I'd read about them, miracles, those events in the Bible, but I was never sure, really sure. By Faith. Sure water to wine; but raise the dead?
Well it was hard. I was in college, not book smart but I was a thinker. Sometimes one can think too much. Miracles happened to the blue hairs on late night TV. I'd seen the glory preacher who tapped the foreheads, shouted out devils and cured the lame. I'd even seen the boy on TV. He had a short leg. He held it short through the lead-in, there were shouts of praise and joy and just as old Preacher Ainsley was about to heal him with a devil pulling scream; the poor kid relaxed his "short" leg. It came even with the other and the preacher "alleluia'd".
"SEE! G-----odd healed him before I even asked". Never missed a beat nor full wallet. That's what I saw as miracles. So cynicism, mysticism. It was not hard to deny miracles with the likes of the preachers on TV.
So there I was a poor college student. I wanted to work; make a little money. Working, I think some felt that would be a miracle. I'd worked for a bed and cigarette money. I needed more than that but it was hard in a college town to find even that. But that's a long story so I'll only tell about the miracle.
I was the #2 guy on an ambulance. Now in the mid-sixties ambulance crews were not paramedics. We weren't even good candy stripers. We were basically the guys at the funeral home who stood around looking sad and then had to clean up after a service. We were bored. We lived for speed. A speed call, to go fast, and then faster. That was a rush. Our training was also fast. Since I was the "medic", that's in deference to the "driver", it's logical that I'd have some training. 'Some' was the word.
"This is the oxygen wrench. This is the O2 tank. When in doubt, use the wrench on the tank. Make sure the tank is always full, especially if the boss has a hangover. This is the first aid box. There's nothing useful in it."
He was right there was virtually nothing in it; surgical snips, some band aids, I knew how to use those!, an ankle wrap, to hold the Icee pack on but I just don't think we used any of that very often. It looked reassuring to see us run up with a stretcher and a 'box'. Well there was a trachea tube. It was said to be useful but messy.
"Use it and your patient will toss all over you." I never used the thing.
We had tape. Lots of it.
"But it's not to be used on the patient. Period. If the patient is bleeding bad enough to get the ambulance dirty, then use a pad, but if they are just leaking a little then do nothing." That was my training.
"Our motto is speed."
If they were breathing; then there was nothing for me to do but hang on until we got to the hospital. If they were having trouble breathing then I'd strap on the 02 mask and pray harder.
Pleading, "Please, go faster!"
Ambulance crews were on duty whenever we were at the Funeral home. Sometimes even when we weren't. Duty was 18 hours long. Unless it was 24/7. When we slept a bad ambulance call was any that woke us up. Period. A good call was any call that got us out of cleaning the business end of the home. Good call was a lunatic water skier chest high into a boat dock. A bad call was during any televised sporting event. A good call was two or more women in a knife fight, especially if they were bloody, screaming knife wielding cut throats going after each other with carton cutters. Bad call, was a 350-pound male on the third floor, dead. They can't help themselves down the stairs and the two of us weighed less combined than he did. And it was hot too. If he hadn't been dead we'd have killed him.
A good call was the doper in the back of a stake bed truck. He was full of hype and drugs. The police called us, the 'medics'. We arrived, with lights and sirens. Loud sirens and squealing tires.
"There's your man."
"Him? He ain't hurt. If he ain't hurt, we don't pick them up 'til they are hurt." We're an ambulance not a taxi service for dope sniffers.
"OK guys, you heard the medics."
A half a dozen officers split up and went up the sides of the bed. They sort of all waited at the top of the stake rails and then together jumped onto the loony and beat the pulp out of him.
"Now, Medics he's yours."
He was right, he was.
Now that was a good call. Then there were bad ones and when kids were involved there were no good calls.
We rolled on a child call. Seems a kid walked in front of a school bus and some stupid truck driver passed and hit the kid. It couldn't be a "good" call. You prayed it wasn't a death. No one wants dead children. "Be alive!"
We took the old car, it was slower, but better equipped and had bigger lights and a louder dog killing siren. (Dogs went crazy and ran into the street, BANG, wop wop, more blood to clean up.) We raced through traffic lights. "OK right. Left on the next street!" Then we saw the school bus, lots or red lights and people gathered around a small form. We were up. We grabbed the stretcher and a backboard. We had the useless medical box.
Slide the board under the form, a wadded up, discarded now disjointed rag. Girl or boy, I don't remember. Boy, I think. Pulse and still breathing. Someone was crying. We lay the form on the stretcher and load him in the back. I think the mother went too but I was concentrating on helping the child and knowing I could do nothing.
