"He-e-e-e-e-ere's Johnny!"

Chapter Six

Bright but not all that early Monday morning…

Kel Brackett finally arrived, as promised, to pick the recuperating paramedic up for class.

He parked out front of Johnny's apartment building and watched as the car directly in front of him suddenly pulled away from the curb and then went speeding off down the street.

The doctor also happened to notice that the front door to Johnny's ground-floor apartment was wide open.

Kel killed his car's engine and went running up the walkway, to investigate.


The physician found his fellow course instructor face down on the floor of his living room. "Johnny?" he anxiously exclaimed.

No response.

The new arrival dropped to his knees and then gently and carefully rolled his seemingly unconscious friend over onto his back.

The paramedic's chest was not moving. Johnny was in full respiratory arrest!

Kel cursed beneath his breath and picked up the dropped telephone.

"Los Angeles County Fire Department…What is your emergency?" the emergency operator impatiently repeated, for the umpteenth time.

"Send paramedics and an ambulance to 2290 West Ridge Street, Apartment 3—right away!" the doctor ordered. Then he tossed the receiver aside and returned his undivided attention to his non-breathing patient—and friend. He reached for the paramedic's corotid.

Johnny felt somebody's fingertips pressing into his throat. His eyes slowly opened and his dazed gaze locked onto Kel Brackett's concern-filled face. He stared silently up at his physician friend, his tear-streaming eyes desperately imploring the doctor to do something—anything—to get him breathing again.

Speaking of fingertips…

The ER doc was used to having the resources of an entire hospital at his fingertips. Now, there was just him. Kel emitted another colorful expletive and watched helplessly as John Gage's eyes gradually glazed over and their lids drooped shut again.

The breathless paramedic's head rolled limply to the left.

The instant his patient slipped into unconsciousness, the emergency physician began treatment.

Kel opened Johnny's airway and pinched his nostrils shut. He then sealed his mouth over the paramedic's and began administering artificial respirations.


Several miles away…

"Why are we stopping?" Miss Riverton wondered, as Mr. Doyle suddenly pulled their car over to the curb and parked.

Arnie's head slowly swung in the direction of his inquisitive passenger. "I think I finally figured out what must've happened back there. We gotta go back!" Without waiting for the lady reporter's permission, he cranked the steering wheel hard to the left and began making a U-turn.

"What?" Miss Riverton shrieked. "Arnie, are you nuts? We can't go back the—!"

"—Bess…that guy may not be breathing!"

Miss Riverton's eyes about doubled in size—and she immediately shut up.


Arnie pulled up and parked, directly across the street from 2290 West Ridge Street. "Stay here," he advised. "I'll go see what's goin' on."

The lady reporter nodded.


"We-ell?" the woman wondered, when the driver piled back into the car, about a minute and a half later.

"There's a man in there," Mr. Doyle breathlessly reported back, "giving the guy…mouth to mouth…resuscitation…I asked him if…an ambulance had been called…and he nodded."

"Great!" the lady reporter declared, sounding tremendously relieved. "Then let's get the hell outta here!"

With his conscience now appeased…somewhat, Arnie re-ignited their car's engine and readily complied.


Eleven extremely anxious—and exhausting—minutes later…

"C'mon, Johnny!" Brackett urged, speaking between breaths. "Don't do this to me!" *breath* "Breathe, Dammit!" *breath* "Quit being…" *breath* "so damn…" *breath* "stubborn!"

But, despite the hyperventilating ER doc's shouted orders—and best AR efforts—John Gage did not spontaneously resume respirations.

Brackett cursed again.

AR—alone—just wasn't gonna be enough to revive him.

The paramedic's injured diaphragm muscle remained locked in spasm.

His patient needed some pure O2 and a smooth muscle relaxant to help relieve the spasm in his damaged—er, re-damaged diaphragm.

Suddenly, from somewhere way off in the distance, two separate sirens began to wail.

The welcome sound grew louder and louder and then finally quit, right outside Johnny's apartment building.

Doors were slammed and footsteps could be heard, hurrying up the walkway.

Brackett glanced relievedly up at 16's paramedic team and began barking out orders between life-giving breaths. "This is gonna be" *breath* "a 'grab and go', guys." *breath* "Bellingham" *breath* "get my medical bag" *breath* "out of my car!" *breath* "Brice" *breath* "grab your O2 and drug box" *breath* "and come with me!"

Two ambulance attendants entered Apartment 3, towing a stretcher.

AR was momentarily suspended, while John Gage's breathless body was lifted onto the gurney.

Brackett struggled to his feet and immediately started to sway. The physician was feeling extremely light-headed.

