It was a Saturday night, actually the earliest part of Sunday morning, about 1:15am. My wife, Janet was sleeping and I was studying chemistry for a City College course I was taking. The Plenty Ambulance “hotline” phone was in our bedroom — as it was for the first three years we lived and worked at Plenty Ambulance — and it made us the de facto nightly “on-call” paramedics in addition to whoever else was sleeping in the Plenty dispatch office three stories downstairs.
A “pop-pop-pop…Pop-pop-pop” of gunshots burst loudly through the open bedroom window. Screams quickly followed, as I jumped up, called to Janet to wake up and come with me on an ambulance call to a shooting that sounded close. Within minutes, we rolled the ambulance out of the driveway, and turned right towards the social club (Sam’s Uptown Bar) on the next corner.
Smoke from the gunfire still hung in the heavy summer air, and we could smell it as it wafted through the hot South Bronx darkness. The police had yet to arrive, but the emergency needs of the man lying in a pool of blood on the ground took precedence without a second thought. A crowd quickly formed around us, as it usually did when we responded to to life threatening trauma. Janet and I quickly began our work, taking vital signs, assessing our patient’s level of consciousness, and making note of the multiple gunshot wounds to the head, thorax, and abdomen. Cutting away his clothing, we assessed the entrance and exit wounds in each location and applied pressure dressings to control bleeding. Within minutes we had our patient loaded onto the ambulance gurney and were racing with the lights and siren to Lincoln Hospital. It was another Saturday night at Plenty Ambulance Service, and within hours the sunlight would welcome the usual Sunday morning calm.
We had responded to shootings before, and some, I will remember vividly. We would find multiple dead bodies in crime scenes where the police work being conducted was all that was left to be done, and no need for the skill of EMTs and paramedics.
Months later, the doorbell rang one afternoon while I sat in the Plenty dispatch room. A young Hispanic man stood in the doorway. I had no idea who he was, but he looked at me and said, “You guys saved my life and I want to give you this.” He described the Saturday night shooting at the corner social club, and how quickly we had gotten there. After a prolonged hospitalization, he had finally returned home. Handing me a stack of five-dollar bills, we shook hands, and I thanked him for his contribution to Plenty. I counted what was a $500 donation from a man whose life had been spared by the quick response that Plenty Ambulance Service had provided him.