“Can I get some units over to three-seventeen north Oak for a full arrest? Caller says her husband was just clutching his chest and collapsed.” squawked the dispatcher over the radio.
Harry reached for his radio mic clipped to his left shoulder. “Twenty-five, I’m right down the street.” Harry reached down to the center console just under his in-car computer and flicked the switch, turning on his overhead emergency lights. He was close enough from the call that he didn’t need to turn on his siren. It wasn’t his beat but he was probably closer than the paper car. The fire department’s station was also right down the block so he knew they shouldn’t be long.
He turned right onto Oak and used his spotlight to see the addresses, looking to his right knowing that all the odd-numbered houses would be on the east side of the street. He found the house and parked his car about two houses down to leave room for the fire department and paramedics. He went to reach for his AED when he saw the red lights of the ambulance at the corner of the block so he decided to leave it in the car. He noticed a couple squad cars coming up the street from the other directions, one being his backup officer and the others being cars in the area who jumped on the call to make the night go by. Harry learned from his time on the job with Cottage Hill that when you see multiple cop cars lining the street, it’s likely that a bunch of bored cops jumped on another cop’s job or happened to be down the street from the call. Not everything was a news-worthy event.
He made his way up the recently shoveled walkway to the home as the icy wind bit his face and briefly knocked on the front door which had a wooden frame but the middle was entirely made from glass. He quickly opened the door and made his way inside, announcing “Cottage Hill Police” as he entered. He noticed how clean and tidy the home was. Clean hardwood floors, cozy white rugs in the side office, an entirely too expensive chandelier just above the door. He glanced at the family pictures that lined the wall of the staircase that landed in front of him.
“In here, officer!” shrieked the voice of a woman from the kitchen which was directly ahead of Harry through the hallway that continued under the stairs.
Harry made his way to the kitchen and saw no one and turned to see the blond hair of a woman popping up from behind the couch in the adjoining living room. He saw her with the phone in her hand, clutching it with white knuckles. The woman was kneeling beside a man on the ground. She was a heavy-set blond woman with a wool sweater and blue jeans. She looked up at Harry, pleading, and continued to repeat, “He just fell to the ground,” to the dispatcher on the phone rather than tell the police who were actually present. It was apparent the woman didn’t know how to do CPR as she had one hand on her husband’s chest, pushing him as if trying to wake him up.
“Ma’am,” said Harry.
She didn’t move. She was listening to the dispatcher’s voice, only hearing but not listening, as she was frozen staring down at the body of her husband.
“Ma’am!” Harry snapped.
The woman flinched and stared up at him.
“Sit on the couch,” he said, pointing to the cushion beside him. The woman slowly got to her feet and sat on the couch, the phone still glued to her ear.
Harry knelt down next to the man and saw he looked younger than sixty and in pretty good shape. The man’s glazed eyes stared up at the ceiling, no breath coming from his mouth, and his skin was already turning gray. Harry knew the man was already gone, but his wife didn’t.
He began CPR just as determined as he would on anyone else. He counted forty repetitions until the paramedics walked in the door with their new automatic CPR apparatus and took over. Harry knelt off to the side and took a deep breath, finally realizing just how hot he was as the sweat dripped from his brow. He looked over and saw the other officers who’d just arrived on scene begin ushering the frantic woman from the room. Not only because she was hovering over the husband like a hawk and nearly getting in the way but because they didn’t want her to see her husband being worked on. Even if he made it, that would be a scene that would scar her.
“There’s a side room with a couch just inside the front door to the right. Take her in there and have her sit down,” Harry huffed to the other officers, trying to catch his breath. He wasn’t in poor shape but he wasn’t in the best shape either. That and the adrenaline rush dumps energy at light speed.
The other officers ushered the woman out of the room and out of sight around the corner. He stood up and watched the man’s chest get pounded by the CPR machine so forcefully it looked like his chest plate could touch his spine on each compression. The medics loaded him onto a baseboard and the firefighters of the group each took a corner, lifting the board and placing it on the gurney, all while the CPR machine kept pumping. The medics began pushing the man out towards the front and Harry quickly shuffled towards the door to hold it open. As he passed the side room, he saw the woman look up at him and then quickly down at her husband as he was being wheeled out. Harry noticed, despite her excited state, her facial expression didn’t change as her eyes went from Harry down to her husband. He knew her emotions were genuine, but in some instances the lack thereof can be just as common. She continued telling the reporting officer, Jackson, about the man’s medical history and what led up to his collapse. He watched through the window as the firefighters and medics loaded the man into the ambulance, moving with a purpose.
