The Dutiful Nevada Wife
She Drove Him to the ER
Henry Lansing Woodward
Copyright 2023 by Henry Lansing Woodward
by Mikhail Nilov at Pexels.
had just discharged our last patient, the man with the shotgun wound,
and were still parked in the ambulance parking area in front of the
double doors leading into the emergency room. After each
transport (not all dispatches result in a patient or a transport of a
patient), there is always some cleaning and restocking. The
four things always needing to be done, besides re-stocking, were to
wipe down the gurney, change the linens, wipe all surfaces and mop
the floor. Always.
most calls, it was usually as minimal as that. On others, it
could be a major cleaning involving the walls, floors, gurney,
equipment, ceiling, cabinet doors, and passenger bench. In
other words, everything. After the call we had just
the floor needed some special attention, or specifically, the corners
where the floor met the walls.
patient had injured himself critically by shooting himself with his
shotgun. Despite two tourniquets, pressure dressings, and
wrappings, a lot of venous and arterial blood was still
There was also leakage of intracellular fluids from all the
individual cells which had been blown apart or open. This
was too large to stop all the bleeding. It involved the loss
the entire front or top part of the left leg, from the groin to the
man no longer had the top front part of his left upper leg.
Most of it was still back in his house on the linoleum. That
is, of course, except for all the fragments and the remaining twenty
percent of his liquids which were now on our patient compartment
patient's condition required a CODE
lights and sirens transport from the scene of the incident to the
emergency room. There was no time to spare. This
needed many infusions of whole blood. Because of our
transport, the rocking and tilting of the ambulance spread all that
seepage, and the small pieces of tissue and bone included within it,
all over the floor where it collected in the wall/floor corner
areas were difficult to clean correctly, but there was no other
option. It had to be done to sterilize the junction area. The
removal of the solid materials prevented any bacteria from growing,
thus preventing the unwanted smells of rotting human tissue.
was applying the “toothbrush method” with alcohol to
clean the corners when a car pulled up right behind the open double
rear doors of the patient compartment. The gurney was still
outside and was now between those doors and the car. We
yet slid it back into the patient compartment because I was still
cleaning the corners. A woman was driving the car, and an
man was slumped forward in the front passenger seat. Slumping
is not a good sign, especially for an older man. But we’ll
get back to that.
we pulled up to the house, the front door was closed, and no one was
in sight. No one at all. Paramedics know it is not
to be the first to arrive at a call that involves a gun. The
police must first secure the scene and then allow us to
That is the standard operating procedure, and there were no police.
contacted dispatch and were told they would arrive in about five
minutes. We were also told the caller was currently talking
with them and that it was safe to enter. The emergency was an
accidentally self-inflicted wound, and the gun was empty. The
guy was alone in the house, and the front door, although closed, was
not that I didn’t trust the dispatchers in the Emergency Call
Center. They could only act on the information they
However, there were many times when there was a big difference
between their information and what we found upon arrival.
Anyway, the Police rolled up as my partner, and I discussed entering
the house. With their hands on their weapons, they slowly
opened the front door, looked in, stepped in, then looked back out at
us and waved toward us to enter.
house was a small older house built many years ago and still had the
original linoleum on the floor. The room was furnished as any
small living room probably would have been, with one
In the middle of the room, covered with gun cleaning supplies, was a
card table, the folding kind. There was also one folding
chair. It was tipped over backward and resting in a large
of blood. A huge pool of blood.
I stepped into the front room, I saw a broad streak of smeared blood
on that original linoleum floor. It was a straight line
trailing away from the huge pool of blood. It almost looked
like someone had done a long, wide, red finger painting.
into that finger painting-like smeared blood were small pieces of
fabric and chunks of tissue. The tissue chunks included red
muscle pieces, white skin, yellow fat, and ivory-white bone.
Not big pieces, all of them were shavings and small chips. At
the same time came the smell of gunpowder hanging in the
finger painting-like smear of blood stretched to and through a door
on the far side of the room about ten feet from the table. It
went directly into the kitchen another eight to ten feet and ended at
a guy sitting on the floor and talking on the phone. He had
somehow managed to drag himself almost twenty feet to the nearest
was so much blood on the linoleum between the pool and the streak he
should not have been alive, let alone conscious and talking
intelligently. He was sitting upright on the floor with his
back against some drawers to the left of the sink, and he had the
phone in his hand.
