Jim loved their new house. He loved everything about it. He loved the traditional lines, the traditional color – white with dark trim and shutters – he loved where it was. He loved that there was so much room for him and Bones and Jo. Most of all, and most importantly, he loved that it was their house. He and Bones bought it together. It was theirs, in a way that the apartment hadn't been. Although Jim never, ever felt like he wasn't home when he moved into the apartment with them – years ago now…he'd joined them there.
This house, though…this was something they chose together, as a family. They bought it together, they had both names on the paperwork, and money from both of them was used in the down payment.
It was a great house. And it was theirs, together.
It was home.
They'd moved in a month ago, and were pretty settled in already. Some rooms were still bare, and it would take a while to finish completely furnishing the much bigger space. But the rooms they lived in the most felt inviting, warm and comfortable.
They were also still learning about their house…and last night, during a rare down pour, they learned that there was a small leak in the roof over the dining room. The house was a two-story house, but the dining room was in a section of the house that didn't have any rooms above it, so while the roof was pretty high and slanted, it wasn't as high as some other sections.
Bones had said not to, that he would call a roofer, but it was supposed to rain again tonight, and the roofer couldn't come until Monday, and he didn't have anything else to do this Saturday, so….
Jim carefully placed a ladder in the flower bed outside of the dining room. He made sure it was securely in place against the eaves, then quickly climbed the rungs, carrying a plastic bag containing a tarp and some waterproof tape, and stepped gingerly onto the roof.
Not one to suffer from a fear of heights, he hadn't thought twice about climbing up there to perform this quick, temporary fix. But now that he was actually on the roof, and looking up the incline he would have to traverse to get to where the leak was, he found he had to take a steadying breath before he could straighten and let go of the ladder. The edge of the roof was only about ten or eleven feet off the ground, but he'd be walking up to a point much higher than that.
Once he felt steady, he made his way up the roof, feeling more confident as his sneakers provided good traction on the tiles with each step. When he was pretty sure he was at the point where the leak was, he took out the blue tarp and shook it open. He planned to cover a large enough area so that even if his guess was a little off, it should still be protected by the plastic. As he started to spread the tarp out, the bag hanging from his wrist was an annoyance. The weight of the roll of tape caused it to swing in his way, and between the bag and the slight breeze that kicked up every now and then, it was difficult to get the tarp down smoothly.
This is really a two-person job, Jim thought. But he'd have to work around it. There's no way Bones would be able to help him with this. Crouching down, he fumbled with the bag, trying to get the tape out without letting go of the tarp.
"Oh, come on," he mumbled. Frustrated, Jim put a knee down on the tarp to hold it in place so he could use both hands…
…and then he was sliding. The smooth tarp slipped a few inches under his weight. Startled by the movement, Jim threw his weight backwards, bringing his back in contact with the roof, and registering a pulled feeling in his thigh as he stretched tendons and muscles that didn't normally have that much give. His hands hit the tiles helplessly, automatically looking for something to grab on to, though nothing was there.
Staying still for a second, breathing hard, he looked around as he assessed the situation. The position he was in was uncomfortable, but he wasn't sure how he could get himself out of it. The incline of the roof was steep enough that he needed the traction of his sneakers to keep him upright, and there wasn't anything to hold on to and brace himself against in order to get back up.
"Damn it!" Annoyed with himself, he could practically hear Bones telling him he shouldn't have been up there in the first place. "Okay…okay…just take it slow," he murmured. He could do this, he just couldn't let himself get freaked out. He slowly shifted his weight forward onto the foot that was still on the roof tiles. He started to push himself up, and started sliding again.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck." He continued to slide forward, and he wasn't able to stop his momentum. Desperate, he pushed himself backward again, despite the strain in his leg, but it didn't help. His knee finally slipped off the slick tarp, but then dragged over the tile, and without anything to hold on to, his inertia pitched him forward.
