By Michael Morse
She sat across the room, 10, maybe 15, feet away. I don’t think she was aware that I was aware of her and her condition. Last week she told me that her due date was two days away, which made her five days overdue.
She was uncomfortable, and so was I. I couldn’t relax. The checklist in my head continued to grow:
Scalpel? Ha ha.
Bulb syringe? Oh boy.
Every time she moved or grimaced, I envisioned a little fella straining to escape. I recalled the last overdue lady who was in my care. “There is no way you are having this baby now,” I told her, seconds before the crown appeared.
I figured, What’s the worst that could happen? Babies have been born since women have existed, and nine or so months prior to that, I think. There were tablecloths and kitchen knives, sturdy string and my own breath, if needed. I could do this.
I didn’t have to, but knowing that I could is one of those gifts that my firefighting career gave me.
* * *
He waved to me, and I waved back, marveling at the idea of an 83-year-old guy pushing a lawnmower. Whenever I drove or walked the dog past his house, I made sure to look over and make sure things were in order. There was a pattern to the way he and his wife lived, and over the years I learned to notice when things were out of place. They never were, but you never know. I liked knowing that he knew that I kept an eye on things. He worried about his wife, mostly; she wasn’t well. 911 was just a phone call away, and help would arrive in less than 10 minutes, but he also knew that a lot of the time I was there and could be there in less than 60 seconds.
“This is my neighbor, the fireman,” he would say to his sons whenever I happened to cross paths with them, and we would shake hands and then I would go on my way, knowing that my neighbor’s family worried a little less because “the fireman” lived close by.
I hope they never need me, but it is a wonderful feeling knowing that if they do, I’ll know what to do.
* * *
There are a lot of out-of-shape people in the place I call the gym, and they don’t work out all that hard. I don’t either anymore. I spend half an hour on the elliptical, then another half hour lifting free weights; over the years the weights have dwindled and the free space on the bar has grown, but what the heck, I’m still there!
I keep an eye on the folks there, subconsciously mostly, and know exactly where the defibrillator is. I think my CPR card has expired, but that’s okay; it’s kind of like riding one of those stationary bikes that the older folks like to use: You never forget how. I keep up to date on the latest information from the Red Cross and know enough not to hurt anybody should the need arise.
I hope it never does, but if it does ….
We take far more than a pension with us when we leave the fire service.
Michael Morse recently retired from his position as captain, Rescue Co. 5, with the Providence (RI) Fire Department after 23 years. He lives a few miles from his old station with his wife, Cheryl, a couple of Maine Coon cats and their dog, Mr. Wilson. He writes about his experiences as a firefighter/EMT in his books, Rescuing Providence and Responding, and contributes articles to many fire/EMS-related publications.