We forced a storm door and entered the home through the rear door.
A low moan came from somewhere and the search was on. The guys from Engine 10 went one way, Ryan and me the other. Something that never changes, be it a fire, inspection or rescue run, companies stick together. We found him first, lying at the bottom of the stairs.
"What are you doing down there?" I asked the man, a gray haired fellow with ashen skin.
"I went to get a drink and my legs gave out. Damndest thing."
His place was full of things that helped define him. American flags. Books and newspapers. A US Navy cap perched on a hook near the front door. A Viet Nam Veterans tribute. Walking sticks. Canes. A walker, folded, sitting in a corner gathering dust.
"We're going to get you up and take you to the hospital, you don't look so hot."
"I was afraid this day was coming. Make sure you lock the place up."
We checked for trauma, put him on 02, sat him in a stair chair and carried him outside, into the cold.
"Do you want me to turn out the lights?"
He looked at me like my father would have. I smiled and flicked the switch.
Just as his possessions gave me an indication of who he was, his vital signs helped me know how he was feeling. His answers didn't add up to the way he looked. His signs sealed it. 110/70. Not bad for an old guy who just got taken out of his house in a rescue. EKG was irregular, normal sinus with some runs of a-fib. The kicker was the pulsox. 72%.
"We're going to give you some more oxygen and start an IV."
"Good idea," he said. "I'm having some chest pain too."
"Why didn't you say so?"
"You didn't ask."
"Scale of 1-10."
"Get out of here."
"That's better. One nitro coming up."
"My lungs are shot," he said. "Spent a lot of time in the boiler room of an Oiler in the Pacific. Asbestos. The Japs and submarines couldn't get me but the damn asbestos did."
"Took it eighty years."
"It's been a heck of a ride."
We got him to the hospital and gave my report. He went strait to critical care where a medical team went to work. Victoria, one of the ER tech's was ready.
"I'm going to help you get out of your clothes," she said.
He sat there and smiled, surrendering to whatever fate his body had in store.
"Been a while since you heard that," I said to him before heading out. His grin was one of the things that makes this job so special.
"Are you a Lieutenant?" He asked, spotting my bars.
He gave a crisp salute and held it until I returned the gesture.
I'm glad I shined my bars yesterday.
Victoria pulled his shirt over his head.