Brice passed the dizzy doctor their drug box and then took over their patient's oxygen treatment. "Permission to insert an airway and then begin forced ventilations with 10 liters of O2," the paramedic calmly—and directly—requested. It was kind a' neat to not have to bother with the Bio-phone.

"Go ahead," the dizzy doctor granted, sounding relieved to have been relieved.


"Okay. I'll take over ventilations," the completely recovered doctor announced, once they were underway. "Get me some vitals, and then start an IV. Normal Saline. TKO."

"Right," Craig calmly acknowledged.

Johnny's rescuers traded places.

Brackett began bagging the patient.

Brice began gathering, and relaying, their victim's vitals.


"All right, take over here," Brackett ordered, once Brice had the IV established.

The two men again traded places.

The paramedic continued bagging his horizontal colleague.

The doctor opened their patient's shirt up and then started rummaging around in the drug box. Kel found a suitable smooth muscle relaxant and filled a syringe with the required dosage. He tapped the air bubbles out and then emptied the hypo directly into the patient's exposed abdomen.

Several anxious seconds passed…

Suddenly, John Gage inhaled sharply.

Brackett raised the O2 mask and snatched the airway from his throat, before he could even begin gagging.

Gage grimaced and cried out in agony as he exhaled. "AHHH-UHH!" Another sharp inhalation caused his to grimace to return, and exhaling again resulted in an agonized cry. "Ahhh-uhhh!" The pained paramedic panicked and tried to sit up.

Two sets of hands were placed upon his chest and he was promptly shoved back down onto the gurney.

"Don't move, mister!" Dr. Brackett sternly ordered, and fitted the O2 mask back over the horizontal paramedic's nose and mouth.

Johnny's pain-filled eyes snapped open and finally focused on his surroundings. He glanced around the rig for a few moments and then raised his oxygen mask. "Nice ride…yah got here…Doc…a regular…'party barge'."

Kel suppressed a smile and brushed their patient's hand away, so he could resituate the oxygen mask.

Johnny immediately un-situated it. "When you said…you'd pick me up…bet you never dreamt…it was gonna be…in an ambulance."

Brackett knocked his patient's hand off his O2 and got the mask resituated again.

Once again, his patient attempted to lift it.

"Don't touch that!" the physician warned and tried, once again, to inject the contents of the syringe in his hands into his patient's IV port. Kel was extremely frustrated that he had to keep stopping what he was doing to put his patient's oxygen mask back in place. He finally turned and locked gazes with Craig. "Now I know why Roy uses the restraints."

Brice grinned.

Gage giggled…between groans.

"What the hell happened back there?" Brackett demanded, keeping a hand on his patient's oxygen mask, so he couldn't lift it.

"I dunno, Doc," the paramedic replied, his voice now muffled by the mask. "Someone was at the door. I just assumed it was you. Turned out, it was a couple a' reporters—expecting an interview. I told 'em I didn't have the time and started to close the door. The next thing I know, the front door goes flying back open and the knob hits me in the stomach." He grimaced at the unpleasant memory. "Ma-an! When you said that 'any' blow to my abdomen could put me back into full respiratory arrest, you weren't just joshin'. Were you."

"No, Johnny," Kel solemnly assured him. "I wasn't just joshin'."


An extremely distraught Miss McCall met the ambulance as it pulled up outside Rampart's Emergency Receiving.

"What the hell happened?" the RN demanded, as John Gage's gurney was removed from the back of the rig.

Kel climbed out, carrying the horizontal paramedic's IV in his raised left hand. "He damn near died!" the doctor angrily replied, using his patient's partner's words to explain the direness of John Gage's recent medical situation. "I place him on medical leave, so he won't get hurt on the job, and then I arrive to find him dying—right in his own damn living room!"

The respiratory arrest victim, and his entire entourage, disappeared into the hospital building.


Inside Treatment Room Two…a few hectic minutes later…

Dixie listened in disbelief, as the morning's tumultuous events were described to her. "That was close, Kel."

Johnny raised his oxygen mask. "Real close."

"Too damn close!" Brackett angrily conceded. He shoo'ed Johnny's hand away and snapped his infuriating patient's O2 mask back over his nose and mouth. Then, just for good measure, he pulled a restraining strap across his antsy patient's chest—and buckled it.

The paramedic opened his mouth, to protest.

Kel glared down at him. "I spilt some coffee on my shirt this morning. If I had stopped to change it—like I was going to—you'd be dead, right now!"

Gage gulped and wisely remained silent.

His angry doctor continued to glare down at him. "Do you know what I'm thinking?"

