In the truck Joe’s in the stretcher, listing to the left.
I reassess his vital signs and try to get him to speak. He tries valiantly but is frustrated and unable to articulate his thoughts.
As we speed to the ER, I give him the news. A wounded WWII vet deserves the truth.
“Joe, you are having a stroke. There are treatments available, and we’re within the time frame. We can stop the damage; you’re not done fighting just yet.”
His right hand grips mine fiercely; he makes eye contact, then closes them. We ride to the hospital in silence—him lost in his thoughts, me hoping I’m not witnessing his last battle. I look out the rear windows, and as the city speeds past me backward, I think of all the uncles and aunts from my own family who live quiet lives without much fanfare. What they did all those years ago is simply remarkable. Lives were put on hold to fight a war, families were separated, some for good, but the most remarkable thing of all is how they lived once it was over.
I think I’ll call my Uncle Tony. Last year I found out he was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions during some fierce fighting in Italy when he was with the 10th Mountain Division.
He might even tell me what he did to earn it.
Michael Morse, EMT-C, is captain of Rescue 5 in Providence, RI, and has served on the city’s busiest engine, ladder and rescue squads as a firefighter, rescue technician and lieutenant during his 21-year career. He is the author of the books Rescuing Providence and Responding.