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A Helmet Can Come in Handy


Everyone in public safety knows that the amount of crap you have strapped to your belt or body is inversely proportional to the sum of your years of service multiplied by your average run volume. So the freshly minted wacker in a low-volume service will be decked out with enough gear to treat an MCI. The crusty urban medic might not even be wearing a belt, let alone hanging stuff on it. (My favorites are the guys at the conferences in full uniform decked out with patches and so much stuff you can't see an inch of belt, despite their 52 inches of girth and -- you guessed it -- a department pager or radio, even though they're 725 miles away from their service district!)

There are exceptions, of course. Randy is one of them. He hangs more crap on his belt than a lineman for the power company, but he's about as competent and crusty as they come. As for me, of course the first thing I did after enrolling in EMT class was run down to the supply store and buy a brand-new stethoscope, BP cuff and, most important, brown cowhide EMT holster complete with trauma shears (how cool is that?), forceps, surgical clamps, bandage scissors and pen light. Now you're talkin', baby!

It took me a few years to shed most of it, but I still like to have a helmet for scenes where stuff might fall on my head, or even where the visor might keep the sleet out of my eyes or the reflective strips might save my bacon from a rubbernecking chucklehead. Of course, this last rationale is now moot, since we've all been issued those fluorescent lime-yellow-green vests that cause instant retinal damage and can be seen from Uranus. Yet, what I considered perfectly good reasons to keep a helmet around was lost on my colleagues, who ragged me about it whenever they got a chance. I often heard "Rescue Randy," "firefighter wannabe" and "a little over safety conscious there, Haskell?" 

But this call happened back in the old days of stealth medics in navy blue. We were dispatched to an unresponsive guy in a car. Since it was in the street, I put on my trusty blue helmet. The guy was unresponsive all right -- as unresponsive as a slug from the shotgun resting between his legs could make him. I had to reach across the front bench seat to check a pulse (I know, I know. Kinda silly. But hey, chickens still run around without heads, right?) For some reason, Mike, my partner, reached inside and then turned to me. As we were chatting and waiting for the coroner, I noticed Mike had a little more sheen, a little extra body to his coiffure than usual. "Mike," I began. "Aren't the brains supposed to be kept on the inside of your head?" He instinctively reached up and pulled from his curly brown locks a handful of grey matter and coagulated goop that had plopped onto his bare, un-helmeted head from the headliner (pun intended) when he had reached into the vehicle.

From then on, I have just smiled every time I'm teased about my helmet. Probably the same way Randy chuckles every time someone begs him for the treasures he keeps in his belt pack; when they can't find scissors or tape or a pen light, or whatever else they need on scene. We also like to tease him about his body armor. Maybe we should shut up.


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