Written by Karl in January of 2003 for medical school applications.

It was the type of rain to which one did not want to be exposed–the kind of rain for watching movies with a girlfriend, the bone chilling kind that soaked one’s clothes in seconds. My brother, Luke; a friend, Amy; and I were returning from a concert in Detroit. I was in the backseat in a half-daze, where one dreams, but still hears the conversation. All of a sudden our Jeep swerved, and we were on the side of the road. Looking up, there was a pickup truck in front of us. As I was still trying to register what was happening, Luke, an EMT, jumped out and ran up to the pickup. He disappeared into the heavy rain. The rain pounded on the car, and Amy and I did not know what to say. It seemed as if hours had passed before he came back. When he returned, we found out that the truck had swerved and hit the wall. He told Amy to find the police on the CB, and he said he needed my help.

We stepped out of the Jeep, and the rain seemed to hit even harder. Walking up to the pickup, my heart dropped for the people inside. The front left corner had compacted like a pop can. Both people had their seatbelts on, but sometimes that just is not good enough. The driver’s leg had punched through the floorboard, and both people seemed to have C-spine injuries. I jumped on the bed of the truck to hold C-spine on the passenger through the back window. As I reached through the window, I started talking to him and letting him know what I was doing. His name was Brandon, and he kept asking what was going to happen to him. I told him he would be all right; he just had to hold on with me. Luke was taking pulses, checking for allergies, looking at the leg of the driver, Erika, and finding out how debilitating the C-spine was. He would pinch a shoulder, an arm, a leg; “Can you feel that?” “Feel what?” they would respond. “Nothing, it’s ok,” we would say to them. So, the four of us waited for help to arrive. We were all silently praying, wondering where help was, and asking why this was happening to them. Seemingly an eternity passed; and for the first time in my life, I was overjoyed at the sound of that siren.

As the ambulance entered onto the freeway, it had to cross four lanes of traffic within probably an eighth of a mile. As they tried to weave through traffic, a Neon got stuck between them and us. With limited traction, its brakes locked up, and we braced for impact as the Neon plowed into the passenger side of the truck. Brandon and Erika both screamed as their necks could not help but move in our hands. The ambulance pulled in front of us, and the driver of the Neon obviously was unsure of what to do and hesitated for a second before deciding to drive away.

The paramedics came to us with C-collars and backboards. They had to pull the driver out first, since the passenger’s side was crushed. Between Erika’s scream, the skin ripping off her leg, and the bone crumbling inside, my heart went out for her as chills went down my spine, hoping she knew this was for the best. After that, everything seemed to move extremely rapidly. The patients were backboarded, loaded in the ambulance, and driven away. There was not time to say anything else. I often wonder what happened to Brandon and Erika, and I constantly wish that I were in a better position to help them that day. Those two helped me much more than I ever could have helped them, for they turned me on to the idea of studying medicine, and all I did for them was give a little hope.

Soon after that day, I had to sign up for a senior service project through my school. This was a program where students had to give back to the community one morning a week. I immediately chose a hospital in downtown Detroit, which I believed was the place that would help the community the most. I volunteered on Wednesday mornings, but after a few uneventful days in the Emergency Department, I found myself wanting to help more. I was invited to come back, whenever I wanted to. Assuming Friday and Saturday nights would be the most eventful times, I would go out with my friends until my curfew, after which I would head down to the hospital. From around 2 a.m. to usually about 5 or 6, I would see a whole new Emergency Department than the one I knew on Wednesday mornings.

As a volunteer, I became almost a part of the staff. I knew the doctors, the nurses, the technicians, the regulars, and everyone in between. I saw everything from gunshot wounds to lacerations to earaches. I saw people dealing with a bit of everything: pain, despair, elation, hope, and even death. I talked to patients, doctors, nurses, and visitors. During the entire week, I would look forward to when I could go volunteer. Even just transporting a patient made me feel important. I thrived on watching doctors work in the trauma room. Chest tubes, x-rays, sutures, and traction all amazed me. I was astounded by the fast pace. I loved it all.

When I had to leave for college, my time at the hospital ended. I wished that it could have gone on forever. As I said my goodbyes to everyone there who had become my friends, I knew that someday I would be back in an Emergency Department. My mind was made up that I would do whatever it would take to be one of those doctors, so that I could thrive on doing the work instead of watching it.