Monday, November 23, 2009

New Query for my Fantasy Novel

As many of you are aware, I wrote a fantasy novel. The next step is finding an agent. Simple, huh? Not really. If you are thinking about doing this let me tell you what would be more likely. Getting hit by lightning while finding out you just won the lottery. So, you have one page to wow the agent with your story and credentials. I have no credentials, so I'm boxing Mike Tyson with my hand behind my back (And I don't mean the crying-on-Oprah, fat Tyson either). With this query I need to show a few things without being cliched. I need to show the uniqueness of my story as a fantasy, make the reader care about the main character, and limit confusion among other things. So let me have it. Is this good? If you were an agent, would you ask to read this story and if not, why?


Rasi, once Epertase’s greatest warrior, remains banished to a mountain exile while a seemingly unstoppable army prepares to attack his former homeland. His years of loneliness and anger have driven him near the feral edge of madness with little hope of return. Epertase’s almost certain demise triggers a magical event which may ultimately save the kingdom. Once finished, this event will violently end the corrupt king’s rule, thrusting his just daughter, Princess Alina, into the throne, making way for Rasi’s return.

In the coming power-shift, Rasi sees hope of reclaiming the life he had before the king ripped out his tongue, killed his family, and left him for slaughter by a tentacled beast. With the dead creature’s violent, self-aware tentacles permanently melded to his own back, Rasi vows to control the savage appendages and defend Alina’s kingdom. If he can do so, he will prove his honor, securing his triumphant return to the land he loves. His hopes of a new beginning fade with revelations of a secret legend. From those legends, the power-hungry king learns that sacrificing his daughter will save his throne. He has her kidnapped to mask his own involvement. Now Rasi must save Alina and lead her army against the foreign threat to have any chance at redeeming himself. If he fails, he will hang, Alina will die, and Epertase will surely fall.

I am seeking representation for my finished 95,000-word fantasy novel filled with vivid battle scenes, fantastical creatures, treachery and love. THE LIGHT OF EPERTASE is a stand-alone novel with series potential and is available upon your request.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Man, I'm tired Part 2

Please see part 1 below if you haven’t read it yet.

We returned to the station at about 11:00 and half-jokingly I told Warren that I’d see him in the morning. Fat chance. I almost had my boots off when the dispatcher told us to respond to a woman-in-labor run. Great, my favorite. (Can you smell the sarcasm? Good because I’m laying it on thick).

The rain had stopped, leaving only raindrop-warped lights of the big city to reflect off the puddles and wet pavement. As we pulled into the apartment complex, I immediately saw a crowd of people in the vicinity of where we were heading.

“Over there,” I said.

Warren headed for the crowd and the now frantic bird-doggers (a name we call people who wave us down).

Seeing the frantic wavers with fear in their eyes actually triggered me to calm down. I tugged my blue latex gloves over my hands, gave Warren a quick “here we go” nod, and pushed my door open.

“Hurry, hurry,” someone yelled as a tall, skinny man met me at the truck. I looked past him to the crowd from which he had come. I saw a young woman, 25 or so, bent over at the waist.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Engine 24 pull up behind our medic.

“How far along are you?” I asked as I leaned in to make eye contact. She answered “9 months” with a painful moan.

“The baby’s coming,” her boyfriend or husband shouted. His angst told me that he believed what he said. That was good enough for me.

I waved to the engine crew as they sauntered past the medic. “Cot!” I shouted.
Warren asked her if she could start walking so we could get to the truck faster. She grabbed my arm and squeezed to let us know that she couldn’t. As the engine guys approached with our cot, Warren and I grabbed her arms and legs and carried her to meet them.

We shoved the cot into the truck. I told the lieutenant to give me a second to figure out how close we were. We pulled the doors closed and told her we needed to check for crowning (which is when the baby’s head starts to bulge from the cervix). One look told us. It was time.

