Death on a Motorcycle
He came up the street like a rocket, witnesses said. According to the police, he was riding his motorcycle through downtown streets at more than one hundred miles per hour.
And now he was dead.
We were in the emergency department at the Massachusetts General Hospital when the call went out over the air. A few minutes earlier, we'd transported a pleasant, middle-aged man who seemed to be having his first angina attack. The dispatcher asked if we could handle a call for a motorcycle accident, and at the same time, several police officers sprinted out the door.
I wondered if it was a motorcycle officer who'd been injured.
My partner had put away the equipment we'd used on the previous call. I could write the report later. Sure, I told the dispatcher. We could handle the call.
A few minutes later, we turned onto the street where the collision had happened. The motorcycle lay on its side in the middle of the intersection. It was a big, powerful Japanese bike, the kind used in road racing. Two cars and an SUV had stopped nearby. Each had damage along its side.
According to the 911 caller, the motorcyclist had been trapped beneath the SUV. The EMTs who arrived before us had pulled him out and were strapping him onto an immobilization board. We lifted him straight into the ambulance.
He wasn't breathing. He had no pulses. While my partner prepared to intubate him, I set up the IV equipment. Meanwhile, one of the EMTs started to pump on his chest, while the other cut off the man's clothing. This took a while, since he was dressed entirely in leather. When his torso was finally exposed, I saw scrapes and bruising all over his chest and abdomen. The impact must have been extraordinary.
"There's blood coming out his ears," one of the EMTs said. This was a sign of a skull fracture.
"Did he have a helmet on when you got here?" my partner asked.
"We didn't see one," the EMT said. "I don't know whether he lost it during the collision or not."
"His pupils are fixed and dilated," my partner observed. He didn't have to say anything else, because we knew what this meant. He was already brain dead. We were trying to resuscitate him for nothing.
But we'd already begun, and so we'd continue. We started for the nearest trauma center. My partner talked to a nurse by radio, to let them know we were coming. They were ready for us. A dozen nurses, doctors, and technicians greeted us inside.
"Why would anybody do that?" one of the EMTs asked as the trauma team continued the resuscitation effort. "I mean, going that fast downtown is like suicide."
I didn't have any answer for him. Neither did anyone else. A police officer passed us in the doorway. He looked at me, as if he was about to ask a question, and I already knew what it was, because police officers at hospitals always ask the same question.
"He's not going to live," I told him. "He's dead right now, and he's going to stay dead."
"I'll call Homicide," the officer said.