Falling forward with cry, he threw his hands out to brace himself, hit the roof face first, then rolled. He scrabbled at the tile, tearing his nails but not noticing that damage. The only thing he could think to do was try to turn his body so he didn't hit the ground head first. Screaming again, for several frightening seconds he was in the air, the sky the only thing he could see, and then he hit the ground hard, left shoulder and leg taking the brunt of fall.
With a sickening pop! Jim heard as much as he felt, pain ripped through his shoulder and side, and the wind was knocked out of him completely. Laying there, struggling for breath, he rolled slightly onto his back. His eyes teared with the pain in his shoulder as he gasped like a fish out of water, desperate for a full breath.
Leonard was folding clothes in the living room when he heard Jim's scream. Startled, he dropped what he was doing. That was not a sound he wanted to hear…ever.
"Jim! Jim, where are you?"
Thinking it came from outside, he bolted out the front door, scanned the front yard and then ran around the side, and his heart nearly stopped at the sight that greeted him. One glance at the ladder and the tarp that was half-hanging off the roof, and he knew exactly what had happened.
"Jim! Jim! Oh, god…ok…you'll be ok…" He dropped to his knees beside Jim. "No, no…don't move. Don't turn your head."
"Bones," Jim wheezed. "Fuck, it hurts."
"What Darlin'? What hurts? Don't…don't move your head, Jim," Leonard said again. He placed a hand on Jim's forehead to remind him to be still. He felt panicky, his heart pounding, and he realized his hands were shaking. Taking a deep breath, he blew it out slowly, and made a conscious effort to put "doctor" in front of "loved one".
"My shoulder," Jim groaned. "And my side. Hurts to breathe."
"You got your wind knocked out of ya good, didn't you Darlin'?" Terrified that there might be a serious neck or spine injury, he reached down and put his fingers in Jim's right hand. "Can you squeeze my fingers?"
"Yeah," Jim did, and Leonard relaxed minutely.
"How about your left?"
"No, ow, oh, fuck, don't touch me please," Jim said between clenched teeth. He squeezed his eyes closed and held his breath, waiting for the pain to recede slightly. Despite his words, he did manage to exert slight pressure on Leonard's fingers. "What's wrong with me?" he asked, when he managed to get the breath.
"I think you might've dislocated your shoulder. Painful, but not serious. Can you move your feet?"
"Yeah," Jim said, and he demonstrated.
Leonard felt himself relax slightly. "Hang in there, Jim. Be still, okay. Don't move," he said calmly, fumbling to pull his cellphone out of his pocket.
"Okay," he coughed slightly, then groaned in pain. "Ow, oh…that hurt."
Leonard pressed his lips together when he saw a little blood on Jim's lips. Not good.
"You bite your tongue when you fell?" he asked
"No, I did that when I hit the roof face first," Jim said wryly. "Who're you calling?" He added, catching sight of the phone in Bones' hand.
Leonard hesitated, not sure how Jim would take this. "9-1-1," he replied. "We need to get you to the hospital."
Jim felt his heart jump into his throat and his eyes widened. "What? No…Bones…" He tried to shift slightly, gasping in pain as he did, the muscles in his left arm twitching in response, and Leonard dropped the phone to use both hands to keep Jim's head still.
"Jim please, please don't move. Don't try to get up. If you landed on your side hard enough to dislocate your shoulder, you could've hurt your neck or spine in a way that we can't tell. You need to stay still. And you're not breathing right."
"It hurts to breathe," he admitted. "Hurts on the left side."
"Well, you maybe damaged your ribs, too. Jesus, Jim," Leonard said, looking around for the phone he dropped, desperate to call for help.
Jim grimaced. "I know…I should've listened to you."
Leonard agreed, but now was not the time. "That doesn't even matter Jim. All that I care about is that you're okay."
"Hey…you guys all right over there?" Another man's voice from the sidewalk caught Leonard's attention. He looked up and recognized their new neighbor they'd met a couple of times, and who seemed nice enough.
"No…we need help!" Leonard called back. The man jogged over to them.
"What can I do?" he asked, picking up the phone Leonard had been trying to find.
