ICE blue Excerpt
“Looks like we’ve got vehicle number one!” Chicago paramedic Angela DeLuca called to her partner above the din of the siren as they eased their rig up behind the squad cars that ringed the carnage on the eastbound lanes of the Eisenhower Expressway.
With her feet threatening to fly out from under her as she stepped out onto the icy pavement, she caught herself with the door handle and eased her way along the side of the rig to retrieve her jump bag. At six forty-five a.m., touches of light were just reaching the city’s skyline. Up above, a light snow fell, sparkling innocently in the glare of the streetlights. Last night’s ice storm had brought Chicago to its knees, coating the streets and everything else in a good half-inch of the slick sheathing before plummeting temperatures turned the falling ice to snow. Now the temperature hovered just below zero and the three inches or so of the white stuff that covered the ice only served to make the roads even more treacherous. The salt trucks and plows were having a tough time clearing them as the morning rush began. Salt did little to melt ice in subzero temperatures.
Angela’s rig was the first ambulance on scene. She and her partner, Josie, had approached from the east, down the deserted eastbound lanes, as the traffic had already cleared out ahead of the accident. As she negotiated the four lanes of treacherous pavement, she counted at least six vehicles involved in the crash. Two cars were smashed up against the median wall, another was stalled in the center lane, water vapor hissing from its demolished front, and yet another was crushed like an accordion against the overpass viaduct with a pickup truck rammed up its rear. The pickup’s own mangled bed was pinned in by the trailer of a jack-knifed semi which was effectively blocking all lanes of traffic. Cars were backing up quickly behind it, probably halfway to the suburbs by now.
A rush of adrenaline shot through Angela as she approached the accordioned car where a cop stood, adamantly motioning her over.
“What’ve we got?” she asked the officer. Another man, not a cop or rescue person she presumed, as he wore no uniform jacket—hell, he wasn’t wearing a jacket at all—stood beside the officer, his back to her. His head and arms disappeared into the opening where the driver’s window should be. Blood, bright red and vibrant against the white snow, trickled from beneath the door at the man’s feet.
“The driver’s the only occupant of this vehicle,” the officer yelled. “He’s conscious, barely, but his legs are pretty smashed up. We can’t get either door open. Jaws are on their way.”
Angela knew he meant the Jaws of Life. Fire and Rescue would use the mechanical jaws to rip the car apart and extricate the victim, but it’d take time, something she wasn’t sure the driver had, given that blood flow. She touched the shoulder of the man leaning through the window.
“Hey, it’s okay, we’ll take it from here.”
The guy didn’t seem to hear her. More rescue vehicles were arriving on scene, sirens blaring.
She called more loudly. “Hey, I said we’ve got it!”
Finally he turned and gave her a quick assessment. She could swear she saw a touch of amusement in those blue-green eyes he flashed at her.
“Listen, lady, if I ease up on this,” he said smoothly, “this guy’ll bleed out.” Turning his back to her, he said to the driver, “Hang in there, buddy. I’ve got you covered.”
The heat rose in Angela’s cheeks, but she refused to let the anger bite. Hell, she’d been underestimated before. Lots of times. Her CFD parka practically dwarfed her slim five-foot-six frame, but she’d learned to make up for her lack of stature with her muscle-building workouts at the gym. She could run with the best of them and she wasn’t about to let this jerk get to her now. Setting down her jump bag, she grabbed her flashlight out of her pocket and nudged the guy’s shoulder.
“Hey, give me a little room here!” she yelled into his ear. In response, he glanced back at her briefly again. He adjusted his shoulders a few inches, graciously allowing her to direct the beam of the flashlight into the car.
Angela did a quick visual of the driver. His face was pale, his forehead bleeding from a gash above his right eye; his hands, still grasping the steering wheel, also bled from multiple lacerations. The driver’s legs were pinned against the console and ragged metal from the car door, which had buckled with the impact of the crash, had mangled his thighs. Bare hands, the man-in-the-window’s, covered in blood, pressed a wad of something—a jacket?—against the driver’s left thigh. The pressure was slowing the flow of blood for now, but it was clear to Angela that a main artery was severed. In this cold, if they didn’t get him out soon, the driver would very likely lose his leg, if not his life.
“Hey, how are we doing?” she called in to the driver. He barely blinked. Something inaudible escaped his lips. Josie arrived with blankets and another equipment bag.
“See if you can get at him from the other side,” Angela called as she squeezed her arm in beside the man-in-the-window’s shoulder and pressed her fingers against the driver’s throat. He was tachy. His skin cold and clammy.
Withdrawing her hand, she bent, unzipped her jump bag, and grabbed a handful of trauma dressings. “Listen, thanks for your help,” she said firmly to the man beside her, “but we’ve got it now.” She ripped a couple of gauze packs open with her teeth and added, “You’d better get into a warm car yourself or we’ll be treating you next.” The guy’s wavy, mid-length hair and cotton-shirted shoulders were quickly becoming coated with snow. It was clear he wasn’t from around here given his lack of outerwear.
He cocked his head toward her again and this time there was no mistaking that amused look. Angela shot him her most official glare. Her hands, loaded with supplies, were poised, ready to do battle just as soon as he got the hell out of her way.
His eyes narrowed ever so slightly on her. He glanced back into the car where Josie was squeezing in through the passenger window and settled his gaze once more on Angela. “If you’re sure you’re ready?”
Shit! Was this guy for real? “Out of my way,” she ordered.
“Fine, he’s all yours.”
Before she was barely aware of it, he had backed out of the window and was holding his bloodied hands up into the air.
With an irritated shake of her head, Angela shoved past him, head and hands diving through the open window. With the pressure released, blood soaked more quickly through the jacket. She eased the jacket aside to expose the gash and slammed the gauze dressing against the pulsing artery. In the slight gap that remained of the front passenger compartment, Josie ripped I.V. packages open and readied a needle to pump the guy with fluids.
The driver started to shake, shock taking hold.
“Hold on there, buddy,” she called to him, but he drifted into unconsciousness; his eyes rolled back in his head. The sweet smell of warm blood against the crisp, frigid air burned Angela’s nostrils. She felt a chill snake up her own spine. She and Josie were locked in a battle against time and the cold—they had to keep this guy alive until Rescue could get him out of here.
Glancing out the window, she noted that Mr. Helpful was gone. Thank God!
“Where the hell are those Jaws?” she yelled at the officer.
It’d been a long night. She’d already lost one patient on her watch, she’d be damned if she’d lose another.
Copyright © 2013 by Susan Rae