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Under Pressure – Rescue Teams

March 27, 2012

You drive by the crumpled vehicles in the median, steam rising from the still warm engines, broken parts on the pavement crunch beneath your vehicle’s tires. You envision trauma, possibly even death. But, do you ever wonder what it’s like to be the rescue team?

Looking at a picture or driving by an accident scene is much different than working an accident. It’s akin to the difference between losing a loved one and being a consoling friend, or like watching a YouTube video of a young kid being beaten by a group of thugs, versus being the beaten kid.

Each part of the experience is different.

For starters, what you see is but a fraction of what the rescuer sees. The obvious is that you don’t see the patient – the blood in all it’s red versions, pale yellow marble-looking fatty tissue, protruding bones, and body parts encased by metal like shrink wrap plastic.

Then there are the non-patient sights. The personal bible crumpled in the back seat, an empty child car-seat, a single partially unlaced boot lying on the shoulder of the roadway.

Only the rescue team will sense the smell and taste. The scene’s odor flows in through your nostrils down to the back palate striking the taste buds near the base of the tongue. You sense the sweet taste of antifreeze, the homeless person odor of diesel fuel, the rotten egg smell of battery acid, and soon the smell of your own perspiration.

As you drive by you might experience some sound – the buzz of the rescue tools. But, you won’t hear the change of the engine as it strains from a difficult cut. You won’t hear the sound of twisting, cutting metal. You won’t take in the short necessary messages between rescuers. Nor will you hear the words of impending doom spoken from a soul about to leave this life.

Touch is another sense that only the rescuer experiences. Popping bubble wrap is the feel of air pockets beneath the skin caused by a punctured lung. The twisting pressure of the Jaws tool pulls sideways on your grip, your hands slick with the slime of diesel fuel and motor oil.

And, most profoundly you won’t sense the pressure. Maybe you think you understand the pressure because you were an athlete back in high school or you have had to meet a short deadline with a project at work. But, no life lies in the balance of a basketball or a football game or a missed deadline. The outcome is hurt feelings, not loss of life.

Saving a life is the goal of the rescue team, but the clock is ticking.

Will they get the patient rescued in time? The right rescue cuts in the right spots equal many minutes difference. Ticktock, ticktock. Will the medics deliver the proper care in time? Spending too much time can be the minutes the surgeon needed. Ticktock, ticktock. Did you park the trucks correctly to protect the scene, did you disconnect the battery so a spark doesn’t ignite the standing fuel? Skipping steps that require extra time can kill too. Ticktock, ticktock.

And what pay do these heroes get for this life saving work they do? Surely it mirrors the salaries of those who play games. Ironically, it’s the opposite – many do it for no pay, and the others do it for a modest sum. Rescue workers provide their life-saving service for the right reasons.

So, here’s the point of this story.

You’ll never fully understand what a rescuer goes through, but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate what they do. There’s a famous song by the group Queen called “Under Pressure.” When you hear that song in the future, stop and think about rescuers and what they do.

And when you see one, tell them “Thank You.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jon McClure permalink
    April 2, 2012 1:47 am


    Stafford County is a great place to live.. If we all would work together.. we could make it even better.

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