by Kent Fletcher
Once upon a time many years ago, the Fletcher Funeral Home in Cleveland, Mississippi, offered ambulance services to the community--for a fee, of course. The employees, Johnny Fletcher, J. E. (Whit) Whittington, Jack Fletcher, Kent Fletcher, Wayne Vick, Carmen Ray, Walter Weeks, Dan Townsend, et al, were called at all times of day or night for routine as well as emergency calls for vehicle wrecks, heart attacks, stroke victims, electrocutions--you name it, we went, handling each situation calmly and competently.
However, what this little ditty is all about has nothing to do with death or wrecks or other human illnesses or accidents. Not really. The following situation was just one of those quirky days, a day in the life of a conscientious ambulance service attendant.
This day happened to be one of those Dr. Pepper days, as we called them. We conducted funerals for the dearly departed at 10, 2, and 4, and all of us were really worn out. Best I remember, the funerals were in and around Cleveland, Shaw, and Shelby, maybe Merigold.
Very late in the afternoon after the last funeral, we received a call that someone had fallen into a diabetic coma, as her sugar was too low. I took the call and rolled quickly.
I arrived at the destination, loaded the lady in the ambulance and raced to the Bolivar County Hospital in short order. With an assist from a nurse's aide there, I was able to get her into the emergency room quickly. The ER doctor on call was waiting.
Warren Wygal was the lab technician on call that evening, and he came into the ER soon after we arrived. The ER staff had quickly done all their duties, including various IVs and had started a suction on the lady's throat to prevent her choking on phlegm.
Please remember, however, all of us had just finished a very long day, having conducted three funerals in one day. No one had taken the time or had the time to indulge in food or relaxation for eight or more hours. But when the call came for a person in need, we couldnít rightly turn that person down.
So, here I was at the hospital in the early evening, hungry and tired, and my patient had not been admitted to the hospital, nor was I assured she would be. There was always the remote possibility that the patient needed to be transferred somewhere else, say Greenville or Memphis or Jackson, where there were specialists. While waiting, I contacted my brother, Jack, to relieve me as soon as he could.
I was still in the ER when Warren came in with his tray, full of things to pull blood, to take specimens of whatever. I believe Dr. Eugene Tibbs was on duty that evening, and he had gotten the patient stabilized with the assistance of the on-call ER nurse. I was standing by the patient who was still on my cot.
Warren asked me to hold the IV tube in the lady's arm while he pulled blood from her other arm. The ER nurse was still there, and she was starting to aspirate the lady's throat, to clear the phlegm.
About this time my stomach was reacting like my throat had been cut. Watching Warren pull blood and hearing the suction going on with the aspiration worked in tandem suddenly to send my head into a swim.
I remember this: The room suddenly started to fade, the bright lights didn't make any difference, and I was mumbling, "Someone really needs to hold this IV . . . "
Blank! I fainted. I really fainted.
I came to across the hall from the ER proper, lying on the daybed in the next room. When I came to, Jack was standing next to the bed, asking me if I was okay. To say I experienced the weirdest of feelings is an understatement. I guess I lay there for about 30 minutes, enough time to get my wits together. Evidently Jack had come in the ER door about the time I passed out.
When I was able to motivate without assistance, I handed over the reigns and keys to the ambulance to my dear brother and left the premises, headed home for food and relaxation. The lady who suffered the diabetic coma never knew, to my knowledge, of the fainting spell of her immediate caretaker.
Something tells me that was probably a very good thing.
Mississippi native Kent Fletcher now makes Texas his home. Heís retired Navy and proud of it. His hobbies include wood crafts and writing. Heís presently engaged in recording the stories of Ozark Hunting Club in the Mississippi Delta. Readers may contact him at Hots64.
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