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        Page Four

But Johnny got out a pair of hotpads
and got out Chet's breakfast from
the oven where it still warmed and
began cutting it up for Chet industriously
with fork and knife. "Need help eating this?"
he asked, not unkindly.

"I got it. Just cut the steak into smaller pieces."
Kelly said, fumbling with his fork in his abundantly
wrapped hands. He stubbornly stabbed an
egg onto the fork using his chin and both
splinted palms.

Marco noticed his difficulty and said,
"You're not driving home that way.."

"Says who?"

"Says me.." Cap said with authority.
"Gage has already offered to drive you
home. Now do you have someone around
to help you about the house until you've
healed up in a few days?"

"I can call my sister. She owes me one.
I took care of her when she busted both legs
skiing last winter."

"Ouch.." Johnny said, swiping some toast
over his rapidly emptying plate. "Did she
have fun doing it?"

"About as much fun as I had busting my
knuckles, and thanks for asking." Kelly

"Hey, how was I to know? Most people
ski for enjoyment's sake." Gage complained.

"Yeah? Well, my sister skis like I work out when
we both get upset about stuff."

"And you both get hurt doing it." Roy said

"Not all the time, DeSoto. Just that one time
for her, and now this time, for me.." he said,
holding up his splinted palms.

"Just make sure your brand of therapy follows
less aggressive routes next time Kelly, or there
will be h*ll to pay." Cap warned. "I had to talk
a blue streak to keep the Chief from disciplining
you about your little stunt this morning."

Kelly was properly abashed. "Thank you." he
said very fast.

"Call the Chief when breakfast is over. He
wants to talk to you."

"But, Cap, I thought you said you got me out
of hot water...."

"This is about something else, Kelly." Cap toned


"Then get back in here and tell us what it
was all about. Sounds important."


Soon, Chet had finished manhandling his food
into his stomach and made the call to McConike
from Cap's office. Minutes later, he shuffled back
into the kitchen, numbly sitting back down into
his chair.

"Kelly, you ok?" Roy asked.

Chet looked up and his face was devoid
of humor or pleasure. "Chief says I should start
taking a look at the red book from Cap's
office pronto like. "

"Oh really? Wh-What's the red book?"
Gage asked, pretending pretense.

Chet didn't say anything.

Cap got up and disappeared into the bay.
He returned with an unfamiliar fat, red book in his
hands. "This book. Chet, The chief probably wants
you to know the basics by the time you're back
on the duty rosters.. I'm sorry, buddy. I just
didn't think the chief would really consider
this course of action so soon."

Chet read the cover and his face fell with remorse.
"Oh, Cap.." he sighed.  "I- I can't do this.. It
isn't right." Kelly's closed his eyes. "This is the
engineer's manual.  Seems I've been chosen to
be next in line for that position on the engine
if Stoker doesn't make it back to the actives list."

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From : "patti keiper" <>  
Subject :[EmergencyTheaterLive] The Long Tiny Steps..  
Date : Thu, 06 Feb 2003 06:47:31 +0000  

Acknowledgements to...
Tom Stafford - Firefighter Captain /MD on
Chemical Firetruck Training Procedures

Acknowledgements to..
Dr. Jeff Seltun for Pulmonary Scalding Lab Test
Orders and General Ophthalmology Medicine.

Dr. Brackett was paged to Mike Stoker's
room around noon. Joe Early was on hand
when the call light came on from the observation
nurse. Stoker was semi awake and beginning
to fight the respirator. Kel leaned over the bed.
"Beth, get Dixie in here." Kel ordered.

The critical care nurse used the wall phone near
Mike's head to summon her.

Dr. Brackett leaned close. "Mike. It's ok. You're
in the hospital and you've been intubated to
counteract the spasming effects of the burns
you have in your throat. Try to relax. We'll
evaluate you to see if we can let you try to
breathe on your own off the respirator."

Stoker stopped struggling, but then his
hands went to his face. Dixie arrived just in
time to help Beth gently restrain him from
touching the burned areas on his face around
the eye dressings. "He's relaxed about having
his eyes covered at least.." she said.

Beth piped up, "That's because his station crew
mates were up here telling him what to expect
when he woke up. Mike, besides Dixie and me,
Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early are here."
The two nurses quietly spoke to Mike while
Kel and Joe consulted after a quick exam
of his chest and breath sounds. They stood
at the foot of the bed so Mike wouldn't hear
them discuss a decision.

"What do you think, Kel? Too soon to go off
the bird?" Joe asked.

"Not necessarily." Dr. Brackett said, rubbing
his chin. "The danger of tracheal adhesion is
has passed. The initial wheezing we heard when
he was admitted has gone away. I think we
can go ahead and make him more comfortable.
If we run into any problems, we can always bag
him until we can re-sedate him for a second

"I agree. Let's go ahead then."

