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SEAL PARAMEDIC

Sunday March 15th 2009 - 11:02 AM EST
Added by: Don Shipley



I entered the IHOP Restaurant around 6:00am and my ass was dragging after a very busy night in Virginia Beach. As wore out from a tough night as I was, the call that came over the radio was as serious as they come, “Code Red,” and a strange calm that always came over me in emergencies “sunk in.”  
The second I walked in the place I knew this “Code” was going to SUCK in a BIG way, and that the “Suck” would go on for hours.

It was a one of my strangest, but also a “hits close to home” type call I had being a Paramedic…

I’d been a SEAL for about 10 years and we lived in Virginia. I was painting a shitty cabin cruiser fishing boat I had and watched my 3-year-old daughter get run over by a truck in our driveway. A terrible accident with horrible injuries, she was revived from cardiac arrest three times by Paramedics before the Nightingale helo got her to a Trauma Center.  

18 now and getting ready to graduate, she has no marks, no scars, and no memory of it at all…

As SEALs, we were taught in-depth medical skills, but all skills were based on dealing with a very big Navy SEAL who had been shot. My daughter was three…

I requested a new EMT course that SEALs were being sent to, and after graduating a short time later I requested Paramedic school.
A 13-week accelerated course of nothing but eat, study, and sleep Paramedic, I became SEAL Teams first ever non-corpsman (Medic) to graduate the Paramedic NIGHTMARE of written and practical testing.  

During the ENDLESS classroom and hospital work, our weekends were spent as a “Nug” running rescue calls under supervision in some of the worst areas of the surrounding cities.

I drew the WORST area you could draw…  

In crisp Paramedic pants and shiny boots, I was forced to wear an emblazoned collard shirt that signified I was a “Trainee” and knew NOTHING about ANYTHING.
Arriving for duty at 8am on a Saturday, I had just enough time to shake hands with the Paramedics I’d spend the next 12 hours with when the “Bell” went off and we were in route to my first call as a Paramedic Trainee…

Getting out of the back of the ambulance when we arrived, I figured out FAST we weren’t in Kansas anymore. This was a bad neighborhood.

A WALL of FUNK hit me as I walked through the front door of the dimly lit shithole and in front of me laid an emaciated old man on the floor with his shorts around his ankles.
I said nothing being a Nug and just looked and listened to the experienced Paramedic handling the call.

The old guy wore a filthy tank top tee shirt and was supporting his head with one arm as a pillow and was facing us. Each question asked by the seasoned Paramedics was answered a bit incoherently and he began rambling about his money being stolen.

I never took my eyes off the guy lying there trying to determine what was wrong with him by looking and listening intently…  I was there to LEARN…

Within a couple minutes of questioning the guy, one of the Paramedics asked, “Sir… Where’s your Penis?”

“I ain’t got one” came the raspy response, and my eyes shifted to his crotch where he laid in a pool of blood and I realized he had no penis.

I’d been looking this guy up and down since we arrived, from head to toe… but in the dimly lit room and untrained eye, I just never noticed anything… Hard to believe a pool of blood and I didn’t notice it…

I had honestly thought afterwards that with the rambling “my money, my money” thing, that he’d been robbed and the bad guys had ripped it off with pliers or something.

We called the hospital later to see how he was doing. He had died we were told and that he had cancer and just allowed his penis to rot off. He had opened the large infected wound that day to urinate and began bleeding.

Not long after graduating Paramedic, I deployed to Liberia with a SEAL Squad, when the Liberians got drunk again and began cutting off each others heads and shooting up the American Embassy. (You can read about Liberia on my website section “SEAL Blog”)

It seemed strange that after all those years in SEAL Team, the most rewarding thing I’d done and the highest decoration I’d received, was for saving lives on a burning merchant ship as a SEAL Platoon Chief/Paramedic.

Back home a few months later I began the long process of becoming a qualified Paramedic in the largest all volunteer rescue squad in the Nation… Virginia Beach.

I worked alongside a Paramedic as a trainee, until he decided I was ready to be “released” and could go it alone. My release came a few weeks later when we were called to an “Accident with Injuries.”

Around 2 am on a Saturday night we arrived on scene to an overturned car on a busy boulevard. Opening the Zone Car door, I could hear the screaming immediately. On my knees, I looked inside and could see each seat contained a very large young lady; all were still hanging from their seat belts upside down; all were badly hurt…

They looked like movie stars on the red carpet the way they were all dressed. Decked out in their best clothes, they had obviously just left a nightclub.
After they were extricated from the vehicle, I did a good job treating and quickly getting them off-scene to a trauma center. My papers were signed that night; my next shift would be on my own…

SEAL Team TWO was great supporting me. I’d finish work at the Team around 4pm and a couple times a week I’d begin a 12-hour shift at the largest Fire Station in the city from 6pm to 6am.

I checked my gear in the Zone Car, picked up a radio, called in that my station was manned and ready, and received an immediate call back for a Cardiac Arrest a few blocks from the station.

My first call as a released Paramedic would be an attempt to revive a dead person…

I found the mother lying on the floor and her daughter was doing chest compressions. The daughter quickly explained that she was a nurse, the mother had a history of heart problems, and that she had not ventilated the mother who had aspirated. (Thrown Up)  

With the ambulance a few minutes behind me I grabbed my defibulator and shocked her chest.  Nothing…

I shocked her again at a higher power… Nothing…

I shocked her a third time at the highest setting allowed and got a pulse.

