En Route: A Paramedic’s Stories of Life, Death, and Everything in Between by Steven “Kelly” Grayson
The pain started in your shoulder. No big deal. You convinced yourself it was nothing. Really.
But then, it spread. Your left arm hurt, and your ribs and your chest. Especially your chest. This was not good.
You called 9-1-1 and a truck came to your house, sirens howling, monitors beeping. Curious neighbors stopped in their yards to watch two hefty guys wheel you through your front door, flat on a gurney.
You’re fine now. But then, you sure were glad to see those EMTs, with their sirens and monitors.
Now, how about seeing life from the other side of the siren? Read the new book “En Route,” by Steven “Kelly” Grayson.
New EMTs are taught to expect calamity, but that was too a mild word to describe the place where Kelly Grayson got his first gig as an emergency medical technician. The job was with a startup company run by former employees of the “big outfit” in the area, and their new office was a mess, filled with papers, equipment and “EMTs sleeping on every horizontal surface…”
Grayson, who was little more than a rookie, abruptly learned that he was hired when a call came in and the owners said, “Let’s go!”
For an EMT-Basic who didn’t even have a uniform yet, it was an exciting call…
That is, until the patient had an accident of a different kind, all over Grayson’s front.
That inauspicious event was the beginning of a career that took Grayson all over the backroads and highways of northwestern Louisiana. It allowed him to make some life-long friends and to help people who made such an impression on him that he wrote about them in this book. If it wasn’t for the job, Grayson wouldn’t have met his wife.
But, as he racked up months and miles, through fights and friendships with doctors, repeat patients and clueless colleagues, Grayson felt he was burning out. Horrified, he wondered how an eager, formerly sympathetic medical professional could lose his compassion so easily. He wondered why he stayed at the job.
One December, he found out why.
“En Route” has everything you could want in a true-medical memoir: lots of excitement, some good laughs, plenty of practical-joke-type tales, an abundance of scampish, “frequent-flyer,” patients (the supporting cast kind you see on TV), moments of tenderness and one gigantic story, not for the squeamish. It’s a trauma-drama fan’s dream, except for one thing.
Grayson’s chapters tend to jump around, time-line-wise. There were several loose ends here, story arcs that (I thought) were over, but then, surprise! They continued several chapters later, with something completely different in-between. I paged back many times, thinking I had missed something. I liked this book very much, but I also happen to like linear thinking. “En Route” needed more of that.
If you can ignore the (slight) confusion, you’ll be rewarded with a tension-filled, humorous and thoughtful book, with an ending you won’t expect. If you can take each chapter individually, pick up “En Route” and increase your heart rate a bit.
A Saint on Death Row by Thomas Cahill
Imagine meeting someone with the power to tell you everything that will happen to you in the future. He can see the good and bad, the ups and downs, for the rest of your life. He has the power to tell all–including the exact time of your death.
Would you want to know?
In the new book, “A Saint on Death Row,” author Thomas Cahill writes about a man condemned to die, how he got to where he was and the lives he touched.
Popular authors travel a lot. In late 2003, Cahill, author of “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” was looking forward to the end of his book tour and a chance to relax. But, unable to say “no,” to a new acquaintance, he reluctantly agreed to take a day out of his schedule for a side trip. The acquaintance, a semi-retired judge from Chicago, had been introduced to a prison inmate in Texas by a man who belonged to a religious community in Rome. The judge, Sheila Murphy, wanted Cahill to meet the inmate, Dominique Green.
At the beginning of his friendship with Green, Cahill wrote, “Dominique is where he is for two reasons only: because he is poor and because he is black.”
Green was raised in a household thick with drugs and alcohol by an abusive mother and an apathetic father. He dropped out of school and started a “business” selling drugs, so he could take care of two younger brothers.
In October 1992, after being chased in a stolen car and on foot, Green was arrested. A handgun was found in the car, along with two other boys, and tests established that it had been used in the murder of a truck driver in Houston. Cahill says, “The record becomes exceedingly muddled and incomplete,” at this point.
But, of the four boys involved, only Green was tried and convicted, though many doubted that he committed the crime. Unable to afford private counsel, he alone, was sentenced to death.
For not quite a year, Cahill spoke with, prayed with and got to know Green while the young man was in prison. He watched as supporters–including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the retired Chicago judge and the murdered man’s family–fought for Green’s life.
And, Cahill waited…
If it wasn’t for Cahill’s thoughtful musing and careful research, it might be easy to dismiss this book as very biased. There is no doubt that the author has extremely strong opinions on the subject of capital punishment. Obviously, as many people agree as disagree with him. But, no matter on which side of the fence you sit, it’s hard not to be stunned by the chill of four words that Cahill uses sparingly. He says about Green and the system: they are “going to kill him.”
“A Saint on Death Row” may not change your mind about capital punishment, but it will stir discussion, both politically and around the dinner table. Read it, though, because no matter your stance, it’s a pretty powerful book.