A Heartless Place

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

After what seems like the 10th straight day of gloom, the clouds lighten to white before the skies turn clear and blue.

Bronson and I are contemplating getting ice-cream from the new Baskin Robbins on Knapp Street in Sheepshead Bay. I crave a flavor I haven’t had in years: “Chocolate chip mint,” I tell him. “The green stuff, with the chocolate chips in it.”

He counts out his money. “It’s not green anymore. It’s chocolate-colored, with mint essence.”


I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “What do you mean it’s not green anymore?”

Before I can go in and see for myself, we get a call for an unconscious on the bicycle path off the Belt Parkway. We rush off, lights and sirens on.

Everywhere around Plumb Beach people are playing Frisbee and riding their bikes, enjoying the weekend. To look at all the children flying kites, you’d never guess the beach is now closed at night because of the prostitution, drug dealing, and sexual activity in cars.


We park crookedly on the sandy grass to find four firefighters standing over a shabbily dressed man, unshaven, by my guess somewhere in his late 50s. He could be younger. He looks homeless, and the homeless age quickly. Next to him is a large brown paper shopping bag, inside of which I guess are his belongings.

Around the firemen are a bunch of cyclists standing in click-on bicycle shoes, their thin, spidery racing bikes leaning against their hips. According to one cyclist, the man had a seizure lasting about three minutes. “You’re sure that long?” I ask.

He snaps a sleek electronic gadget off his handlebars and holds it out to me, saying, “I timed it.” I take the timepiece and jot down the exact duration of the seizure: 02:48:16. “Down to the hundredth of a second,” I marvel.


He clips the timer back onto his handlebars. “I’m in training.”

I jot down the man’s vital signs as Bronson reads them off to me. Blood pressure okay, pulse good. The man is dazed, but is slowly coming around. I note the wet patch on his jeans. He was incontinent. This was a genuine seizure.

“Sir, what’s your name?” Bronson asks. “Oliver,” the man mumbles. We ask his address. He shakes his head and gestures to the grass. “Nowhere. Here.”

“Do you have any medical problems?”

“Seizures,” he says, hoisting himself up into a seated position and rubbing his face. “Haven’t taken my meds in a few days.”

“What meds?” I ask.

“Dilantin,” he says. Without it, epileptic patients will suffer seizures.

We bring Oliver into our ambulance as the cyclists slowly disperse back onto the bike lane. Medics arrive, and Bronson attempts to show off his knowledge of paramedic seizure protocol by reciting what IV drugs to push. He messes up, and the medics laugh at him. “Until you finish medic school,” one says, “keep your mouth shut.”

Bronson was just trying to help. “You don’t have to be so snotty,” I say. They ignore me. They start an IV on Oliver, toss me a bag of clear saline to hang from the hook on the ambulance ceiling, and tell Bronson to get behind the wheel and start driving.

I look over to a corner of the ambulance and see the brown paper shopping bag. I poke through it, hoping to find some Medicaid insurance cards. Instead, I find a large collection of porno DVDs.

“Please close the bag,” Oliver says, embarrassed. One of the medics looks into the bag, fishes around, pulls out one of the DVDs, and starts laughing. Oliver says, “Please leave the DVDs alone.”

The medic looks at the cover of the porn disc. “How you gonna watch this? You’re not living anywhere!” He pokes further through the bag. “What, you have a DVD player in here?”

Oliver shakes his head at the medic. “You guys are real lowlifes.”

The medic stares at the porn, then at Oliver. “Right. I’m a lowlife.” He tosses the DVD into the bag and kicks the it into the corner.

After we drop off Oliver at Kings County, we get into the ambulance and head back to the ice-cream store. Poor Bronson. He’s still smarting over that medic blunder. “The world is a heartless place,” he says.

I agree with him. “Chocolate chip mint,” I say. “Not even green anymore.”

Ms. Klopsis is an emergency medical technician on an ambulance in Brooklyn. This column details her observations and experiences. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of patients.

The New York Sun

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