I intubated her giving much needed oxygen and started an IV line giving drugs to keep her heart going.

She walked out of the hospital a few weeks later.

Having worked DOZENS of Cardiac Arrests since then, she was the only person I ever treated who survived one. The daughter gets the credit for the chest compressions she was giving before I arrived that saved mom. Luckily I was only a few minutes away, and a few minutes are all someone has when they arrest.

I deployed as Platoon Chief of Golf Platoon at Team TWO spending much time in Bosnia and would visit a refugee camp treating the sick and injured and passing out candy to the kids with a couple other SEALs.

Returning home, I began running rescue again and became “seasoned” and saw some extremely strange things.

I rarely got a wink of sleep during my shifts, as the station stayed very busy all night. Payday nights, weekends, full moon, and especially a hot, muggy night, something interesting would always happen.

I responded to a stabbing one hot night.

Walking through the door I couldn’t help but notice a very dead guy lying on the floor with a Buck Knife protruding from his chest that had been shoved into his heart by a neighbor.

BLASTING his music, he answered a knock on the door where the neighbor stabbed him and then went home.  He never moved an inch and just fell straight over dead.
While that was strange enough, his girlfriend’s reaction was even stranger. A beautiful woman, she was sitting on a couch looking at him with her legs crossed and nonchalantly smoking a cigarette.
Before I could even say a word or ask a question, she yelled, “GET THAT DEAD MOTHERF**KER OUTTA HERE…”

A less than loving relationship I guess…

I did a lot of good and was steadily paying back a debt of gratitude for those who saved my daughter. Being a Paramedic was very rewarding and I had a great bedside manner.

I responded to a Cardiac Arrest one day to a yard full of concerned neighbors and a frantic, screaming, throwing herself on the ground woman, who turned out to be the daughter of the woman in arrest.
Going into the bedroom of the older woman, she was clearly dead and had been for a couple days.

She was in bed with her comfortable covers pulled to her neck and lying on her side facing a small TV on her dresser as “The Price is Right” with Bob Barker played.

Her body had begun to decompose with a dark fluid from her mouth that stained her pillow. The daughter found her and FREAKED with guilt.

“I SHOULD HAVE CALLED HER, I SHOULD HAVE CHECKED ON HER, SHE SUFFERED, IT’S ALL MY FAULT…”

Seeing her elderly mother like that with the fluid, she believed her mother had suffered an agonizing death and imagined her calling for help needing her daughter who never came.

I pried her off a caring neighbor in the yard and stopped her screaming…

“LISTEN TO ME…LISTEN TO ME… Your mother died watching her favorite TV show, your mother simply went to sleep and died peacefully. Nothing was your fault… NOTHING…”

She looked me hard in the eyes for a moment making sure I wasn’t lying to her. When she realized I wasn’t, she dropped her head and walked away without saying a word, but I could sense a huge burden of guilt had just been lifted.  

I’ve seen so many people take their last breath and my face was the last face they saw before closing their eyes for the final time.

Tragic accidents with kids, simple allergic reactions that turned deadly at dinner for a father, waking in the morning to the person you’ve slept beside for 50 years, who died in their sleep, drunk drivers and gunshot wounds… I had seen a lot in those years.

I retired from the Navy and deployed with Blackwater, before their name turned to mud, and found time to treat Afghan Bedouins when we’d train in the desert they lived in. They’d recognize the vehicle I’d drive, and would line up waiting to show me a cut finger or infected foot that needed cleaned and bandaged.  

I was teaching a booby trap course to some cops in Las Vegas once and witnessed a very old man with a bucket of quarters in a Casino violently fall down an escalator spilling his money and got badly hurt on the metal stairs.
Keeping people away from his money that spilled and treating his beaten frame until medics arrived, I was asked for my room number and much personal information by hotel staff.
I figured they were going to comp me a free room or something for what I’d done for the old guy. Turns out, they wanted my information in case of a lawsuit and it pissed me off.  

The first thing that struck me dumb in the IHOP Restaurant wasn’t the fact that there was a dead guy on the floor, it was the fact that most people were still eating breakfast and the cooks were calling out orders as if nothing was happening.

An older man, he’d gone into Cardiac Arrest while eating breakfast and collapsed.

I began treating him while patrons circled me, and many had a plate of food just standing and watching. Treating a “Code” is a pretty brutal thing to watch. The tearing open his shirt and shocking, the intravenous lines, the intubation, the chest compressions, and just the blue facial color and vomit of someone in arrest makes the scene ghastly to watch.  

Having no luck reviving him, we quickly moved him to an ambulance and continued a monumental attempt to save him while his wife rode with us and I could tell they had been together for many years by her reaction.

She was very calm, and a calm I had seen many times before with couples that had spent a life together. She knew it was over and had known for many years that the ride would end sometime for one of them.

I was standing with her when the doctor pronounced him dead and the first thing she did was to calmly thank me for helping him. She was devastated, but never shed a tear.  

It hit close to home for me being married for so many years and I knew either my wife or myself would be standing where she was standing one day.

With the Virginia Beach and Norfolk area being home to the largest Navy Base in the World, I asked her if he’d been a Sailor many years before.

Looking me straight in the eyes she proudly said, “No son… He was a Paratrooper…”




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