"Wha-at?" Johnny nervously wondered, from beneath his O2 mask.

"I'm thinking that you need to be a lot closer to an Emergency Room. For the first couple of weeks, anyway." Kel hesitated, knowing his patient was not going to like what he had to say next. "I want you to move into the Resident's dorm, right here, at Rampart."

"No way, Doc! This isn't a bad place to visit. But I ain't gonna 'live' here."

"Johnny, the damage that was done to your diaphragm is obviously much more extensive than I originally thought. Right now, you are at extreme risk of dying from respiratory arrest! What happens if you're miles away from help and someone suddenly steps in front of you? Or, you could be in a grocery store and someone accidentally rams into you with their shopping cart? Right now, you need to be within close proximity of trained medical personnel—and equipment."

"But I hate this place, Doc. I could never get any sleep in that dorm. I can never get any sleep, when I'm here, period. No one can. People can't sleep in a hospital because a hospital never sleeps. Somebody is always 'banging' or 'clanging' something around—all hours of the day and night."

Dixie's pretty face suddenly lit up. "Ke-el, what about Doctor Patterson's old apartment? Downstairs?"

The corner's of Kel's mouth turned upwards. "That's not a bad idea, Dix."

Johnny remained skeptical. "Is it anywhere near the Lab? Cuz that place never sleeps, either."

"Nope," Dixie assured him. "It's waaaay down past the hospital laundry and the boiler room. So you should have plenty of 'peace and quiet'."

"Okay. I'll consider it. In the meantime," Gage directed his impatient gaze back toward his now pleased looking doctor, "if you don't let me get up from here, we're both gonna be late for class. Not exactly the sort a' first impression we wanna make on our students, now, is it, Doc…"

"Speaking of your students…" Joe Early suddenly said, as he pushed his way into Exam 2. "Look what I found…wandering the halls…lost."

Their Paramedic Trainees trailed timidly into the treatment room in the physician's wake, looking like little lost lambs behind Little Bo Peep.

The still horizontal paramedic gave his doctor a desperate, pleading look.

"Not exactly," Kel begrudgingly agreed and reluctantly began removing his patient's restraint.

Gage smiled gleefully down at his freed limbs. Then he pulled his O2 mask off and sat up on the edge of the treatment table to address the class. "All ri-ight! Anybody care to see the proper way to remove an IV?"

Kel exhaled an exasperated gasp. "You're incorrigible!"

"So you and Dix keep tellin' me," John Gage grumbled back, speaking just beneath his breath.


Epilogue

That afternoon, after class…in a ridiculously remote area of Rampart General Hospital's basement…

Chet Kelly set the heavy box in his arms down and had a long, hard look around his pal's new 'underground' pad. "Criminy, Gage. This is kind a' creepy…and yet cool…at the same time. Here you are…down in the bowels of the building—like the phantom, living under the opera house. That's it! You are the 'Phantom of the Hospital'," he dramatically declared. "And, if any beautiful nurses should happen to mysteriously disappear, we'll know right where to look for them. You'll have them down here…in your subterranean 'lair'."

Gage gave his melodramatic companion a strange stare. "Kin you bring me that other box?"

His imaginative amigo waggled his bushy brows a few times…and then left to fetch the requested cardboard container.


"You need anymore help with anything?" Kelly wondered, following a five-minute bathroom break.

Gage couldn't help but grin. "Nah. I think you've done…enough," he insincerely said. The paramedic picked a small box filled with personal hygiene products up and then strolled into his new bathroom.

Kelly followed closely along at his heels.


Johnny jerked the medicine chest open, to put his deodorant, after-shave lotion and toothpaste away.

Instantaneously, the much dreaded 'sprong' sound filled the air and he received a faceful of icy water.

"It's a sign…from one phantom…to another," Kelly almost reverently declared.

Johnny blew the water droplets from his lips and swiped them from his eyes. He held his wet hand up in front of his mischievous friend's mustached face and formed it into a clenched fist. "This is also a 'sign'…from one phantom…to another. And…if I find anymore of these little 'surprises' around here…" his dark eyes narrowed ominously, "I'm gonna send it!"

Chet's mustache twitched—twice. "In that case…Do me a favor…and don't open the top drawer of that dresser over there, until after I leave."

John's shoulders sagged and he exhaled a weary sigh. "And Brackett thinks I'm incorrigible…"

The End

Author's note:

I hope you all enjoyed the sequel to "Semi Conscious"... *fingers crossed*

Again, thanks to all who so thoughtfully supplied feedback/fuel for my typing fingers! *high fives*

Take care! *wave wave*

:) Ross7