"Call 9-1-1. I'll tell you what to say," Leonard replied, gesturing to the device in his hand.
"Bones, please," Jim said again, distress in his voice. "I don't need an ambulance. Just…let me get up and you can drive me. I'm okay." Leonard reached to take Jim's hand on his uninjured side and held it tightly, keeping the other on his forehead to keep him from moving.
Leonard knew this was something Jim dreaded, but there was nothing for it. "Jim, yes, you're probably mostly fine. But you fell from a pretty good height, and you fell hard. We can't risk it if there's something more serious wrong." He leaned over to bring his lips close to Jim's ear. "I know you're scared, but I need you to trust me. Okay?"
Jim swallowed hard and closed his eyes. "Okay," he whispered back.
The neighbor – whose name Leonard couldn't remember – had called for help and given the address, and now was looking at Leonard for what to say.
"Thirty-one year old male fell approximately 10 or 11 feet off a roof," Leonard paused while that information was repeated. "Dislocated shoulder, possible neck or spinal injury, airway is clear, but breathing is painful, possible internal bleeding – "
"I just bit my tongue," Jim mumbled. Leonard ignored him. That could very well be true, but there was blood – they had to know why.
"Patient is alert and responsive, and tell them there's a doctor on scene," Leonard finished.
"They'll be right here," the neighbor said. "Can I do anything else to help?"
"Rob," the man filled in.
"Rob." Leonard said, and hesitated. He needed his wallet and keys and to lock the house. And he wasn't leaving Jim. But he didn't know this guy.
"Bones," Jim said, sounding a little breathless. "Don't let them do anything to me."
"Hey…you're going to be fine, Jim…" he paused as he noticed that Jim had started shaking slightly. Over the years Jim had, for the most part, learned to deal with his phobia when he was in a controlled, predictable medical setting. But this situation was obviously too much for him. Wanting him to stay as calm as possible, Leonard leaned down to speak to him quietly again. "I got 'ya, Darlin'. I'm staying right here. I'm not leaving and no one's going to do anything to you that you don't agree to. I promise, you hear me? This is not you as a child, Jim," Leonard continued, referring to the event that had had such an impact on Jim when he was a boy, it followed him right into adulthood.
"Yeah," Jim said quietly, gripping his hand so tightly. "Just…don't let me go."
"I won't, Jim. I won't."
Straightening up, he turned to Rob who was still standing there, and Leonard realized he could hear sirens in the distance. There was nothing for it. He'd just have to trust him. "Could you go into the house and get my wallet and keys? They're both on the table by the door. And could you lock the front door?"
"Sure, one sec," Rob replied. He ran towards the front of the house to do as he was asked.
"What about Jo?" Jim asked.
Leonard had thought of that. She was with Janie and Aurelan for the day, so he wasn't immediately concerned about her. "They're not even supposed to be back till tonight. We'll give them a call a little later."
Jim's grip tightened on Leonard when the ambulance audibly turned onto their street. It came to a stop on the street by them, and before Leonard knew it, two paramedics were there with them, carrying their equipment, including a backboard.
They joined Leonard, where he knelt with Jim, placing their equipment and bags down within easy reach.
"I'm Randy," the older, bald paramedic said. "This is my partner, Paul. What happened here?"
"He landed on his side from the roof," Leonard said. "I think his shoulder is dislocated."
"Did you move him?" Randy asked.
Leonard shook his head. "No, he rolled on to his back on his own. I found him just like this."
Paul leaned over Jim, and began digging through his bag as Randy moved the backboard so it was down a couple of feet away from Jim.
"You the doctor?" Randy asked as Rob jogged back over to them.
"Yeah," Leonard affirmed. "Thanks, Rob. I appreciate it," he said as he accepted his keys and wallet.
"No problem. I hope everything turns out okay," Rob replied. As focused as he was on Jim, Leonard didn't even respond as Rob moved away from them.
"Doc, you comfortable holding C-spine while we get him stabilized?" Randy asked.
