no one could see. After a while I told her that I needed to go. She offered to come over and see me, I declined.

Then I went about my work. I gave it a serious effort to find the gas skip suspect, without luck.

After that I drove around for a while. I saw speeders and other traffic violations. Right now, I did not care. I did not understand. Nothing seems to fit into the whole scheme of things.

I went by the hospital before I left work. All they would tell me is that they did get a heartbeat on the guy, but he was not breathing. He was on life support.

Its like if life was a glass water globe with snow in it and someone shook it up. Things were all messed up. I know that the "snow" will settle very soon, but I also know that the "snow" will never be the same when it settles. I know that I will never be the same after seeing the look in those kids faces.

Russell ©1999
Visit his website at: http://www.lifeonthebeat.com