was one of those old-style wall phones designed so the handset could
rest in the cradle over the dialing wheel when it wasn’t in
use. It had one of those long curly cords from the handpiece
the phone and was mounted on the wall about five feet above the
linoleum floor. How this guy reached it is a mystery I’ll
must have been the closest, if not the only phone in the house, and
to say this guy needed a phone would be one of the greatest
understatements of the year. He had been cleaning his
“unloaded” shotgun, and then “Bang!” He was
missing the top part of his upper left leg. The little pieces
of bone in the blood had come from the top of the Femur. It
sustained a lot of damage. He had not immediately bled to
due primarily to the incredible engineering of the arterial
circulatory system of the human body.
arteries are severed by a blast like the one from this guy’s
shotgun or by a crushing injury, they automatically pucker and
constrict to close themselves. Automatically. It’s
an ingenious and sophisticated method of stopping blood from
squirting out of high-pressure arteries.
the arteries do it. Blood escaping from the low-pressure
flows much slower and is, therefore, less life-threatening to a
point. I have no doubt it was designed by the Master Medical
rapidly applying a tourniquet and some pressure dressings, we moved
the patient quickly to the ambulance. He had lost so much
he was in critical condition, perhaps extremely critical.
Because of this, we did our additional treatments, including two
fluid-replacing IVs, some more pressure dressings, and applying high
flow Oxygen in the ambulance on the way to the hospital CODE
lights, and sirens. This saved time, and this man’s time
was running out, just like his blood. We arrived at the
emergency room in time for him to survive his blood loss.
there we were at the emergency room doors. I was on my hands and
knees using that toothbrush method to clean the corners of our
patient’s tissues and blood. My partner was inside
getting replacements for the supplies we used to treat our patient
when that car pulled up with the slumping man in the right front
passenger seat. I stopped what I was doing, got out of the ambulance,
walked to the car, and looked in.
man’s face was blue, and he was not breathing. I turned
and ran to the emergency room doors, pushed one of them open, and
yelled, “Cardiac arrest in the parking lot!” All
the right things began to happen. In an instant, the Cardiac
Team came out with a gurney and pulled the man out of the car.
they laid him onto it, two members of the team, one on each side of
the gurney, stood on the bottom rails, so they were riding along with
the gurney. One began CPR. The other began
rescue breathing. At the same time, two other people, one at
the head and the other at the foot began rolling him and the two
riders on each side of the gurney into the emergency room. It
was all done very quickly and efficiently.
man’s wife remained outside with me. She was telling me
what happened, and it seemed important to tell her story and that I
should listen to her. She even delayed going inside to be
her husband to talk with me. This seemed very
Usually, you can’t pry the family away from their loved one(s)
in an emergency. But here she was, talking to me.
husband had admitted he wasn’t feeling well. She said
this was a big admission for this self-reliant-read stubborn-Nevada
pioneer. “He never complained,” she said.
“Never. His whole life, he just did what he felt needed
to be done when I could see he should not be doing it.”
would say,” she continued, “It has to get done, Ma.
Who else is going to do it?” “There was no use
arguing with him,” she added. “For over fifty-five
years, he would never give in. He would never let me or any
the kids have our ways. It was always his way. He
surprised me by admitting he wasn’t feeling well. He just
didn’t ever do something like that.
had suggested calling 911 to send an ambulance, but he would have
none of it, and that was it. He had made his
Once again, things were going to be done his way. “Drive
me in the car, Ma,” he had told her, and that was what she
did. They then walked to the car, got in, and she started
said, “He told me to drive him, and all our lives, we always
had to do things his way. I didn’t want to cause him any
discomfort, so I drove real slow. Real slow.” It
seemed to me there was a double meaning in her tone.
hospital was about ten minutes from their house. Not too
I knew this because she had told me where they lived. On the
way, there were several traffic lights, and it was just about dinner
time, so the traffic was somewhat heavy. She drove slowly and
carefully, watching the traffic and managing to stop at each light
along the way. It had taken her about twenty minutes to make
that ten-minute drive to the hospital. She said, “At the
third stoplight, he fell asleep. I knew he was probably gone.”
a long life of doing things his way and keeping her vows of loyalty
to her husband, she had once again faithfully completed the last task
he had told her to do. She slowly and dutifully drove “that
stubborn bastard” (her words) to his death.
talking with her, I felt confident she knew what she was doing and
what was happening with her husband. I was also pretty sure
knew I knew what she was implying. It was as if she wanted me
to know. While she was still talking, a nurse came out and
asked her to come in. They needed her to register her husband.
partner and I finished cleaning and restocking the ambulance and
began our drive back to the station. I didn’t say
anything to him about the conversation with the wife. I
considered it private and was perfectly content to keep it between
us. I felt honored she chose me to hear her story.
patient with the shotgun blast to his leg needed a lot of blood and
had his leg amputated just below the hip. The man in the
front seat of the car could not be saved.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Henry's story list and biography
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