"Yeah, no problem. Jim, I'm going to move around to your head," he said, pulling free of Jim's grasp on his hand. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Okay," Jim said nervously. "But why? I'm okay, right? I can move my feet and..."
"Just a precaution, Darlin'," Leonard replied soothingly as he firmly cradled Jim's head in his hands from his new position to keep him from moving. He looked down into Jim's eyes and smiled slightly, doing his best to project the calm he knew Jim needed to see. "We just want to make sure there's nothing seriously wrong, and until we can know for sure, we need to keep you still."
With Jim temporarily stabilized, Randy left to get something from the ambulance, and Paul leaned over Jim, a penlight in his hand as he checked his pupillary reflexes. "Sir, can you tell me your name and where you are?"
"Jim. I'm at home," he said. "I'm fine."
"You're a little banged up Jim, but you will be fine. We're going to pack you up and take you to the hospital. Can you tell me what year it is?"
Jim answered all the questions unhesitatingly as Paul checked his head for signs of damage, but Leonard wasn't surprised. Jim had been completely lucid with him the whole time.
As they worked, going through some of the same things Leonard had already done, Leonard could feel and see that Jim was calming slightly, the trembling that shook his body initially fading away, his voice becoming steadier as he spoke.
Having measured Jim's neck by using his hand as a reference, Randy came back carrying something Jim couldn't quite make out from his angle on the ground.
"What's that?" he asked as Randy knelt back down beside them.
"Jim, this is a collar we're going to put on your neck to protect your spine. It might feel a bit weird, but it shouldn't hurt."
"No, I don't need that. I'm fine," Jim protested, eyes wide. "Bones…"
"It's okay, Jim. It's just going to do the same thing I am, so I can have my hands back. It's just a splint to keep you still," Leonard said. He removed his hands, and before Jim could say "no" again, Randy was fastening the c-spine collar around his neck.
Jim clenched his jaw and tried to control his breathing, but it immediately felt too hot and tight, and he felt trapped. And he flashed back to that child waking up in pain, being surrounded by adults he didn't know, and not being able to move…the remembered pain and fear crowded out the self-control he was desperately trying to maintain, and his bottom lip trembled as he started shaking again.
Leonard was saying something to him, squeezing his hand tightly, but Jim was quickly moving beyond the ability to listen and keep calm. The claustrophobic feeling that the collar caused was exacerbated by the pain he felt in his ribs every time he breathed. Something else was wrong…he could feel it.
Opening his eyes, Jim found Leonard looking down at him, and pleaded with him, "B-Bones, Bones…I can't have this on…I can't, please!" He stopped, swallowing hard and squeezing his eyes closed again as he shuddered. "I don't need it, I'll stay still. Please take it off!"
"Sir, after a fall like that, we need to protect your spine," Randy said calmly. "You're doing fine."
"No, please... no... God, no... take it off... please..." Jim's breathing was becoming more labored, shallow and rapid.
Paul slipped a hand down to his wrist and his eyes told Leonard exactly how tachycardic Jim was becoming. "Sir, you need to calm down."
If anything, Jim's expression became more frantic. "I can't... I can't breathe. Please..."
Resisting the urge to panic at Jim's distress, Leonard met Paul's eyes and ordered, "Get it off him. Now."
At a quick nod from Randy, Paul reached over and undid the velcro on the collar, carefully lifting it away. Instantly, Jim gulped air in great gasping breaths, wincing with pain from his ribs, but too relieved to be able to breathe again to stop.
"Shh, easy there Darlin'," Leonard said softly, holding Jim's hand tightly and staying focused on those blue eyes, wide and frightened. "You're okay, just take regular breaths."
Jim closed his eyes as they watered, with it enough to be embarrassed by the tears that tracked down the sides of his face, but unable to hold them back.
"It's okay, Jim, you're okay," Leonard said again, placing a gentle hand on his chest. He looked up at the paramedic who'd taken over holding Jim's head still. "He's dealing with a phobia of anything medical, and I think this is too much like what started that all up in the first place."
