A Partner in Trouble
He only had one thought. “Who would watch out for Joanne and the kids?” Then he slipped into darkness.
“HT 51 to Engine . . ." Protocol be damned. “Cap, I lost him! I lost him, Cap!!”
“Hang on, Johnny. We’re almost there!”
The terrified paramedic dropped the HT to the floor as he leaned farther over the edge, unaware that his captain had exact same thought about protocol.
The shaft was inky black, soaking up the rays of his flashlight.
‘Roy, please be okay’.
Johnny tried to lean out a little more, peering down the tube, dreading what he’d see but anxious to find his partner.
“Roy. Please answer!”
There was no response, no indication that Roy had ever even been there. The maintenance worker’s safety line still dangled below them, his inert form pulling the rope taut. There had been no response from the man and Roy was preparing their lines for the rescue when the safety rail snapped. It was a normal rescue gone bad. In the worst way.
Johnny new his voice had raised at least an octave, and his heart was pounding so hard it made his chest hurt. Leaning even farther out, he suddenly felt himself shifting too far forward and he scrambled for purchase. A tug on his coat along with a firm hand on his arm had him safely back in a vertical position.
“Easy, Johnny. We’ll get him.”
“He doesn’t have his safety line attached, Cap. We were just getting set up and this old railing just gave way.”
“Have you heard anything?”
Johnny was snapping belt onto line, slipping his gloves on trembling hands while he talked.
“Wait a minute. I think Chet here should make the...”
“No, Cap. I’m going.”
Johnny’s voice dropped, but not enough to be apologetic. His firm stance accompanied by the fire in his eyes conveyed everything else. And Stanley knew he was right. John was the rescue man, more experienced on ropes and able to assess the victim when he found them. Not to mention that Kelly had an easy twenty pounds on him.
“Okay, but go careful.”
Cap didn’t need to follow up with his thought that ‘one paramedic down is enough’.
Johnny worked hard to keep his breathing in check as he slid carefully over the edge and down into the darkness, knowing that he had good men up top to manage the ropes. Inch by inch, he lowered himself into the shaft, carefully maneuvering around the metal walls, groping blindly as he struggled to find his missing partner. Twenty feet down, he found him.
A small platform had been built into the side of the wall, its edges jutting out far enough for a man to rest on while traversing the precarious ladder attached to the side. Draped across the narrow ledge was Johnny’s partner.
Heart in his throat, Johnny’s warning was more moan than words.
“Roy, don’t move. Please don’t move.”
The insensate paramedic didn’t acknowledge the advice one way or the other as Johnny inched closer.
“Slack. Give me some slack!”
The requested rope allowed him to reach Roy’s side where he immediately reached for his friend. It took a minute, as his own hand was shaking with emotion, but he finally dropped his head before giving his shift mates the news.
“What do you need?” came Cap’s quick reply.
“No room for a stokes; send me a harness. Hurry!”
The requested equipment was immediately lowered down to the waiting paramedic. He’d managed to get himself positioned next to the shelf, carefully pulling the belt around his unconscious partner, situating the rope so that Roy could be pulled up without further injury.
Even with the extra light Mike had rigged up and his own handheld flashlight, it was hard to see, leaving Johnny wondering what all he was dealing with. He could tell from Roy’s shallow breathing that he was probably looking at broken ribs. He prayed that it wouldn’t result in a collapsed lung, at least until they got him safely to the hospital.
“Okay, Cap, bring us up.”
Without question, the men above began to pull. Slowly but carefully, the two paramedics were brought back to the main level. But the next minutes were frantic with activity. Roy being placed in a stokes, while Johnny noted the vitals, then the mad dash toward the door and a waiting ambulance. A quick relay from their HT to Rampart and back initiated a wrap-and-run status for their call, placing Chet at Johnny’s side while he started IV’s and monitored Roy’s progress in the ambulance.
It was one of the slowest trips to the hospital in Johnny’s estimation. Not so for the harried ambulance driver who pulled out a cigarette the moment his charge had crossed the Emergency Room threshold. He knew which runs were most critical, and this was one of the bad ones.
“Don’t you ever scare me like that again!”
Roy recognized the teasing tone in Johnny’s voice, but also noted the tense shoulders and piercing gaze. His partner obviously hadn’t fully recovered from the emotional rescue. Not that Roy could remember much about it. In fact, the only thing that really stood out was that last thought he’d had, about Joanne and the kids. It was one thought he’d keep to himself. Johnny wouldn’t be receptive to hearing about Roy’s fears right now, so he kept his tone light. “I’ll do my best.”
“Holding you to that, partner.”
Johnny shifted away from the window to settle in a chair by the hospital bed. Roy moved a little himself, trying to find a more comfortable position.
“Whatever happened to the maintenance man?”
“Didn’t make it,” Johnny mumbled.
Roy looked down, the two sharing typical thoughts of a failed rescue. They knew it wasn’t their fault; both had suspected from the beginning that they were too late. It made Roy’s situation all the more poignant. That realization probably inspired Johnny’s attempt to lighten the mood.
“So, when is Brackett letting you out of here?”
“Day after tomorrow.”
“With a concussion, three broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a busted arm, and too many bruises to count, that sounds about right.”
Roy’s glare didn’t seem to dissuade Johnny, who only deepened his already fake authoritative tone. “Besides, you know what they say.”
“The doctor knows best.”
Roy would’ve thrown something at his partner if he could’ve managed. Instead, he went for the threat. “I’ll remember that next time.”
“Yeah, next time you’re in here and Brackett won’t let you go home.”
“You got it.”
Johnny’s smile was nothing but sincere when he answered, and Roy knew there was a lot left unsaid between them. It didn’t matter. They understood each other. As hard as it was to deal with risks and injuries in their line of work, it was twice as hard to watch a partner in trouble.
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