The following is an excerpt from the book, Responding. My new truck, Rescue 5 is quartered just below Benefit Street.
0934 hrs (9:34 a.m.)
“Rescue 3 and Engine 7; respond to 268 Benefit Street for an elderly male who has fallen down the stairs.”
We put down the paddles; I went for the Rescue, Wayne for the couch.
We leave the station and turn left toward Benefit Street. When Providence was an industrial powerhouse, factory workers and their families inhabited the homes that line the historic street. Textile mills and factories were abundant nearby, most of which have since been destroyed by fire. Some of the mills have been converted to living space or offices but nobody is making much of anything these days in Providence, the manufacturing base has been shipped overseas. The Providence Preservation Society saw the value of the old homes that had been subdivided and turned into tenements long before developers and real estate professionals did and insisted the homes be preserved. Rather than let the area be redeveloped or demolished, the buildings were restored. We now have the finest cohesive collection of restored 18th and early 19th century architecture in the United States right at our doorstep. The “Mile of History” is one of the most prolific, vibrant parts of the city. Reproduction gas street lamps illuminate the area at night; you can imagine yourself walking in the footsteps of Edgar Allen Poe who spent his later years in Providence courting a reputable widow, Sarah Whitman, at the Providence Athenaeum, the fourth oldest private library in the country.
The guys from Engine 9 are inside the historic home; their truck parked about thirty feet past the doorway leaving room for the rescue. We pull the stretcher from the back of the rig; place a long spine board on top and walk in, passing a cast iron boot scraper that has been there for centuries.
An elderly couple sits on a couch in the front room. Bob Cataldo from the 9’s gives me the story.
“He was trying to help his wife up the stairs with the laundry basket, she was raising it up to the balcony, he leaned too far and fell over the balcony and right on top of her.”
“No way,” I say, shocked that the people are not more seriously hurt. I walk over to the stairs, a balcony with a three foot railing is at the head of the stairway which has a landing about ten feet down, then another seven or eight steps.
“Way,” says Bob.
”Are you folks okay?” I ask the gray haired couple sitting next to each other on the couch. The man is crooked, rubbing his lower back, his wife sits straight, but has a laceration and bump on her forehead.
“I’m fine, I’m worried about her,” the man says.
“I’m okay, I’m worried about him,” she replies.
“I’m worried about both of you. I can’t believe you two walked away after that fall. You must be pretty tough.”
“Sixty years of marriage will do that,” they say at the same time, and then smile at each other.
“We’re going to get you to the hospital, just bear with us, I want to get you immobilized on a backboard for the ride.”
“I know how that goes,” says the man, “just a few months ago we were in a car accident on Academy Avenue, I went through it then. It’s a good thing I did, the doctors at Miriam Hospital said the EMT’s saved me from being paralyzed, I had a broken neck.”
“I thought you two looked familiar,” I said, “that was me! A hit and run driver sideswiped you and ran you into a utility pole. If I remember correctly, you were worried about your wife.”
“He’s the one that ended up in the hospital for a week,” she said, reaching over to hold her husband’s hand. “There was nothing wrong with me.”
With help from the engine company we “package” our patients for the ride to the hospital. I still can’t believe these two elderly people had two traumatic incidents in the last month and managed to tell the tale. From the look of things, no serious harm was done by the fall, which is truly amazing. First, a fall of ten feet can be serious at any age, being eighty increases the chance of broken bones or worse. Second, having a two-hundred pound man fall on you from ten feet has its share of complications.
We ride down Benefit Street toward the hospital, my patients, together for better and worse, under my care again.