Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Traffic Stop

Knowing that police are on scene and knowing that the scene is safe are two very different things. Once we know that the latter is true, we approach at speed. 

A bystander runs up to us and practically pushes me off my feet. 

"What the hell took you so long? The police have been here for ages." 

I push him off, lift the police tape that marks the outer cordon, and head into the neutralised area.

One of the officers signals to us to head towards the idling car, the headlights of a police van on full beam illuminating our approach. Sitting in the front passenger seat of the car is yet another officer, looking pale and wearing a blood-soaked shirt. A crowd stand around the cordon, some hurling abuse at the police, some at us, some at each other. The atmosphere is on a knife-edge, teetering on the brink of an all-out riot. In the driver's seat, unconscious and bloodied, sits London's latest gun-crime statistic. 

Two holes through the windscreen, almost perfect circles, the rest of the glass undisturbed. 

To the police, he's a victim; to us, a patient. The work we do could mean the difference between attempted and actual murder, between a life-threatening injury and a fatal one, between life and death. We move him out of the car, looking for injuries, and finding them too. 

Two holes in his chest, almost perfect circles, the rest of his body untouched. 

Entry wounds only, leading to only one conclusion: the bullets are still lodged within him. The visible damage is only a small part of the story. It's impossible to know what damage was caused after those tiny projectiles entered the body, where they veered off to, what organs they hit, what arteries they missed, how much blood has been lost. 

"Are you gonna just sit there looking at him all day?" 

The call comes from one of the irate crowd, someone who doesn't understand that just moving the patient could be the wrong thing to do. We need to have an idea of what we're dealing with, whether his lungs will hold out for long enough, whether we think his heart's been hit, whether there's anything we could possibly do to give him a better chance. 

There's no one else to send to help us out so we package him up into the ambulance, give a report over the radio and head to the trauma unit. Luckily, for a change, we're not too far away. On route to the hospital his breathing becomes more noisy, more erratic, and then silent. His heart changes from a rapid beat to a slow beat, to no beat at all.

The officer in the bloodied shirt meets us at the hospital and asks how the victim is doing. We tell him. 

"Damn. I only pulled him over because he had no headlights on, I had no idea that anyone else was watching him too." He shakes his head. "Can I go and see him?" 

We walk with him in the direction of the resuscitation room, and he knocks gently on the door. A nurse peeks through to see who's disturbing their work, sees the blood on his shirt and lets him in immediately. It takes a minute for him to convince her that he's not injured, that he just wants to see the victim. 

The third cubicle along has the curtains drawn. Monitors all around ping with electronic bells, whine with wavering warnings, but the monitor in cubicle three is silent. The officer steps in, the nurse follows and we stand by the curtains. The victim's face is already covered, and the nurse slowly, gently, mournfully pulls the cover back. The officer takes one final look, shakes his head again and turns to leave. 

"A traffic stop. Just a simple, damned traffic stop." 


Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Another night’s work for you and the police and now the Prosecutor/DA has his/her work to do as well.

MSgt B said...

Exceptionally written!

TAZ THE AMBO said...

Outstanding as usual.

MSgt B said...


At least you Brits are shooting each other.

Seems my neighbors are busy shooting themselves.