Once upon a time, I was pulling a shift on an ambulance when my partner and I got sent to pick up this 5-year-old asthmatic skateboarder named Dakota. Now, Dakota wasn’t just any 5-year-old, he was a pint-sized ankle-biting Tony Hawk.
Why he liked to skateboard, I don’t know. But I do know that he was very good at it for only being 5. He would stand on the board, plant his child-size Vans shoe-wearing foot on the ground, push himself off…and then gently roll to a stop about 3 feet later.
Okay, so maybe he wasn’t that good. But with me having no athletic ability whatsoever and for him having only been walking for a couple of years, I was impressed.
The problem was that darn asthma thing. He would push, roll, stop, push, roll, stop, push, roll, and stop, until he couldn’t breathe. Seriously, his wheezing was audible in the next county. It was loud and vaguely reminded me of that noise a sea otter makes when it surfaces for air at the zoo and runs into another sea otter mid-inhale. It’s one of those sounds that isn’t easily forgotten.
Asthma is a funny thing; when the bronchioles (the tiny air tubes in the lungs) get angry, they tense up and clamp down so tight that air doesn’t want to move in and out anymore. It’s similar to how sliders from White Castle relax the bowels and make everything evacuate the lower GI tract, but it’s the opposite; instead of relaxing and excreting, it clamps down and tenses up.
Maybe I need to work on my medical metaphors…
So, Dakota would do his physical exertion thing until his lungs got angry and decided to stop making air move. Then he would turn blue and start making noises like a pediatric Bane from The Dark Knight Rises movie.
We showed up and found the dusky-colored fellow sitting on his skateboard and talking to his mother in a wheezy voice. We did the usual “Hey buddy, how are you feeling? What were you doing? Can you breathe okay?” line of questioning and gave him some oxygen. Everybody always gets oxygen. Usually. Most of the time, if it’s indicated.
Really, I guess it would be more accurate to say that some people get oxygen some of the time, if needed.
Anyway, we gave Dakota some oxygen and migrated him and his mother into the back of our mobile medical office. Naturally, he was a little star struck at first, realizing that the interior of our ambulance looked exactly like the one from the Trauma TV series that was cancelled way too early (it only lasted for one season).
We gave him this nebulizer treatment thing with some albuterol stuff and before we knew it, he was perfusing and breathing like a champ! It was awesome.
There was this awkward lull in conversation on the way to the hospital, so, being the ingenious and opportunistic guy that I am, I decided to pop the question.
I said, “Yo Dakota, if you could have a tail, what kind of tail would you have?”
Dakota gave me this look that was infused with disgust (or maybe contempt or constipation, I still have issues figuring out these facial expressions) and said, “Yo? Adam, I think you meant to say, “Hey Dakota.””
I awkwardly and dramatically cleared my throat and said, “Hey Dakota, if you could have a tail, what kind of tail would you have?” Oh, and I sarcastically enunciated the “hey Dakota” part.
Some people may say I was childish for talking like that to a 5-year-old, and to those people I have to say, they’re right; sometimes I do act immature and stoop to the level of a toddler when communicating with them. Actually, I do that to adults, too.
He gave me this very unique look, similar to the one Bane had in that Batman movie right before he did that one really dramatic and mischievous thing, and said, “I would have a monkey tail.”
“A monkey tail? What kind of monkey?” I asked.
Dakota said, “A brown monkey. Like that one from the monkey in the Night at the Museum movie.”
I asked him why he wanted to look like Ben Stiller, and he said, “No, the monkey. Not the guy who looks like a monkey. But I want Dexter’s tail because he’s the coolest monkey ever! Duh.”
Throughout my years of doing mild-moderately awesome/mediocre things, I’ve realized that that’s a typical answer of a 5-year-old skateboarder. “Because he’s the coolest monkey ever. Duh.”
To end the story, we showed up at the hospital and he was fine. He left a few hours later to continue doing his bronchiole-angering sport.
And they all lived wheezily and happily ever after or something.