Every time I drive past that cable box, I think about Michael. I wonder how he's doing. If he's in college or working (or both).
I met Michael near that cable box one late fall day. I was driving home from somewhere - no idea any more. The first thing I noticed was the small group of cars on the opposite side of the road. Then I saw the skid marks heading into the woods - and the car. It was upside down, windshield out. I pulled over, grabbed my cell phone and hopped out of the car.
As I stepped out, Michael stepped out from his side of the road. "Do you have a bandaid?" he asked. "I need a bandaid."
I glanced at the trickle of blood on his arm, then tried very hard to control my facial expressions as I spotted the bone protruding a few inches below the elbow. Deep breath.
"Sorry, I don't have a bandaid." He started to walk back across the road.
I spotted a friend, Linda - another nurse - who had also stopped. "Anybody call 911 yet?" I asked.
"My husband drove up to the fire station." she responded. It's only a few blocks away and cell service is spotty out here, so that made sense. I tucked my phone in my pocket and turned toward Michael.
Another vehicle approached and Michael started out in the road again. My friend and I reached for him simultaneously. "I need a bandaid." he said again.
Trying to keep my eyes on his face, I repeated that I didn't have one. He whipped off his t-shirt and wrapped it around the arm. Good. He doesn't seem to notice the bone.
We steered him to the side of the road and helped him to sit on the cable box. Fingers lingering on his wrist, I wished I had my watch with me, but his pulse was strong and slower than mine. No obvious trauma to his chest or abdomen.
"Was anyone else in the car with you?" I asked.
"No. I was going to see my girlfriend. My parents are going to kill me when they see the car."
My friend Linda diverted his attention and assured him that they would not. She tried to calm him with stories of her own experiences. He suddenly remembered that his homecoming dance pictures were in the car and tried to get up to retrieve them. Linda distracted him again and I went to see if I could locate the pictures.
I approached the car cautiously, remembering the warnings I'd gotten from my EMT son about the risks in any serious crash. No signs of smoke. No gasoline odor. I glanced in the windows and spotted a backpack in the pile resting on the interior roof of the car. I wondered again how he managed to escape more serious injury. He insisted he hadn't been speeding, but the skid marks told a different story. Thank goodness he'd been wearing his seatbelt. Air bags had deployed too.
I lifted the backpack, hoping the pictures were inside. They were under the backpack. I showed them to him and asked, "Is this your girlfriend, she's very pretty?"
"That's my girlfriend, but those aren't the homecoming pictures."
They were clearly from a dance - and from the decorations seemed to be the homecoming dance. I began to wonder about head trauma and decided that it might be a good idea to get some information from him in case he started to deteriorate. Name, phone, parents' names and contact information.
The paramedic approached and I quietly informed her of the compound fracture he'd hidden under the T-shirt. She asked him again, "Who was in the car with you?"
Same response, nobody.
I watched as they assessed him and packaged him for delivery to the local hospital - collar, full backboard. Unwrapped his arm and re-dressed it. Started an IV. The whole thing couldn't have taken more than 5 minutes. Teamwork - quiet, calm.
Michael kept insisting that none of this was necessary. He'd be fine. Yes, the paramedic responded. You'll be fine. We'll just call your parents to meet us at the hospital. You won't be able to drive your car anyway.
I handed over the contact information and asked what I should do with his backpack.
Last thing the paramedic said to me before getting in the back of the ambulance with Michael. "I'll take that. This isn't going to get him out of doing his homework."