We covered her legs with a blanket, hollered for another medic into the back with us and someone to drive. We prepared for work. Warren and I donned our paper gowns as the other medic, our lieutenant, opened the sterile wrapping of our OB kit.

As our driver hopped into the front seat, he asked, “Ready to go?”

I told him not to move, that we were delivering this baby before we started bouncing down the road. As much as I’d hoped we could get to the hospital first, I knew there was no chance.

The lieutenant put a nasal cannula into her nose for oxygen.

“Go ahead and push,” Warren told her. Luckily for me, Warren had delivered about 100 babies (OK, 5 or 6 but still) and he was as calm as an OB doctor. She groaned and pushed. The baby’s head popped out. But with his head came the umbilical cord which was wrapped around the baby’s neck.

Oh no!

Just as I felt panic rise into my chest, Warren reached down, grabbed the cord, and slipped it over the baby’s head. He grabbed the bulb syringe and suctioned the gunk from the baby’s nose and mouth. Just then, she pushed again and the slimy newborn boy shot out into my arms.

Let me take a break from the story for a second to say it was awesome.

We took an APGAR score to evaluate the baby’s health and all of the numbers were good and getting better as they should.

Warren clipped the cord in two places and then cut it with a scalpel. We wrapped the baby in a towel and I set him onto his mother’s chest. She looked like she’d won the lottery, which actually she had. Somebody started an IV on her, I can’t remember who (maybe I did), and we told our driver to start for the ER.

“Take it slow and easy,” Warren told him.

While we transported mother and child to the hospital, she delivered her placenta which we caught it in an emesis basin.

I called the hospital and let them know we were coming with a newborn and mother, both of whom were doing well.

I’m sure you could see my smile from down the hall as we passed through the ER and up to the OB floor. The father walked alongside, ecstatic and thankful.

When the elevator opened to the OB floor, the waiting nurses were all grins. I gave them my verbal report as nurse after nurse came in to see the new baby. Nurses on OB floors are a different breed of nurse. They mostly deal with joy and it shows.
The doctor told us we did a good job before we made our way back to the elevator.

As you can tell from part one and part two, a medic’s life can go from some of the worst sights imaginable to some of the greatest. Stay tuned for part three coming soon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Man, I'm tired

Spending nights awake on a medic truck in Columbus can beat on a person.

I was tt’d to Medic 24 on the city’s north end. TT meaning assigned to work a shift at a different station than the one I call home. Now the following scenario isn’t unique to 24’s, as I’ve experienced it plenty at my regular house of 22’s, but this particular night, it happened while I was working at 24’s.

First, you have to understand that a typical run at 24’s, from the time the call is dispatched to the time we drop a patient off at the ER and return back to quarters, is about 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic.

With that in mind, some of the runs can be as short as 15 minutes if, for example, no one is injured in an auto accident or something along those lines. That day we had 12 runs in the first twelve hours. Pretty busy, huh? Well that’s where my story starts.

From 8 PM until midnight, I didn’t bother lying down. It wouldn’t have done any good if I had. At 10 o’clock we were called to an injured person.

We pulled out of the bay and into a fresh rain. The dispatch was to an apartment building but when we arrived something in the darkened front yard caught my eye. I grabbed my partner, Warren’s, attention before he could head into the apartments.
As we came closer, we could see a woman lying in the wet grass, crying. We approached. I asked her what had happened. She sobbed that she fell getting off of the bus and then crawled into the grass. She cried that no one would stop to help her as traffic continued to whiz by unfazed.

I asked her what hurt and she said her ankle. She said that it felt wet inside of her knee-high boot. She didn’t say knee-high, I added that. I looked down as the rain poured onto my head, down my brow and off of my nose like the downspouts of a gutter. Her toes pointed behind her.

Ah, shit!

Warren saw what I saw at the same time and he had pretty much the same reaction. I wondered what we could do for her out in the dark rain, deciding the best course of action would be getting her into the truck. But that wasn’t going to be easy.

Or painless.

