Chapter Seven – The Ambulance
I had never ridden in an ambulance before. The inside was cold. Tommy was the driver. Andrea sat with me in the back-cargo area. The cargo area was small particularly by today’s ambulance standards. There was room for my stretcher and a small stool for Andrea. The interior sides of the ambulance had been adapted to hang racks that contained medicines and medical apparatus.
Andrea wrapped me a blanket. I tried to convince myself that the morphine was kicking in. But, in reality, the pain was worsening.
We were enroute to Mercy Hospital on Vail Avenue in Charlotte. Mercy was one of two hospitals in Charlotte in 1972. Mercy was owned and run by the Sisters of Mercy Catholic Nuns. The hospital was small but well-staffed and attracted an affluent clientele. A white middle class female high school student with a broken leg would choose Mercy Hospital as the treatment venue of choice.
The other Hospital was Memorial General. Memorial was the county hospital. The clientele was generally lower class. Memorial was larger than Mercy and had a more diverse staff of specialists. It was where you went on Saturday night with a gunshot wound.
My mom worked at Mercy Hospital as a nurse. Another compelling reason to go there instead of Memorial Hospital.
If the ambulance had shock absorbers, they certainly were not working very well. From the moment the ambulance started moving on the uneven field, my leg vibrated like stalk of celery in a blender. I alternately moaned, screamed, or yelled as the momentum of the ambulance increased.
“Slow down.” Andrea yelled to Tommy. Tommy complied.
Andrea slid to the bottom of the gurney, lifted my leg carefully, and placed my splinted foot in her lap. This reduced the vibration and seemed extremely comforting. My foot had a bluish tinge and was pointed at an odd angle. My toes were bright red courtesy of my boyfriend Chippy who has a raging foot fetish. More on that later
We were now out of the field and heading toward downtown Charlotte.
“So, is this your first broken bone?” Andrea asked still cradling my foot as she would a newborn baby.
I paused before answering. “No. I broke my arm in 4th grade.” A smile almost came to my lips as I remembered the day I fell from the jungle gym at Selwyn Elementary School.
“No way.” Said Andrea laughing. “I broke mine in 3rd grade. Tell me about your arm.”
I knew Andrea was trying to take my mind off my leg but really didn’t care.
“I was on the jungle gym on the playground at school.” I said. “I fell and landed on my hand. I felt a snap and saw that my forearm was bent at this weird angle.” I raised my right arm instinctively. “The funny thing is it really didn’t hurt that bad. Certainly not as bad as my leg.”
“Those jungle gyms are death traps.” Andrea laughed. “We make half a dozen calls to them every week.”
As fate would have it, we were passing Selwyn Elementary; site of my 4th grade arm injury.
“So how big was your cast?” Andrea asked.
“From my hand to my armpit.” I said smiling. “I remember how proud I was of the cast when I first got it. It was like a badge of courage.”
“My cast was full arm also.” Andrea said. She showed me her left arm. “I felt the same way about my cast. All the kids in class wanted to sign it and I got all kinds of attention. Then the thing started itching and I wasn’t quite as enamored with it.”
In spite of the pain, I laughed remembering the hard time I had doing my hair, dressing, and wiping my rear end while in that full arm cast.
I also remembered the painful setting session I endured before the cast was put on. My mom had driven me to the hospital. My arm was x-rayed. By that time, my arm was beginning to hurt and the sight of the misshapen forearm was making me a little sick. Nurses kept a towel over the arm when it was not being examined. After a wait that seemed like forever, an elderly doctor came into the room and said he was going to fix my arm.
I got three shots in my arm before the doctor set my arm. To this day, I am not sure why. The first was in my upper arm. The next was just above the break site. Then, after waiting a few minutes, I got a shot where the break was. The setting process was uncomfortable but not truly painful. I didn’t yell or scream but I felt like kicking the old guy in the nuts.
Little did I know then how different the setting of my leg fracture was going to be.
We were on Park Road now. Passing Charlotte Catholic High School. For some reason, Tommy turned the siren on.
“Do you think I’ll need surgery?” I asked Andrea.
Andrea shrugged. She looked at my foot which still rested in her lap and then back at me.
“Who knows.” She said. “I’ve seen really horrific fractures that didn’t require surgery.” She rubbed her fingers lightly along my toes. “I’ve seen leg fractures with bone exposed and the victim’s foot turned around backwards. Way worse than yours. And they didn’t need surgery. But sometimes surgery is the best option. Recovery can be a lot quicker if they put things back in the right position from day one.”
At that moment, we hit what must have been a pothole. My leg slipped out of Andrea’s grasp. I felt bones shift in my leg and screamed loudly. Andrea re-grasped my leg and turned to Tommy.
“Tommy. Slow the fuck down! And turn that god damned siren off! Lynne’s not going to die unless you get us all killed with your driving!”
Tommy slowed and the siren was silenced.
“Sorry about the language.” Andrea said. “Tommy is an idiot. He lives near the Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR track and thinks he’s Richard Petty.”
I tried to regain my composure and stared at the metal ambulance ceiling. My eyes were full of tears and I was trembling uncontrollably. I felt the ambulance slow and turn. Through the small window, I saw the entrance sign for Mercy Hospital.