by Robert Lanz LCSW
I hate a cold and rainy night. I’m a sunshine and daytime guy who thinks people should stay home on cold and rainy nights just to give us folks in the ER a break from the downhill spiral that can occur on cold and rainy nights. But some people can’t stay home or don’t want to stay home or don’t care that we will be busy enough even if most people do stay home.
Junkies and homeless guys are like that. They live in dumpsters and will take a shot at the ER waiting room because they know it will be busy and it may be hours before they are called for treatment for their made up complaint. Meanwhile, being warm and dry in front of a TV keeps them happy. Unsettled people who are home alone might get fearful because it’s a cold and rainy night and it’s dark as well so they come to the ER for some relief from that combination of elements to hang out in the waiting room watching TV with the homeless dumpster guys. And one man on his way to a car crash, a heart attack, hypothermia and drowning apparently couldn’t resist going out on a cold and rainy night, either.
Luckily for him, maybe, there were no other cars involved in the crash by the arroyo, now filled with rapidly moving, cold rain water. Perhaps another guy would have kept his car on the roadway instead of flipping over the edge into that rushing cold rain water. That’s what the cops and paramedics thought. Because his car was upside down in the water, the paramedics had to tie themselves together, tethered to their ambulance in order to safely go and “save” him. They got hypothermia too.
They all got into the back of the ambulance and tried to warm up together. It worked OK for the young paramedics with healthy hearts and lungs but not so well for the old guy who didn’t have much of a heart beat and whose lips and fingertips had already turned blue. The paramedics warmed themselves with their vigorous CPR actions and other resuscitation efforts so their lips and fingertips never got blue.
“Probably had a heart attack and crashed,” they said as they looked at the feeble EKG on the monitor. “Doesn’t seem to have any injuries.”
The ER physicians agreed with that assessment as they continued with the CPR and warming measures.
“Got a lot of water in his lungs so he was still breathing when he went into the water,” one of them observed. “The cold rain water might have saved him from a fatal heart attack, all that hypothermia. Too bad he drowned.”
A string of bad luck, a heart attack and maybe some seat belt injuries we couldn’t see because his blood wasn’t profusing well yet. Then hypothermia and drowning. This guy was heading for the exit, all right. But not on our shift. A few shocks, some warming blankets and he was good to go. Well, good to go upstairs to ICU at least. That’s where he died the next day after the rain had stopped and the sun came out. By then the junkies and easily traumatized had all gone home…