Warren went for the cot while calling for an engine on his radio. I did a quick evaluation of her neck and a rapid secondary exam which made me comfortable that she hadn’t any other injuries. I told her we had to move her because we needed to get her boot off and make sure she wasn’t bleeding too badly. I also told her that we didn’t have time to give her an IV and morphine and that I was sorry.

As Warren lowered the cot next to her, I said, “Honey, you’re going to have to help us. I’m afraid that it’s going to hurt.” She cried.

Warren braced her foot and leg so her foot wouldn’t be left behind. I lifted her under her arms as we had her scoot onto the cot. It must have been excruciating; the grinding of her lower leg bones assured of that.

The engine arrived as we loaded her into the medic.

“What do you need?” the Lieutenant asked.

I said, “Someone to drive and someone to hold her foot on.”
He ordered someone behind the wheel and hopped into the back with us. Another EMT followed him. We had him hold her foot.

I said, “We gotta get her boot off,” and he agreed. Warren started searching for an IV site while the lieutenant and I started cutting her boot. Once we reached her ankle, we were stuck. The scissors couldn’t squeeze past the tight boot.

“We’re going to have to wiggle it off,” the lieutenant said, though I already knew.

With the boot mostly cut, we could see that her bleeding wasn’t severe and decided to wait for Warren to finish the IV and let the morphine have a chance to kick in. It did. But morphine in the amount we are allowed to give doesn’t stop the pain, it only dulls it a bit. With some screaming (her, not me), we slid her boot off. I told her not to look. She asked if her foot was still there. I wanted to say, “barely,” but simply told her that it was.

Her shinbone was sticking through her skin like a spear. Luckily for her, she still had a pulse and blood flow into her foot. But that could quickly change with the wrong movement or a bump in the road. Her foot hung from her leg by little more than skin and ligaments.

We raced with lights and sirens to the hospital. By the time I had finished with the report, the nurse told us that our patient was already going into surgery and that she was going to keep her foot. We dried off and got back in service.

I was already tired and this unbelievable night had only just begun.

Stay tuned for the next part of my crazy night in the coming weeks…

That’s called a tease by the way.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My "Epertase" Query Letter

Querying sucks. For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, querying is the process of getting an agent. This coincidentally is similar to getting a root canal, only without the soothing elevator music or the Novocain. For this blog I’ll skip the hours of finding the right agent and then meticulously searching out their individual guidelines for my submission. No, this blog is about writing a strong query letter. More specifically how miserable it was for me to write one.

First, I had to learn what a query letter is supposed to do. Basically, it is to introduce your book and your story to an agent in less than one page. The book could be “The Hobbit” and without a strong query, no one would ever read it.

I won’t bore you with letter structure, word count, font size… zzzzzzz.

The painful part of the query is the mini synopsis. That is where I have to tell the agent what my book is about in an interesting, non-cliché sort of way. Sounds easy, huh? It’s not.

My fantasy novel is 92,000 words and needs to be summarized in less than 300. And I don’t mean book report 300 but exciting, character-driven, original 300. Every word, every sentence counts. I spent 3 or 4 hours crafting a magnificent query and was ready to start sending.

I had one more step before I could try to find my agent-to-be. I needed to let people who know about queries view mine and tell me how great it is. Well, they viewed it. But they didn’t tell me how great it is. Turns out, it sucked. My query was a clichéd, confusing mess. After these “query experts” gave me their critiques, I understood and agreed but had no clue how to fix it.

So I went back to the drawing board more lost and frustrated than I had been at any point throughout the entire book. On my first day of rewriting, I spent 6 hours and ended my session without a single workable sentence. Sure, I wrote 20 more queries that day but none of them were worth bragging about. Let me give you a quick example of how a generic query can be so mind-numbing.

If I tell you that Bill shot Brenda, you probably need to know something about why he did it or you won’t care. So I add that Brenda cheated with Fred. Better? Who’s Fred? Alright, Fred works as a janitor in an office building. But who cares about that? No one. Unless the office building is important to the story, of course. So now I gotta explain about the building.