Paul and Randy both gave a sympathetic look, and Randy said, "I understand, but we can't transport him without doing something to protect his c-spine."
Paul thought a moment, then suggested, "If we can hold manual stabilization until we get him on the backboard, we can pad him with towel rolls. It won't be ideal, but it should be enough."
Leonard nodded. "That would be better, I think. How 'bout you, Jim?" he asked, trying to keep him involved and feeling like he had some say as to what was happening.
"I don't want to... to do any of this. God... please, just let me up."
"I promise you," Randy said to Jim, "we're going to take care of you the way we'd take care of our own brother. But you need to relax. Can you breathe easy for us?"
"Jim, I'm going to hold your head so the guys can work, okay Darlin'? You just keep looking right at me."
"Yeah," Jim agreed as Leonard took his place, distracting Jim until Paul began snipping his way up his t-shirt with a pair of scissors. He tensed as his shirt opened under the blades.
"Why are you doing that? Bones…what is he doing?" Jim asked, flashing back to the feeling of violation as strangers cut his clothes of him, hands moving over his body, when he was a child. His shook as his heart pounded, making him pant shallowly.
Leonard knew, though. He knew what Jim would be thinking about, and looked down into his eyes, hating the fear he saw there. "Jim, they need to splint your shoulder and check your ribs, and before they do that, they need to see it." It was painful to see Jim so frightened, but they needed to do this. Jim had been sweating – a reaction from the pain and stress he'd been feeling – but now goosebumps raised on his arms and other exposed skin as Paul gently worked his shirt off. Though he'd been pale earlier, now Jim was flushed in his face and down his neck.
"Easy there, Darlin'," Leonard murmured. "You're okay."
Jim didn't answer, but he raised his right arm to Leonard and needing contact, gripped one of Leonard's arms as he held his head. He lay quietly, trembling, keeping his eyes on Leonard. His breathing, though faster than normal, wasn't strained. Leonard watched as Randy worked over Jim's lower body, looking for damage to the lower limbs and removing Jim's sneakers.
"Anything hurt down here, Jim?" he asked.
"I... I don't think so," Jim said, eyes darting frantically back and forth between Leonard's face and the paramedic who was out of his field of vision anyway.
"That's good. Wiggle your toes for me? Can you feel me touching your feet?"
"Yes... yes, I can... ow, fuck!"
The younger medic had begun palpitating across Jim's ribs, and Leonard re-focused on that to see a massive bruise already blossoming across Jim's chest. "I'm sorry about that, sir. I needed to check your ribs," Paul said.
"Mission... accomplished... ouch," Jim gasped.
"Are you still having trouble breathing?" Paul looked over at Randy, who was grabbing a sling and some padding.
"It's not exactly easy," he replied. Jim tried to look down to see what was happening, eyes wide and frantic at the sight of the materials Randy had in his hands. "Please... please just... I don't need you guys to do this. Bones will take care of it. He's a doctor. It's okay. It's okay..."
"Jim," Leonard said firmly, forcing Jim to look up at him. "You need to do this. It is going to be okay, but we need to take care of you. They're just taking care of you, and I'm staying right here. I know it's hard, but please, Darlin', try to relax."
"I can't, I can't," Jim pled. "It's too much, Bones…"
They were cut off as Randy began working the sling as gently as possible around Jim's arm. Jim whimpered in pain each time the movement caused his shoulder to shift, but after a minute, his arm seemed to be fairly well immobilized.
"We really need to get him moving," Paul said softly to Leonard, but without room for debate. "He's starting to show possible signs of shock. The tachycardia might be nerves, but we shouldn't risk it, especially if his breathing is compromised. We need to get him on the backboard. Have you log-rolled a patient before?"
"Not for years," Leonard said.
"Well, with his c-spine unsecured, we're going to need more than just me and Paul," Randy said.
"I can do it," Leonard replied. "But one of you hold his head."