"Dix, watch his BP." Joe said and together, the
two doctors instructed Mike how to manage
himself while the respirator was turned off
and the EOA removed. Beth was right there
with a hissing suction tube to carry away liquids as
the slender airway was taken out.

Stoker wanted to cough and he winced from
the sting of burns deep inside. He let himself
blank out to end the pain. He felt the nurses
pull him onto his side to drain out his throat
for him and his alarm grew when his diaphragm
refused to pull any air into his lungs when
he felt the suctioning wand leave his mouth.

"BP's dropping. 88/46.." Dix reported.

Kel reached for the diazepam syringe pack on
the crash cart and tossed it onto the bed
so it would be nearby.

"Mike." Joe called out. "Give it a few seconds.
That winded feeling will ease off. Then see if
you can try to inhale on your own. Don't worry.
If you can't, we'll support you with 02 on an ambu
bag until you're ready to do it on your own."

Beth held one ready and flowing on standby.

Kel stood listening with a stethoscope as Mike's
EKG rate rose higher as the firefighter worked through
his fright and the natural cramping of his wounded
throat in response to the airway's removal. Finally,
after half a minute, Stoker's muscles relaxed and
he took in a ragged involuntary breath, tentative,
but effective.

Immediately Dixie slipped a simple clear,
non rebreather mask over his face on full flow
sending Beth with the ambu bag valve mask
away with a nod. "There."she said. "You did it,
Mike. Now relax."  Everyone in the room sighed
in relief. Mike's tracheal blistering hadn't harmed
his ability to breathe at all.

The EKG settled fitfully into a normal but fast
sinus rhythm that slowed increment by increment
with each successful breath Mike drew in.

After a minute, Dix announced.
"His pressure's back up. Settling in at
120/62." she told the doctors.

Dr. Brackett put the sedative med back
onto the crash cart and hung his head in

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Beth placed her hands on either side
of Stoker's face so he knew she was near.
"Having any pain now anywhere else besides
your sore throat and face ?"

Stoker shook his head and gurgled when
he tried to talk.

"Don't." Dix told him. "Not yet.
Swallow. Again. Now wait a minute or two
before you even think about trying to talk."

"The rocky part's over Mike. I promise you
no more surprises like that." Kel frowned.

Dr. Brackett listened to Mike's chest and upper
trachea again with a stethoscope while Joe
began to unwrap Mike's eyes bit by bit for a
cursory ophthalmic exam. He kept them patched
until he nodded at Beth to wave the room lights
down to complete darkness except for the
pinpoint spot from his ophthalmoscope.

The saline soaked patches came away.

Stoker's raspy voice whispered to them.
"I can't see.."

Kel's face softened. "That's because we have
the room lights turned off to make it
easier on you. You also have some
swelling of the tissue around your eyes and
both of them have swelled shut. Just relax,
Mike. We'll know soon enough what's going
on after Joe takes a look at you. Does your
chest hurt at all?"

"No..." he sighed, still whispering.

"Good. Your bronchoscopy didn't show any
major damage to your pulmonary tissues. Only
some localized scalding above your larynx.
The collapsed airway you suffered during
the fire reopened again nicely once your coworkers
got you back outside away from all the heat."

"I stopped breathing?" Mike asked.

Joe and Kel hesitated. Then Dr. Brackett
ventured into a disclosure. "For a while. Enough
to lose a viable heart rate. But there was no
difficulty in reconverting you. You were down
for only a minute or so and Johnny and Roy got
you back effectively enough to matter until you
got to the hospital and we could stabilize your
vital signs. You ran no hypoxia risks at all."

"I almost died?" Stoker asked again.

"Almost only counts in horseshoes and
hand grenades, Mike Stoker. And you know
it." Dixie said. "Now lie still and let the doctors
finish examining your eyes." she said no

Mike stayed hushed.

Joe said. "Mike this may hurt a bit when I
shine the scope's light into the back of your
eyes. I need to see what's happening to
the deeper structures there."

Stoker gasped when the light shone down.
All was a mass of shadows and shocking
white flares which smeared together in sparking
chaotic afterimages. His head began to fill
with pulsing stabs of agony.

Mike's EKG sped up suddenly.

Joe immediately quelled the light. "What
did you see?"

Stoker told him.

Kel and Joe glanced at each other.
Dr. Brackett said. "There may be some
fundus involvement here. Perhaps even
with the optic disc itself. But then again,
those visual anomalies could just be the
transitory results of superficial corneal burns.
Try it again Joe."

Once more, Joe used his scope to peer around
Stoker's red swollen eye lids into the eyes below.