We raced to the hospital. It wasn't far but with just me in the back it was forever. I don't even have a stethoscope. I'm not the doctor; don't look at me like I can help him. If it was a bloody nose I might could hold the hanky. We arrived at the ER. We hurried inside and slide the child on to the Emergency Room table. We waited outside and smoked a cigarette.
"God, don't let's have to carry him back to the Home."
The doctor arrived; Liberty's was his name. He shakes his head and says, " it's too bad. The hospital just doesn't have the experience, maybe in San Antonio, better equipment", but, I doubt a better doc.
We needed the big rig so I run the small car back to the Home and pick up more O2 and the big shiny Caddy that doubles as an ambulance when it's not a back-up hearse. It may be both for this tyke.
I race back to the hospital. I run the siren full out both ways. I'm doing something anyway. We will transport at very high speed; this car can go fast; and the extra room will accommodate the doctor. He rides in front of the stretcher works the aspirator. He can keep the air way open. I need him as much as the child. I could not have done it alone.
I'm seated, actually more crouched as the two jump seats beside the passenger door are up to accommodate the O2 and the vacuum machine. I ride teetteringly. There are two drips, one plasma and one saline. The Doctor hands me a pump. It's a small pump that operates on the squeezing of my hand. It leads from the plasma bottle to the kid's arm. There's apparently not enough blood pressure or whatever to make the blood enter his arm. Maybe I'm helping his heart pump; I'm not sure. Except that I am directed not to let the pump angle vary more than a few degrees or a bubble will enter the line and the vein and then his heart and lungs. Dead.
So off we go with our single light and wussy siren. Never once did it kill a dog. We sped through town. The Texas Highway Patrol cleared traffic and we raced behind his hole-opening blocks. We accelerated quickly to eighty as we passed the town square and out the main drag towards the college. We were just under a hundred miles per hour when we went by the college chapel and kept it there all the way to the freeway. The police were struggling to keep up. When we came up to full speed we shot by 140 mph and left the police to play catch up.
I remember looking up and seeing the meter hit 146. The A/C divider kept conversation with the driver to a minimum and his attention was fully on the road. I was only occupied with the pump. I felt like the heart of that child. If I stopped the child would die. He may have already been dead; but I would not have stopped beating the rhythm of his life between the fingers and palm of my hand. At least not while I was alive.
I looked up again. We were really flying. Well past take off speed for a jet plane. I saw a car ahead in our lane. Oh God, we needed the little car's siren and not the weak wail we're making. The car's driver couldn't see us or had a beer and a sausage on his mind or in his hand. My driver screamed a warning and a prayer maybe. He slammed on the brakes when it became obvious we were going to collide. We slid from 146 to 80; which is like slamming into a wall at 65 mph. I flew head long into the pile of stainless steel tubes and bottles. The plasma bottle collided with the saline bottle, which collided with the doc's head and the A/C wall, breaking the saline but sparing the blood. The car moved out of our way just a smidgen before impact. We missed. My driver slammed his foot back into the firewall and we leapt forward again.
I remember struggling to right myself. Heels over head and sore. My right hand was in front of me in the maze of equipment. I was stunned hard. I looked back to my left hand. It was still behind me. Exactly where I left it. With the pump. Still upright, never varying either it's angle or its beats. The child was exactly where we placed him on the stretcher. We hadn't even strapped him in, as we were not sure where we could place the straps. We were afraid we would damage more of his injured body. He had remained rooted in his spot. The suction continued to function and he continued to breathe; his heart and that little pump continued to provide him blood, and life. The doctor looked at me; I looked at my detached hand. It pumped evenly and calmly while it's master tried to restart his own heart.
We rolled onward to the hospital. We backed into the ambulance bay and all I remember is removing the boy and handing him over to the hospital staff. Our good Doctor was finished too. They didn't need a country doctor in their fancy hospital. We all sat on the unloading dock. Wishing for a shot or a beer. Maybe both. We all lit up. Doctor Liberty spoke first.
"Y'all know what happened back there, don't ya."
" I think so", I said unsure.
"What happened?" Asked the driver.
" The baby never moved."
"Neither did your hand."
"I felt a hand holding mine."
"I'm sure I saw a hand hold that baby."
"Your hand never stopped pumping, never moved. You did. But it didn't."
"Is that a a miracle?"
"More than that son, I think we just rode into San Antonio with Jesus."
Not much more was said. Really, it wasn't necessary.
We just sat there and smoked. Thought a lot. Finally, calmer we drove back home.
That was all that was really said. Of course, the religious will believe; the others will deny. Me? Well, I know what happened and since I can't explain it, then it must be by Faith.
So as far as I'm concerned, I've seen my miracle.
These events are true and happened in 1967.