That’s Francis up there, isn’t she cute? A little chatty, but cute. She’s also very, very sweet. I don’t like sweet but Francis gets a pass and not just because her then-boyfriend’s partner got shot on duty. Are you keeping up? No? Okay, Steve and Jeff were serving a warrant when Steve got shot in the face and legs. I know! I couldn’t believe it either! You can start with Steve’s story here or Jeff’s here or just keep on reading for Francis’ side. Where was Francis while all of this was happening? Out saving lives, likely story, right? Well, she was. She’s a paramedic, I can see that – cute and sweet make for a good beside manner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t keep a crisis from striking your family.
While Jeff and Steve were in another county serving warrants, Francis was in the midst of a 24 hour shift on her way to a nursing home. As she was getting out of the truck, she answered a blocked call (something she normally wouldn’t do), it was her boyfriend Jeff. Jeff called to tell her Steve had been shot, he was bleeding badly, he loved her and he’d call her when he had more news. Francis hung up the phone, entered the nursing home and began treating the patient.
There always seems to be a little lag time before your brain processes devastating news, that’s exactly what happened to Francis. While taking her patients vitals, she suddenly realized she needed to be with Jeff, Steve and Steve’s wife, Tanya. Her family was in trouble.
Francis is like any other first responder, she put the patient first. She did what she needed to do, took the patient to the hospital and took the truck out of service. She had a hospital of her own to get to; it was a 50 minute drive. During that 50 minutes, she had an update from Jeff with more details of the incident and she had a lot of time to worry about what was waiting for her when she arrived. It’s a scene we all hope we see only on television. A sea of blue uniforms waiting for news, a show of support for one of their own. Sadness, tension and compassion on the faces of the men and women who hope to never be caught by the bullet of a desperate man.
Once she made her way through the group, she went straight to Jeff and embraced him. Tanya came from beyond the curtain and hugged her as well. Being an EMT gave Francis an edge that may or may not have been helpful, she saw the medical aspect of what was going on – endotrachial tube, not a good sign; monitor, is he getting enough oxygen; vital signs, is he stable? – that is what Francis saw before she saw the wound. Before she saw her friend. Before she saw what could have been the end of what they knew and loved.
While in the ICU waiting room, people began telling “Steve Stories”, you know the stories…remember when Steve…those stories. The stories that say he might not make it. These are the times an officer looks around and wonders if it’s worth it. If your time is cut short by a bullet, will your friends have enough stories to tell? Will they think your sacrifice was worth the ending?
The stories kept everyone together and intact while they waited for news. Finally, sometime between 2 and 4am, they were satisfied that Steve would be okay while they got some sleep. But who could sleep? They had cried, watched Steve write “Tell everyone on Facebook I am going to be ok” and tried to hold each other up. Steak and Shake was still open and they had more Steve stories to tell before they caught a few hours of sleep. By 7am, Steve was asking for Jeff and they were headed back to the hospital. That’s when Francis saw the first sign of what she didn’t realize was going to be a battle with PTSD and a test of her relationship with Jeff.
Jeff snapped at Francis. Big deal, right? I mean, we all get stressed and we all get short with others; given the circumstances, Jeff had every right to be tense. He was tense, and he was angry, very angry. No matter how you see it, Jeff saw it as an attack on his family. Additionally, he had Steve’s blood on him. He was looking right at Steve’s face when the bullet hit him. He held his friend while he bled. He still didn’t know what the outcome would be.
While Jeff was processing his end of the situation, Francis was looking at it from a medical perspective, his leg was through-and-through and the bullet hit the jaw, not the brain. From her angle, things looked good. Steve was going to be okay, they could surprise Tanya and Steve by decorating their house for Christmas, coordinate the purchase of gifts and visit their friends daily to help with the healing. For Jeff, things weren’t that simple. He couldn’t shake it, he had trouble sleeping and he was frustrated.
Relationships are hard enough, throwing a traumatic event into one makes things a lot harder. Jeff tried to talk, Francis tried to listen. As women, it’s hard for us to listen, Francis was no different; she offered advice, she inadvertently cut him off and did everything she thought she should do. Rather than making things better, she felt like she was making things worse. What Jeff needed wasn’t what she was offering, there was a disconnect between them based on experience, behaviors adopted through their jobs and simply being male and female. Nothing seemed to work and it took a toll on their relationship. The only thing they seemed to have in common while coping with this situation was that neither of them recognized PTSD, neither of them had enough training or understanding to help them make their way through without hurting the other.
So did their relationship make it? How did they cope with PTSD? Find out here in Part 2.