1 a.m. The ambulance pulls out of the driveway suddenly. EMSCOM crackles to life.
Kayenta Base, this is Med 23. We are en route to Oljeto, child down and unresponsive, parents are meeting us en route. Over.
When I arrived at the ambulance trailer this evening, I felt like I was walking in a dream. I knew something bad was going to happen….and I talked to PD at the scene; he said that when he left for work this morning, he saw an owl outside his home. And two coyotes crossed in front of him as he drove to work. He knew it, too.
“Med 23, Kayenta Base copies, 10-4.”
No, they didn’t meet us halfway. That’s why it took so long for us to radio back to you. We arrived in Oljeto before they did — they were back on the cell phone and said they’d meet us at the Trading Post. I knew something was wrong then.
1:50 a.m. EMSCOM crackles to life.
Kayenta Base, this is Med 23. We are on scene. We need medical control on the radio, over.
As soon as the truck pulls up we jump out of the rig and run over. He’s already dragged the boy out of the backseat, awkwardly. We throw down the tailgate and put him on it, and I try to open his airway.
“Med 23, this is Kayenta Base. The doctor is standing by at the radio. Go ahead.”
I can’t tilt his head back. My mind goes blank for a moment. I’ve done this hundreds of times. So I try again. I can. not. tilt. his. head. Then I realize it’s because he’s already stiff.
Kayenta Base, we have a two-year-old boy, he has been down and not breathing for approximately one hour. There was no CPR performed during that time…
I put the mask on him anyway and try to get some air in, but nothing goes through. My partner comes up behind me and puts the three-lead on.
…pupils are fixed and dilated. He is unresponsive to all stimuli. Monitor shows asystole…
The line is flat. Like a ruler. Not the bumpy flat of recent arrest, when there’s still some cardiospasm. Ruler. Dead flat. A heart that’s been dead a long time.
…Med 23 is requesting medical clearance to pronounce in the field. …Over.
The ER – Kayenta Base – is silent.
“Med 23, this is Dr. Jones at Kayenta Base. What is the relevant history on this patient? Over.”
I shout at the mother, what the hell happened? She’s in tears, but she looks at her husband for a second — he’s staring at her — and then she says that she gave him a snack at Navajo Mountain, and he was OK, and that halfway to Oljeto on the canyon road she looked back because the baby was crying. And she noticed that he wasn’t breathing. I say, when was that? She glances at him again, and says, an hour ago, when we called 9-1-1.
Kayenta Base, this is Med 23. Ahh…parents say the child threw up this morning. That is the only relevant history obtained, other than absence of breathing was noted shortly before call to emergency services. Over.
And I look at my partner, and we look at this kid and think, there’s no fucking way a 2-year-old develops rigor mortis in one hour after he stops breathing. This kid has been dead a long time.
“Med 23, this is Dr. Jones at Kayenta Base. Is the child mottled? Over.”
I look at his back and he’s mottled behind his neck. And I think, if he’s been sitting in a car seat all this time, with his thighs and feet as the dependent body parts, why is his neck mottled? And then I notice his ear, and notice the bruise. And then I notice the bruises under his jaw.
Kayenta Base, this is Med 23. Positive mottling…ahh….child shows evidence of rigor mortis. Over.
And I notice the cut across the bridge of his little, broken nose. And I look up at the father. And he’s absolutely silent. Blank slate. No emotion at all.
“Med 23, this is Dr. Jones at Kayenta Base. You have medical clearance to pronounce in the field. Over.”
The father looks back at me, and realizes that I’m staring at him, horrified. And he suddenly comes alive and starts waving his arms and saying, do something! Save my son! And I think, your son has been dead for more than four fucking hours, you lying, motherfucking asshole, and you KNOW IT.
Kayenta Base, this is Med 23, we are 10-4 on medical clearance to pronounce in the field. What is your time, over?
The mother is sitting on the pavement, now hysterical. PD is trying to question her to figure out what happened, and I hear her babble something about the “wrong way on Tribal 423,” and I think, what the fuck? If you’re trying to get to Oljeto from the mountain you can hardly miss the turn, the road curves south to meet 423; how the fuck would you end up going north?
“Med 23, this is Kayenta Base. It is 1:55 a.m. Over.”
And then I realize that 423 goes north up to the cliffs above the San Juan river.
Kayenta Base, Med 23 is pronouncing this patient in the field; time of death is 1:55 a.m. We are holding at the scene until arrival of CI team. Med 23 out.
Motherfucker beat his fucking kid to death, and then drove around trying to find a place to dump the body.
“10-4. Kayenta Base out.”