Randy nodded and traded places with Leonard. Once in position, Leonard looked down at Jim. "Hey Darlin', we're gonna have to move you here, okay? I promise we'll be as careful as possible, but it's going to hurt a bit because of your shoulder."
"I can move myself..."
"Sir," Paul cut in, "All you need to do is relax, and we'll do all the work, okay? We're going to roll you onto your uninjured side and slide the board underneath." Then he looked up at Randy. "You've got the head, so we'll move on your count."
Randy nodded his approval. "Okay, one, two, three!"
Jim screamed. Leonard's blood ran cold at the sound. "Set him down!"
The backboard was barely under Jim's shoulder, and his face had taken on a sudden pallor, a sickly gray-green. "I can't... I can't... oh God... my shoulder... ribs... it hurts..." He was gasping shallowly. "I think I'm gonna throw up."
"No you're not, Darlin'," Leonard said quickly. He didn't want that. "Take some deep breaths, slow. That's good. You're okay. You're not going to throw up. Breathe, that's it."
As the pain receded, Jim's color got a little better, and he swallowed. "Still feel a little sick," he murmured. "But I'm not gonna throw up."
"Good Darlin', that's good," Leonard replied.
Randy looked at Leonard, then down at Jim. "Okay, plan B. We're going to give you some pain meds before we move you. Paul, you get him on some O2 and I'll get the supplies."
Leonard and Randy traded places again, Leonard once more cradling Jim's head. He rubbed his thumbs across Jim's forehead soothingly.
"They're going to what?" Jim asked. "Bones... no... I don't want drugs. Please, no drugs. What if I'm allergic? What if..."
"You know I know your allergies, Jim," he said calmly. Looking up at Randy as he returned from the ambulance, Leonard said, "He's not allergic to fentanyl. He's had it before."
"That's fine," Randy said. "That's what I've got here."
Jim flinched in surprise as Paul reached over and settled a mask on his face.
"Just keep breathing, sir. It's just oxygen. Should make it a bit easier with your ribs hurting like that."
"I don't like it," Jim said, muffled. His eyes found Leonard's, begging to be released. The moisture from his breath was fogging up the mask. "Bones..."
"I'm here, Jim. I'm here, and I'm not going to leave you."
"Please let me get up. I just need to... to go back... to the house. You can fix my shoulder. I knew a guy... a guy in high school... with a trick shoulder. It would pop out. He'd just pop it back in. You can do that to me. It'll be fine. Please... please, Bones..."
Leonard cast a glance up at Randy, who was prepping the IV equipment, and seemed to be just about ready. He gave Randy a quick nod, then looked back down at Jim. "Darlin', listen to me. You don't have a trick shoulder. You have a shoulder that got crunched into the ground because you fell off the roof, and I'm not an orthopedist. You've got some ribs that are badly bruised if not broken. And you could have a spinal injury."
"I don't... what is he doing?" Jim yanked his hand away as Randy swabbed it with alcohol.
"He needs to start an IV, Jim. You've done that before. No big deal, right?" Leonard said. Not looking happy about it, but at least not fighting, Jim allowed Randy access to his hand. "We're going to get you to the hospital, and we're going to try to do it with as little pain as possible. To do that, Randy here is gonna give you some pain meds."
"Little pinch," Randy said as he slid the IV start into Jim's hand.
Jim flinched, but he didn't flail. Randy nodded that the start was successful, and Leonard relaxed a bit.
"That's good, Jim. That's real good. And this is going to be nothing like what happened before, okay? It's an injury. We'll get you to the hospital, get you patched up, and you'll come home."
"I'm already home."
"You're on the ground in your front yard, Darlin', and you know you're hurtin' too much to roll over for yourself, much less get to the house. And you know I'm right." Leonard glanced up again to see Randy starting the fentanyl push.
"I just wanted to fix the roof," Jim mumbled behind the mask.
Leonard smiled slightly. "I know."
"The pain should be getting better any second, Jim. How are you doing with that?"
"It hurts like hell," Jim said.
