Saturday, March 2, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Cardiac Arrest

The code was a 10-54.


As a patrolman, you respond to different types of aid-needed cases. Those are calls for service requiring an ambulance; the police jargon for an ambulance was a “bus.” Some variations of “aided” cases included: slips and falls, sick calls, injuries, choking, vomiting, strokes, intoxicated individuals, and “lift jobs.”


A “lift job” was when a person fell out of bed, fell off a chair, fell out of the bathtub and was unable to get up unassisted and needed the assistance of another to get up. These were all serious calls, and the people did need our assistance and the assistance of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS).


Then there were some folk who would call an ambulance for the slightest thing. One time I received an unknown aided case. Upon arrival, I learned the person called for an ambulance because she wanted to get to the hospital to get stitches removed. There were often frivolous calls like that.


Non-serious calls would hamper response times and tie up ambulances, jeopardizing lives. Many times ambulances would go in “back log,” meaning that there were no ambulances available to respond to an emergency call.


Another type of aided call was an “EDP,” for “Emotionally Disturbed Person.” There was a time not too long ago when the call was classified as a “psycho.” Not politically correct anymore. Such a call was quite broad and very dangerous. Although an EDP initially might appear calm, passive, non-violent and seemingly wanting help, that could change in a second. The strength an EDP when agitated is quite remarkable. If the EDP became violent, we would isolate and contain the individual and request the assistance of our Emergency Services Unit [ESU].


When people need assistance, they call the police. When the police need assistance, we call ESU.


When dealing with violent EDPs, the Emergency Services Unit is crucial. They use an array of techniques and equipment to subdue the individual without causing harm to themselves or others. All police cars were equipped with a fire extinguisher called a “water cannon.” Basically, it was a fire extinguisher filled with high-pressure water. This would usually confuse the person: if they decided to lunge forward, you would shoot the water at their eyes. These persons didn’t know it was water; they believed it was some form of chemical. That would cause them to close and reach for their eyes, allowing enough time to gain control of the situation.


Once such an individual was in our custody. He was transported to the hospital by an ambulance with a MOS (member of the service) with him in the back of the ambulance. Once there, the EDP would be evaluated. The officer (MOS) would remain with the EDP until the doctors determine whether the individual would be admitted for further evaluation.


Then there was the “cardiac call,” a basic call relating to a possible heart attack, shortness of breath, chest pains, etc. Often it was just a bad case of gas. EMS always treated as if it was a heart-related ailment.


More serious was the cardiac arrest/unconscious call, the type most cops didn’t like responding to. This usually meant the person was not breathing, and in full cardiac arrest, the heart had stopped.


When you pulled into the block with your police cruiser (RMP), you always hoped “the bus” was on the scene before you were. We weren’t equipped with an automated external defibrillator (AED), so there really wasn’t much we could offer other than initiating CPR. Once CPR is started, it must be continued until medical assistance has arrived.


There was one cardiac arrest case I will never forget. It was March 8, 1990, at about 12:25pm. Coincidentally, today, as I am writing this particular story, it is March 8th, 2012.


I had responded to a home of a woman about 65 years of age who was complaining of chest pains. I remember that her husband was quite nervous and fearful of his wife’s condition. As EMS was working on her. I was comforting the husband and assuring him everything was going to be fine, that she was in good hands. New York City’s EMS and paramedics are second to none, the best. Just then, over our police radio, I heard another cardiac arrest call come in. It was in the adjoining precinct. I was in disbelief over what I had just heard.


I asked the dispatcher to repeat that last call. She repeated it just as I had heard it. It came in as an unconscious person not breathing, the dispatcher then announced to the responding unit, “be advised this is the mother of a MOS (member of the service)” and stated the address once again.


It was my home address, and it was my mother. I was actually listening to this call while handling a cardiac call. The officers were requesting a “rush on the bus,” meaning they needed one ASAP. I heard a paramedic unit respond over the radio, with sirens blaring in the background, that they were only a few minutes away.


This is a day I will never forget. EMS and paramedics did everything they could do, and, just as I was comforting that husband, another police officer was now comforting my father.


My mother was pronounced dead at 1:17pm.



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