Are you still awake? Exactly.

Query after painful query, I couldn’t get it right. Hour after frustrating hour, I was ready to burn my whole book.

But slowly without realizing, I was getting closer. Finally, I settled on a hook sentence to start the query. And as I approached the end of my dark frustration, a light peeked through. More hours of work and I actually had something to go on.

At least I hoped.

So without further ado, here’s my query. Let me know what you think. Trust me, I can take it.

Dear agent:

King Elijah of Epertase would kill his own daughter to stay in power. Rasi, a brilliant warrior, would kill an entire army to save her. After Rasi was banished for a murder the king committed, he swore nothing could bring him back to Epertase. But that was before a chance encounter with Elijah’s daughter, Princess Ripley, during a hunting expedition. He never expected to fall in love.

Now a technologically-superior army is poised to invade from the western sea. Elijah prepares for war. When the invaders annihilate Epertase’s closest neighbor in less than a day, it becomes obvious Elijah’s plans are doomed. The kingdom’s only hope is for Ripley to take over the throne. Elijah refuses to accept the inevitable and has her kidnapped. He frames Rasi for the crime. Rasi vows to return from exile to find his true love and lead her people to victory. If he fails, she will die, he will hang, and Epertase will fall.

I am seeking representation for my completed 92,000-word fantasy novel, “The Light of Epertase.”

Thank you for your consideration. The first five pages are included per your submission instructions.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


We have a prison in our first-in district. Actually it’s called a workhouse but that’s splitting hairs and don’t ask me what the difference is. Medic 22 responds there about once a day and what we find when we arrive can be anything imaginable.
Because prisoners want reasons to get away from their cells, they often cry sick when, surprise, they really aren’t. To combat such abuse, the prison staff usually waits until the last minute to call us which means if the prisoner is really sick, as in heart attack sick, we’re starting behind the 8-ball and playing catch-up.

Prisoners “fall from their bunks” all of the time. I put fall from their bunks in quotes since it isn’t typical to have red footprints on a person’s chest and black eyes from falling from a bunk, even the top bunk.

When the women’s section of the prison calls for a woman in labor, we know we’d better haul ass or we’re likely to deliver a baby in the back of our truck. I can’t begin to describe the mess that creates not to mention the panic that washes over a lot of paramedics. I’ve delivered two babies as a paramedic and I still cringe at the thought.

Before I blog about the blog that I came here to blog about, let me give you a quick warm-up story. On one ‘woman-in-labor’ call, the prison nurse met us outside of the infirmary door.

“Sorry for bothering you,” she said. “We have a lady who is faking labor again.”

“Again?” I asked.

“Yeah, she did this two weeks ago and was sent back.”

The nurse followed me into the room where the mother-to-be’s face was as red as our fire engine and the veins in her neck were about to burst.

“Aaaaahhhh,” she wailed and I was no longer convinced she was faking.

I yelled, “How far apart are the contractions?” and the nurse answered that she wasn’t sure. “When’s her due date?” I asked.

“Uhhh…” the nurse paused. “November seventh.”

The problem was that the date was November eighteenth. She wasn’t faking, the law of averages told us that much. We gently threw her onto our cot and raced like hell to the hospital. If I said she delivered a new baby boy two minutes after we moved her to the hospital bed, I’d be lying. It was more like thirty seconds.

Is everyone following the importance of fast action at this point? Good, now I can get to the story that I brought you here for.

Less than a year later, we sped to the jail on what we call an ‘OB’ run. That’s important because an engine company doesn’t get dispatched on ‘OB’ calls like they do on ‘woman-in-labor’ runs.

We were met by the prison nurse (not the same nurse as before) and she looked like I must look before delivering a baby. You know, wide-eyed, ready to quit my job on the spot -- that look.

