Leaving a great pizza place in Endicott (Consols—originally Duffs—the same recipe for well over fifty years, but that’s another story) where Mike and I had stuffed ourselves with Dad, we drove by the old IBM plant and I pointed out a utility substation where I had one of my first serious calls as a youngster.
It was a summer day shift, and we got hit for an injured male. This wasn’t our usual first due area but the ALS rig that normally covered it was on another call. That the dispatcher or caller left out a little bit of information became rather evident when we pulled up on scene.
There was a black male standing by the open gate of the substation with his arms extended out from his side. Getting out of the front seat of the ambulance, I noted my observation had been wrong. He wasn’t black—he was burned. We got him onto a sheet on the stretcher and began carefully removing clothing where we could, and pouring sterile water onto his burns, trying to keep him talking to us.
“They told us it was okay to dig there,” he kept repeating. He and his partner had struck a high voltage underground line and it had blown them from the hole they’d been working in. His buddy appeared to be less seriously injured than him but it’s sometimes hard to tell with electrical shock. I called for another rig, and the cop that arrived along with some first responders from the plant helped with the second victim until a couple of our other members arrived on scene. With victim two stable, and the second rig on the way, I decided to load and go with our patient. I was worried about his airway, cardiac status; pretty much everything. The ALS rig wasn’t available, and by the time we could get a medic to the scene POV, if one was even around, we could be at the emergency room.
It was a wild and wooly ride as the far expanses of Chevrolet horsepower were explored by the driver. We kept the victim talking all the way, the best tool we had available to keep him out of deepening shock, using every drop of distilled water in the cabinets on him as well. I was ready to see it pour out the rear door when we backed into the ER ramp.
Both made a full recovery and then, a few months afterward, filed a lawsuit against the utility that had let them dig there. Yours truly received his first, but certainly not last, subpoena for deposition. I was seventeen years old……