This time, Mike's discomfort doubled. His
hands shot up and gripped Joe's wrist.
"Ahh.. don't...!" His sharp movement made
Dr. Early drop his instrument onto the pillow.

"All right. I'll stop." Joe said quietly.

Kel and he and Dix and Beth all exchanged
worried looks. Then Joe gripped Mike's hands
in firm comfort and he returned them back
under the blankets. "Ok, that's enough from us for
now. We'll repatch your eyes with more antibiotic
salve and try again in a few days."

Mike didn't say anything and his heart rate
remained fast and panicked.

Kel said. "Don't let this dishearten you at all, Mike.
Sometimes it takes days or even weeks for normal
retinal responses to return to the eyes following
heat exposure like this. But from what we did
see here, your eyes are intact. Both your scleras
are understandably swollen and red and your pupils
are adjusting somewhat irregularly due to the
burns there, but globally, at this stage, things are
looking about as well as we all expected."

Mike let the nurses rebind his head tightly, to keep
out any more light before he spoke again.
"Doctor Brackett. Just how well is 'As well as
expected?' "

They didn't say anything.

Mike filled the silence. "You know, six years ago,
Kip Jenkins from Station 16's took a spark on
the eye just standing roof watch. And it cost
him his job when it later healed over, leaving him
with tunnel vision on that side." He swallowed.
"Is that going to happen to me?"

Kel kept his hand on Mike's arm. "It's too soon
to tell, Mr. Stoker. Only time will show us any
final outcome here."

"I know.. I know..." Stoker said, folding his hands
over his chest, trying to pull shreds of dignity
about himself as he would a turnout coat against
the blazing heat of a fire.  "I just don't like being
kept in the dark..."

Dixie looked down.

"Sorry.." Mike apologized for the black feeling joke.

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Kel said to him. "Mike, let's see how the rest
of you is doing in the meantime. Joe, let's order
another set of arterial blood gases to see how
well it's working out for Mike being off support
like this. Also, I want to get a second chest X-ray to
compare it to the one we took last night. Dix, I want
the lab to get  electrolytes, a urinalysis, a BUN,
a creatinine series and I want respiratory therapy
to get in here to start some pulmonary function
tests on Mike's lung performance."

"I'll get right on it.." Dix said, moving to the phone.

"I'd just wish I could find out answers a little
faster. Not knowing anything's killing me.."
Stoker sighed, gasping through the oxygen mask.

Brackett chuckled in his throat.
"Trying being a doctor and compounding
that particular problem in the form of fifteen
new patients a day. Now you know why doctors
like me grumble so much.." he grinned wryly for the
nurses benefit. "One step at a time, Mike. It always
comes, one step at a time.. For you, that means
that all you have to be is a patient patient and
the rest will follow naturally. In your future, there
may be the slight chance of corneal transplantation
surgery. But your positive contrast vision tells me
that even that, might not be necessary in the long

Mike stayed numbly quiet as he attempted to
settle his labored breathing around the burns
jabbing in his throat.

Kel sighed. "Just leave all the worrying to us. It's what
we get paid for. See if you can get some rest, all right?"

"I'll try, doctor."


It was four days later on the exercise grounds
at the L.A. County firefighting training facility.

Station 51's usual fire inspection duty assignments
had been traded away to another sister station
so she could report with her crew solely for Chet Kelly's
benefit. He had passed the paperwork part of
the standby engineer's test and now was entering
the practical skills testing.

A mockup of a two story apartment tower building
with a fuel truck spill at its base was the scenario
the chiefs had mapped out for Station 51's chemical
truck to handle.  And on a signal, the whole facsimile
was set ablaze along the tarmack using hidden torches
embedded from spigots in the concrete.

"Ok, Kelly.." encouraged Charlie Atkins, the replacement
engineer assigned to 51 until Mike Stoker's situation
fell one way or the other over the fence. "This is
an easy one. Think...grease. Now, what mix are ya
going to pick for your hoses?"

Chet Kelly watched Marco, Cap, Roy and John
string lines at the ready, aimed at the fire's heart, and
they all looked back towards Chet at the chemical
panel on the engine for Chet's signal to let go
the charged hoses.

To one side, the Batallion Chief was also drilling another
company as they broke in a new man on driving
a ladder truck around an obstacle course. For the
moment, the gray haired supervisor's attention
wasn't on 51's exercise.

Chet Kelly bit his lip, checking and rechecking
the pumper readouts. "Repellent surfactant
at ....18%  per hundred gallons ppm...with
every five hundred hydrant gallons from the

"Right. Right.. Gotta do that because fuel's
so volatile with our 21% air 02 ratio."
Charlie said with a nod around the smoke drifting
towards them from the building.
"Now what else before you release your mixed
reservoir to your crewmates?"

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Within Sight
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