"This will take care of that, Jim. It's a short-acting drug. Just long enough to get you to the hospital." As Leonard watched, some of the strained lines of tension and pain on Jim's face started to relax. "That's better, Darlin'. Much better." He looked over at the two paramedics. "Ready."
"It won't hurt as much this time, Jim." Then, as he stayed at Jim's head, he counted to the paramedics, who had positioned themselves to move Jim, "One, two, three."
Jim let out a tight whine of discomfort, but a second later, he was on the backboard. The paramedics went into high gear, quickly padding around Jim's arm, shoulder, neck, and head with rolled towels. A piece of folded tape across his forehead secured his head between two rolls – not as effective without a collar, but better than a panic attack. As soon as he was secure, Leonard released his hold on Jim's head and stepped back.
"I'm still here, Darlin'. I just need to let them get you on the stretcher." God, he just wanted to grab Jim's hand. Instead, he listened to Jim's noises of distress and pain as the paramedics lifted him, backboard and all, onto the stretcher.
"If you want to grab that bag, Doctor, that would be a big help."
"Oh... yeah, right... got it." Leonard knew exactly what Randy was doing by giving him a bag to carry, and at that moment, he didn't care. It helped. He scooped up the duffel and hurried after them.
A moment later, Jim was loaded into the back of the ambulance. Paul hurried around to the front of the rig and climbed into the driver's seat while Randy got settled in the back.
"You can take the captain's chair, doc," Randy said, indicating the bucket seat up at the head of the stretcher, towards the front of the cabin.
"No! Can't see... can't see you up there," Jim said, slurring slightly.
"Can I sit there?" Leonard asked, pointing to the single seat where he'd be able to reach Jim's right hand.
"Don't see why not. If it'll keep him calm, that seems best."
Leonard shifted around and maneuvered into the seat, buckling himself in before reaching for Jim's hand. Jim was still shaking slightly, but he was surprisingly was quiet as Randy double-checked the straps on the stretcher, re-connected the non-rebreather mask to the on-board oxygen supply, and hung the IV bag from a hook on the ceiling. As he was doing that, the ambulance started to move. No sirens, for which Leonard was grateful. That would just make Jim more nervous.
Randy settled himself down on the long bench on Jim's left side. "Doc, could you check his peripheral perfusion, and then hit that button right there and slip that pulse-ox onto his finger? How are you doing, Jim?" he asked conversationally as checked Jim's pupil response once more.
The tremor in his simple answer, the open honesty... those were things Jim would never let anyone else see. The fentanyl, the mild shock... whatever it was, Jim was being honest. Leonard tried not to let it affect him too much as he checked Jim's pulse and capillary refill before sticking the pulse-ox monitor on Jim's finger.
"Three seconds on cap refill," Leonard announced softly.
Randy nodded, then turned his attention right back to Jim. "I know you're scared, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact... you know why I went into this career all those years ago? Because I was terrified of anything medical. Doctors, nurses, medics... all of it. But when I decided to join the volunteer fire department in my town, they told me I had to get my EMT license. I faced my fears, and realized I loved it, so I became a paramedic. Can you still feel that?" he asked, reaching over and lightly squeezing Jim's fingers on his left hand.
"Yes," Jim replied without hesitation.
Randy took a moment to check Jim's pulse and capillary refill on the injured arm, then grabbed his stethoscope. "None of this stuff is black magic, Jim. It's just a bunch of really simple technology, here to help people out when they get themselves banged up." Then he stuck the stethoscope in his ears and set himself to listening to Jim's breathing.
Jim was quiet while he did that, but he looked up at Leonard, eyes still scared, but less frantic. His breathing was still a bit too fast and a bit too shallow, but considering how much his ribs must be hurting, it didn't seem unreasonable. His breath fogged the inside of the oxygen mask every few seconds.
Leonard smiled at him, eyes gentle, appreciating the way Randy put some humanity into the situation by sharing his story, giving Jim something to think about other than his own discomfort and fear. It helped.