He sat at the dinner table, and looked up slowly.
“You know, this time of year, I can’t believe all of the problems I see. Suicides, domestic violence… it starts just after Thanksgiving and continues through New Years.”
The others at the table kept munching on dinner, not really knowing where this was coming from. After all, he was a cop and family member. It was supposed to be a nice Christmas get-together. But we could tell he was bothered by something.
“I mean, there was this mother and daughter. They lived in one of those Habitat-for-Humanity homes. Not a lot of money. People had just brought them a bunch of bags of food. The bags were on the counter in the kitchen. They were good people, trying to make ends meet.”
The feast continued. People slowly took notice, not knowing what to say.
“We got a call. All it said was that a young girl called in a panic saying her mother wasn’t breathing. I was the first one there. I went in the bathroom. I had to shove the door open since she had fallen against it. Her hair dryer was still on. Water was on the floor. My partner got to the bathroom just a second later with the AED, then the ambulance crew arrived with all of their stuff and really worked on her. I spoke with the 12-year old daughter. She seemed to have it together. Such a nice girl. She explained everything so well. They tried like crazy. There was no clue why this young 44-year old woman would end up dead like that. It was such a shame. You think it might have been her heart? I bet she was dead for a while, I mean, her color had settled, you know? Do you think we could have gotten her back?”
He looked at me.
I felt obligated to respond. “It takes only about four minutes without blood to the brain… How long did it take you to get there?"
"Oh, longer than that."
"Do you think she might have been electrocuted? I mean, when I’m in the EP lab trying to induce ventricular fibrillation and every technique fails, I just get out a trusty old 9-volt battery. You know that tingly feeling you experience when you touch those electrodes to your tongue? Well, if that same current is passed inside the heart with a wire, well, nothing fibrillates a heart better. It doesn’t take much current. So, if the floor was wet and her hair dryer was poorly grounded, enough current could have passed through her heart, you know. And people collapse suddenly with no warning when that occurs. Did they test the hair dryer for a current leak?”
"Dad, geeeezzz. Do we have to hear that stuff about 9-volt batteries again?" My kids wanted to discuss anything else, you see.
“No! I’m gonna ask the guys to do that when I get back. I bet you’re right. The guys unplugged that hair-dryer right when they arrived. It was still running when they got there and all…”
He sat quietly, but seemed relieved to have a plausible explanation to his case.
“You gonna be okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, yeah. It goes with the territory. But I never like this time of year. It's never fun, ya know?"
He paused for a moment.
"Now, who's got the gravy?...”