He stood behind Jackson and his partner, Fitzsimmons, as they spoke with the wife, trying to get the information they needed for the report. Harry’s job on the scene was essentially done as there was no evidence and no need to tape things off as a crime scene. He listened to the woman as she talked about her husband’s good health, his love for going on walks with their dog, and how after walking in from the cold, began to scream, “My skin is like needles! Call 9-1-1! Call an ambulance!” before grabbing his chest and falling forward, crashing into an end table and tumbling down onto his back.
Jackson was scribbling notes in his small notebook while nodding his head. The woman, still clutching the phone in her hand, suddenly stopped and stared at the floor. Her mouth remained open and she slowly lifted her head to the officer. “My daughters,” she said.
“What about your daughters, ma’am?”
“T-they are out to eat right now.”
The officers were silent, unsure of how the topic changed to the woman’s daughters. Seeing the confused looks on the officers’ faces, the woman continued.
“My daughters are out to eat right now. They don’t know anything happened.”
“Would you like to call them?” the reporting officer asked.
“Um. I don’t know,” she said, glancing down at her shoes. “What do most people do in this type of situation?”
“Well,” Harry started, “some people like to call their family to give them a heads up but others like to tell them to come home first before they reveal anything. It’s your call, ma’am.”
The bloodshot eyes began to well up again. “I don’t-I don’t want my daughters driving knowing this. I don’t want them to freak out or anything and have to drive home. What if something happened to them?”
“That’s understandable,” Harry said. “Where are they now?”
“Why don’t you call them and tell them they need to come home. Don’t give them much information but tell them it’s imperative they come home.”
“Yeah, yeah. I should do that. I should do that.” The woman began tapping the screen of her iPhone. “Thank you, officer,” the woman looked up at him, pleading.
Harry nodded. She knew her family better than he did. She knew if her daughters would be too distraught to drive or not but she didn’t want the decision to be in her hands. Harry knew some people struggle with handling out of the ordinary situations, although a parent going to the hospital happens to everyone at some time or another but it can be a shock to the immediate family when it does. The woman knew what she was going to say to her daughters but Harry knew she just wanted the police to tell her what to do. It’s easier that way.
“How old are you daughters, ma’am?” asked the reporting officer.
“They’re nineteen and sixteen.”
Harry took a step back to see out the front glass door. The ambulance was pulling away with the firetruck behind it. As Jackson was talking to the frantic woman about whether or not she felt comfortable driving herself to the hospital or wanted a ride, Fitzsimmons relieved Harry with a blink and nod. Harry returned the nod and walked out the front door into the cold. He took a deep breath of the crisp dry air that burned his throat. He felt the sweat on his forehead freeze and he realized how hot he’d been in the house. He looked over and saw a middle aged woman with two dogs standing one house over, watching. People saw red and blue lights and always felt the need to walk their dogs, even if late at night, Harry noted.
Harry looked up at the few stars in the sky, some hidden because of clouds with most hidden because of the city lights blinding the sky. He could only count a handful. He heard the door open and close behind him and without turning, felt Jackson standing next to him.
“I just called the hospital,” started Jackson. “He’s DOA. Pronounced on the ride down.”
“Yeah, he didn’t look so good,” said Harry. “His skin was going gray when I got here.”
The two officers stood there quietly, listening to the sounds of traffic and the wind whistling through the trees.
“You need anything from me?” asked Harry.
“No, we’re good. We’re gonna give her a ride to the hospital. She’s too worked up to drive. Can’t blame her. I’d be the same way if my wife dropped like that. She told the kids to meet her at the hospital.”
“Roger that,” said Harry. He briefly met Jackson’s eyes and nodded. He turned and began walking towards his car. As he opened the door and sat inside, he was happy he left the car on, feeling the heat warm his body.
He sat there for a moment and the thought hit him. This would be a day that family would remember forever. The day a wife lost her husband. The day two teenage girls lost their young father. The day a family lost a pillar. Harry looked down at the dashboard, the blue lights staring back at him. He wondered how the girls would take the news. The man wasn’t much older than him and Harry’s kids were around the same age as the woman’s daughters. He wondered how his kids would take it.
Harry put his foot on the brake, cranked on the gear shift to put the car in drive, and made himself available for the next call.