She said, “Our patient is 8 ½ months pregnant and this will be her fourth kid.” That basically means when the kid is coming, he is likely coming fast. My pucker-factor went from a 4 to 8 on a scale of 10. She continued, “The contractions are 1 minute apart and I think her water broke.” Again, more signs that I should have called off.

“Ma’am?” I asked. “Do you feel like you need to move your bowels?” Now I know that’s a disgusting question but bear with me; it tells us a lot. If she said yes, it tells us we aren’t going anywhere and we’re doing our business right where we were. If she said no, we might have a few minutes. Of course, she said she didn’t know which didn’t fill me with much confidence.

I called for an engine company for help and we loaded her into the back of the medic. My partner and I prepared for delivery while we waited for Engine 22 to arrive. When they pulled up, I opened the back, let my eyes tell the lieutenant we needed to go, and hollered for John to drive.

It’s important that you know that John isn’t a paramedic and that he pretty much trusts our judgment on EMS calls. When I let him know that this baby was on its way, he didn’t hesitate and hopped into the drivers-seat.

I leaned between the seats. “Lights and sirens, John. We’re gonna deliver a baby,” I said in all of my confident glory.

The hospital ride was iffy. Our patient’s contractions grew longer and closer together. And when I saw the hospital, I gave myself a little hope that we might make it after all. My partner started an IV, I gave her some oxygen, and we watched for the baby to come. The hospital labor and delivery department was on the fourth floor and I grabbed our OB kit just in case.

That reminds me. Let me tell you about the baby I helped deliver in the hospital elevator seven years ago...
Scratch that; I’ll save it for another day.

Floor after painfully slow floor, the elevator reached our Valhalla and we tore through the halls. The nurses raced into the room behind us and I was relieved that we made it.

We gave a report and headed back to the truck. I yapped about how close we had come, and how the baby was likely breathing its first breath at that very moment. All the while John took in my every word, probably thinking to himself how lucky he was to not be a paramedic.

And that’s my story on how close I came to delivering a baby that day…

Wait a minute. I can’t end the story there. This is a blog about the strange, funny and amazing things that I see working on Columbus Fire Department.
Three weeks passed. I was on Medic 22 again and we were sent, with the engine this time, to the workhouse on yet another woman in labor. I met our patient while the engine crew brought in the stretcher. Our patient was close to delivering so I wasted little time.

John lugged the cot into the infirmary. He hesitated for a split second and asked, “Have we run on you before?”

Come to think of it, she did look vaguely familiar but I see a lot of patients and sometimes I have a hard time remembering each of their faces.

She answered, “About three weeks ago. You took me to the hospital.”

I froze and glanced at John’s smirk. My mind raced. What did we take her in for? Quick, think. Was she sick? Trouble breathing? For the life of me, I couldn’t remember but I had a deep nagging, oops feeling in my gut.

But John remembered. There was no way that he didn’t since I swear his job is to be there when I screw up. He pointed to me. “Didn’t he say you were having your baby at any minute?”

She chuckled and said that I had.

“Didn’t we run lights and sirens to the hospital?”


Great, now even our patient thinks I’m an imbecile.

John shook his head in a condescending way that only John could. I thought about blowing him off, coming up with some kind of BS excuse, but there was no hope. The damage was done. I was an idiot.

I kicked the engine loose (sent them back to the station) and we took our patient to the hospital.

We didn’t deliver her baby that time either but that wasn’t the focus of my story. You see, John is a grade A, ball-buster if ever there was one and I dreaded my return to 22’s. Mostly, I dreaded my return to John.

He met me at the kitchen door. “Hey, Doug, I’m not a medic or anything but isn’t three weeks awful fast to get pregnant and have another baby?”

Laugh it up, John. Laugh it up.

He did.

