My off-duty save: A bloodied body in the road


Many years ago, I was heading off to work. It was early in the morning, the time where the last vestiges of night are giving way to the break of day.

As I turned onto the main thoroughfare from my house, I could barely make out a large, dark shape in the road, about a block away. As I came closer I was pretty sure it was a carpet, a trash bag or some type of garbage dumped out the back of someone’s truck. I began to drive around it — and suddenly realized it was a person lying in the street. 

I came to a quick stop in the intersection; fortunately I was the only one on the road for the moment. It was a young woman, dressed in dark clothing and carrying a backpack. She was awkwardly posed in the street, face down. From the torn clothing and broken limbs, she must have been mowed down by a car.

As I knelt beside her I could see blood underneath her face. And she was very still. Although I was wearing my duty uniform I didn’t have my flashlight or other gear with me; it took a moment to figure out she was not breathing. I turned her onto her side and did a pretty ugly semblance of a jaw thrust. I clearly remember thinking about what I was going to do if I needed to perform mouth to mouth with a bloody patient.

And in that moment, she took a breath. And then another. Slow, deep breaths. And blood coming out of her mouth. At that point the next thought that flashed  in my head was how to dial 911 while holding her airway open. Right then I realized other drivers had stopped and were calling.

The first guy was taken aback for a moment — I think he was confused by someone wearing a paramedic uniform on scene without an ambulance or fire engine present — but he jumped right in to help out, getting my scissors and flashlight from my jump bag.

By the time the medic unit rolled up we had the patient stripped, and had identified several broken limbs and a head injury. I gave a quick report to the on-duty medic who, unsurprisingly I knew, and stepped back to help them load her onto the ambulance.

A few more minutes and they were off to the trauma center.

And I was off to work. 

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