Close Calls: Firefighters Become Targets of Gunshot Violence

In this two-part column, we look at the differences between when we know at the time of the run that there is the potential for violence and when we do not know. We looked at the working vehicle fire in Maplewood, MO, where Firefighter/Paramedic Ryan...


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Reality started to set in that those loud noises and the pain I was feeling came from a gun. Chief Taylor had then showed up and Matt started screaming to him to get the ambulance over here as I had been shot. The ambulance pulled up and I was put inside onto the stretcher. My brother jumped into the driver’s seat and Chief Taylor shut the door and we began to drive to the hospital. Matt had also gotten into the back of the ambulance to help Pete. The ride felt like an hour and I was nervous thinking I was going to need surgery and not knowing how bad my injuries actual were, but I never lost consciousness.

When we arrived at NUMC, I was rushed straight into the trauma room and was surrounded by doctors. After two IVs and being asked numerous questions, I was brought over to CT scan to see the full extent of the damage. Three minutes later, one of the doctors came up to me and told me I’m one of the luckiest people he had ever met. When I asked why, he told me that the results from the CT scan showed that the bullet entered near my left hip and exited my lower back, never hitting any major organs, only going through muscle and fat, and that the exit wound was an inch and a half from my spine. So not only was there no need for surgery, I had no major internal injuries. This was a big relief for me, but I was still very nervous and couldn’t believe that on a “normal” call this had happened where I was trying my best to take scene-safety procedures!

The doctor told me I was going to spend one night in the ICU just for observation and the next thing I knew I was wheeled up to the ICU. I ended up spending two nights in the ICU for observation and on Thursday, March 3, 2011, at around noon, I was released from the hospital and was finally able to return home.

After my stay in the hospital, it took just about three months to fully recover and for the wound to heal. For the first month and a half, I had a nurse coming to my house every day. Being 20 years old, those three months felt like three years, but I’m grateful that it only took three months – I didn’t even have to go to physical therapy. I tried to keep as busy as possible.

In mid-May, I was cleared by my doctor to return to work and to the firehouse. June 1 was my first official day back to the firehouse and I never felt better having no physical restrictions. I love being a Bellmore volunteer firefighter and EMT-CC and am thankful to be back. It has been a long experience, but I’m glad to say I’m alive and feeling better than ever with absolutely no regrets joining the BFD.

 

This account provided by Bellmore Firefighter/EMT Matthew Podolski, who was responding to the firehouse when he came upon the scene:

I was at home watching a movie when the radio tones came over with a report of a car into a pole and a transformer down. I put on a pair of sneakers, ran to my car and started to drive toward the firehouse.

I got to the corner of Marion Street and Bellmore Avenue as the ambulance drove past. I then followed behind. The ambulance pulled up to the car accident. I attempted to go slowly around the ambulance so I could continue to respond to my station. I heard a series of loud bangs.

Thinking it was the transformer exploding, I put my car in reverse to get away from the explosion. I then heard another series of loud bangs and Dean Angell on the radio advising of shots fired and that the ambulance was being shot at. I pressed down on the gas pedal and drove down Bellmore Avenue in reverse. I got back to the intersection of Bellmore Avenue and Marion Street as I wanted to drive down Marion Street to take cover.

I saw Justin limping toward my car and got out to see if he was OK. Justin leaned on my car and told me he got hit. I looked at the small of his back and saw blood soaking though his clothing. I saw a green light, which turned out to be a laser sight sweeping across the street. I grabbed Justin and we took cover behind my car on a nearby lawn. I told him to go down and stay down. I looked to my right and saw Chief Taylor behind his car and the ambulance slightly behind him on the opposite side of the street.

I yelled over to Chief Taylor that “Justin was shot, get the ambulance over here.” Chief Taylor called over to the ambulance, informing them we have a gunshot victim. We lifted Justin off the lawn and put him in the back on the ambulance. Dean went back into the driver’s seat and started to drive to the hospital while Pete Pagones and I worked on Justin. I cut off Justin’s clothing, revealing the wound. Among the blood and flesh I saw a metal fragment sticking halfway out of Justin’s back.