Heck, he still does.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Small World

At 20 years old I was a volunteer firefighter with little experience and even less confidence, trying to learn on the job. I was taught the basics in EMT school and fire school like turning on a hydrant or putting pressure on someone’s spurting wound but nothing could prepare me for the emotional toll I was about to embark on.
My beeper wailed at 2:30 in the morning and woke me from a sound sleep. An auto accident, the dispatcher said. I leapt from my bed, dressed, and raced to the station. Two other members had arrived, including my older cousin, Greg. They pulled the medic truck out of the bay, I hopped into the back and we were off.
The skies rumbled in the distance with brilliant flashes of light bouncing from cloud to cloud. My adrenaline and nerves were at their peak. In fact, I couldn’t have been more nervous if you put me on stage in front of thousands of people and ordered me to dance.

We rolled up to a curved country road with a steep embankment along its edge. Staring back from the bottom of the hill was a set of upside-down headlights in the mud.

Follow Greg’s lead, I told myself and hurried from the rig.

Our department’s mini rescue arrived on our heels and we all descended the wet, nasty bank. Steam from the drizzle rose from the hot undercarriage of the totaled pick-up truck as my crew flew into action. In my tunnel-vision, I almost missed the 20-something-year-old girl who lay unconscious in the tall grass.

I leaned around one of the guys for a better view. The unconscious girl was face-down and gurgling in a puddle of rainwater. One of the guys, Brian, held her neck in-line with her spine and the whole team (me not included) rolled her to her back while. I could only watch in stunned silence. Her head left a divot in soggy ground.

I should have jumped in but everything I’d learned was gone from my brain. I was more spectator than medically trained professional as I stared at the young girl’s half-missing ear and her blood-soaked blond hair. I was afraid to touch her for fear of further hurting her fragile body. I struggled to come up with something. A blood pressure, a pulse, anything would have been better than the nothing I was doing so well. I was worthless.

Someone, don’t ask me who, said, “Go get a backboard,” and with those orders I had a job I remembered how to do. I climbed up the embankment and gathered the c-collar bag with a backboard and some straps.

Greg ordered a medical helicopter dispatched our way and was given an E.T.A. (estimated time of arrival) of 20 minutes. Silently, I begged them to hurry.

With my successful fetching of the backboard, my brain started again and I jumped into the fray. In hindsight, I probably did little more than lend a set of hands to wherever I was told but I was doing something which was an improvement.

Brian plunged a needle into her arm. Someone else suctioned the loose teeth and blood from her mouth and gave her crucial breaths with a bag-valve-mask.

The helicopter circled above us and lit up the sky like a U.F.O. from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Their crew dragged a stretcher from the rear of the “bird” and rushed to us.

The flight crew told us we did a good job which, for me at the time, was like Michael Jordan saying “Good game,” after a one-on-one basketball contest. After all, these guys and gals are the cat’s meow… and no, I can’t believe I just said cat’s meow.

The crew hopped into the copter and lifted into the sky toward Columbus and the nearest trauma center.

I couldn’t sleep for the rest of that night. I told myself that the excitement had given me temporary insomnia and went about my day as usual. But there was something different. For the next few days I found myself thinking a lot about the poor girl from the wreck. I want to tell you how tough I was and how I brushed her mangled image from my mind but I’d be lying.

About a week later, we heard the news. She had died at the hospital. As a further kick to my gut, we received the details of her death. The doctors had determined she could survive if she had a blood transfusion but here’s the kicker. With her being unable to give her wishes, the decision fell to her parents. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses and though her boyfriend insisted she had left the religion, he could do nothing to help. So just like that, she died.

Now you’re probably wondering about the title of this blog and I’m getting to that. Today it’s about 16 years since the run I consider one of 3 or 4 defining calls of my career. I’m no longer with the volunteers, I live too far away for that, and I am a 10-year veteran of Columbus, Ohio Division of Fire.

Two weeks ago, I sat in my paramedic refresher class, listening to our guest speaker, a Columbus battalion chief and 30-year paramedic as he discussed ethics and morality with our class. Three quarters into his lecture, he began a story from when he worked for a medical helicopter. He described a car accident he was involved with as a part-time flight medic many years ago.

