We begin most shifts now hoping for quiet. It wasn’t always that way; years ago, thousands of calls ago, we would come to work and hope for all hell to break loose. Experiencing living hell tempers the spirit, and thoughts of heroic rescues are replaced with hopes for quiet. It seems like yesterday we would gather on the apparatus floor, new firefighters mostly, waiting for the bell to tip. That the bell was replaced years ago with state-of-the-art tones matters little; the floor is where most new people congregate. Us old goats prefer to stay in the comfort of the day room and wait, hopefully for the shift to end but, more likely, for somebody who needs us.

It’s late, we got our wish, and things were quiet until now. The tones send us out into the night, just the rescue; the engine and ladder companies roll over and continue their after-midnight drills. We’re headed to a place we often respond to, a high-rise on the East Side where the elderly reside, with a few younger, disabled folks. Somebody is having an allergic reaction to medication. Every now and then these calls end up being the real thing, and an anaphylactic reaction waits on the other side of the door, but more often than not somebody is having trouble opening the medication or simply doesn’t feel well and blames the medicine…continue reading


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