I think at this point you all know where I’m headed but humor me for a minute if you would. I’ve seen more car wrecks and more death than I care to remember at this point and his story wasn’t anything that grabbed my attention. But as I listened, the more he told about the call the more I thought, Hey, wait a second.

He told us of the victim’s fight for her life in the hospital and how she ultimately needed a blood transfusion which her parents’ religion didn’t allow. He explained how important it was to respect people’s wishes even if those wishes are against everything we dedicate our lives to preventing. As paramedics, we don’t care about a person’s race, religion, social status, or the like because none of that matters. If you cut us off in traffic and then wreck your car, we’re still going to help you because that’s our job. That’s what Chief was there to remind us of and that’s what I’ve learned over the years.

I’ll be honest here; I didn’t understand her families’ choice or agree with them. Heck, maybe I still don’t. But that’s not for me to judge. We gave her a chance and I can be happy about that.

Here I am, 16 years later, fifty miles away in a different town and fire department and I’m listening to a chief tell us how he was affected by the very call that affected me so deeply years before.

After class, I chased him down and asked him some of the more mundane details of the wreck and his answers left no doubt. A lot of people came together from different places in life for one common goal, to give someone a chance at living and that is what we did.

I sat back and thought to myself, what a small world.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Columbus Fire Department lost a good man last week. You probably didn’t hear about it because he didn’t die heroically in a fire, or he wasn’t shot by some angry heroin user who had just lost his high while having his life saved. No, Charles died way too young from a different battle, a battle against cancer. His death didn’t make the news or the papers, and the lives he had a hand in saving over the years likely will never know he’s gone but I’d like to say it here. Chuckles, as we called him at 22s, dedicated his life to helping people and the number of lives he touched could never be counted.

If today or tomorrow, God forbid, you have to call 911 because a bolt of lightning sets your house ablaze or you wreck your car, or your chest hurts, there will still be men and women who come to help you. But there is one less of those men and women in the world today and the world suffers because of it.

A Life Saved

It was 3 AM on a Sunday morning in the middle of June, 2005 or 2006, I’m not sure. Chuck and I were manning the medic truck and along with the rest of the guys at 22s, getting a few hours of needed sleep. With 24-hour shifts, you take sleep when you can get it.

The long steady beep of our fire tones jarred us awake and I was on the rig before I realized I was even conscious. Chuck drove that night; I wrote the reports. The report of a house fire was in our first-due district and we were a little excited as we would likely be the first truck on the scene.

We raced through the mostly-empty streets, preparing our minds to what we possibly could find when we arrived. We rounded the corner of a residential neighborhood and instantly saw the billowing smoke.

“Chuck, pull over here!” I shouted. “Leave room for the fire trucks in front of the house!”

He swerved between sleeping cars already parked along the side of the street as our engine and ladder blared past.

“I’m getting dressed,” Chuck shouted, indicating he was going to help the engine with fire attack as long as nobody needed EMS right away. I threw my door open with a different goal in mind. I decided to help the engine crew stretch their hose and hook to the hydrant. Not a very glamorous job but critical work just the same.

I no sooner arrived at the drive-way when I saw the panicked face of a middle-aged man in his boxers. Robe-clad neighbors stood with their arms around him, praying. I felt for the man, since I knew this didn't usually end well. “My mom’s in there,” he shouted between sobs. That’s when I pried my eyes away from my tasks and got my first good look at the house. Black smoke poured from the open front door and from the eaves of the roof. It was a worker, that’s for sure. The engine guys were knelt on the porch, masking up. I tried to comfort the man with words of doing our best as I scrambled past but I hadn’t time to stop. I helped straighten the hoses to remove any kinks.

The ladder crew followed the engine crew through the front door. Within seconds, I heard mask-muffled shouts and overturning furniture clatter. I rushed to the porch and crouched below the choking blackness.

“We got a victim,” one of the engine guys shouted.

I dug into my pockets and stretched my blue latex gloves over my hands. That’s when I saw Chuckles headed my way, head-to-toe in bulky turnout fire gear. “We got a victim!” I shouted.

Chuck stopped in his tracks with a stunned look like his half-asleep mind didn’t comprehend.

“Get your shit off! We got a victim,” I shouted again.

I saw the back of a firefighter emerge from the smoke. I couldn’t tell who it was at the time but later learned it was my buddy Mick. He struggled as he backed his lifeless discovery to the door. I held my breath and reached past him. I grabbed at exposed hot flesh and felt for an armpit or a leg or anything to grab hold of. Chuck shed his cumbersome gear, short of his pants and boots, and helped pull the burnt lady out of her inferno.

I was surprised at the heat radiating from her which was hotter than any feverish baby I’d ever felt. She was unconscious and barely breathing. The driver of the ladder truck ran to the medic truck and met us with our stretcher dragging behind.

Mick went back to the house, firemen counted on him to do what he needed to do in the same way our victim counted on us. We got to the medic, short-handed, as the ladder driver raced back to his tasks as well.

My mind darted straight to Sodium Thiasulphate and the IV needed to administer the drug. In my haste to deliver such needed medication, I forgot the most important treatment. Thank goodness Chuck was there to catch my omission.

“Should we intubate?” he asked and I felt like an idiot.

Chuck shoved a tube past her soot-covered lips and into her windpipe.

As more fire trucks, and more important to our dilemma, manpower arrived, we screamed for a driver. With that driver we left, roaring for the hospital.

That night was a perfect storm of firefighters and paramedics combining with ER nurses, doctors and everyone else who was where they were supposed to be, doing what they were supposed to do that gave someone on the brink of death a shot at life. Chuck was a vital part of that chain.

We don’t usually hear how people turn out after we have our 30 or so life-or-death minutes with them but this time I can report that, after a long battle in the hospital our lady survived and was able to return to her life once again.

She’ll never remember or know what incredible events had to take place for her to live, nor will she likely ever know that one of people who helped her survive has left this world, but that isn’t why we do what we do. That isn’t why Chuck did what he did.

That she can continue living a normal life is the very reason we chose such a life in the fire service. The fire department was a better place having known Charles Robinson.

Goodbye, Chuckles. We all love you and miss you already.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

When is a name not really a word?

For my first blog, I felt it pertinent to discuss the name of my blog. I've chosen Epertase. How did I come up with Epertase you might ask. That's pretty easy. While those who know me, will recognize Epertase as the name of the fantasy novel that I am currently writing. Actually, it is THE LIGHT OF EPERTASE, but that's not really important right now. The real credit for Epertase goes to my now-four-year-old son, Aiden. When he was in the early stages of being able to talk... and talk... and talk, he used to enjoy building towers with his building blocks or whatever he could find to stack on top of each other. For some unknown reason, when we asked him what he was building, he would always say his Epertase.
At the time, I had just begun my epic fantasy novel and even with all of my creative juices flowing, could not come up with a name for the world I was creating. Meanwhile, Aiden was running around screaming "Epertase" all day and I was still stuck. This is the part where I would like to tell you about my genius epiphany, you know, the one where I came up with this wonderful name for my fantasy kingdom, even if it would have been a lift from my son's new-found vocabulary, but that wasn't so. No, instead it took my beautiful wife to explain to me the awesomeness (not sure she used that exact phrase) of Aiden's word.
Then it clicked. I ran to my computer and logged onto the google website and typed in "Epertase". That's right, I googled. You know what? Not a single entry for "Epertase". Google thought that I wanted to see a definition for expertise. That's as close as they could get to my kid's brilliant word. Pertuse, which means Punched; pierced with, or having, holes. Actually, that's a pretty cool word too.
So there you have it. My son named my book, my kingdom, and now my blog. But if anyone asks, I'm telling them it was all my idea. Heck, he's only four.