On Saturday night, I was in the office doing my paperwork when I plugged my phone into a charger on another desk. I never do this and I soon forgot about it. My partner and I got a late call and we left with my phone still sitting on the desk. We were about to drive away when I realized my phone wasn’t in my shirt pocket.
“Do you want to go back?” my partner asked.
“No, it’s OK. No one is going to call me,” I replied as we drove away.
About 30 minutes later, dispatch contacted us on the radio, asking me to call them.
Of course, now I needed my phone and I was glad my partner had his. I was working a triple hit-and-run crash with the same suspect vehicle, which had been dumped in the city north of ours.
Officers were impounding the suspect vehicle for me and I was just about to drive over to look at it before the tow truck took it away. I just assumed the phone call to dispatch was related to the incident I was on. I called dispatch and a familiar voice answered. I said hello and waited to hear that someone was trying to report the car stolen because that’s such an original idea in a hit-and-run crash.
The dispatcher said: “Karen hit her head. She needs you to call her.”
“What?” I asked.
“Karen hit her head and she’s bleeding. She wants you to call her,” the dispatcher explained.
“Ok, thanks,” I said as I hung up.
I instantly thought of my phone on the desk and knew my wife had tried to call me. She never would call dispatch unless it was an emergency.
I called her cell phone and my wife told me I needed to come home now because she needed help. She briefly told me she had tripped over the cat and hit her head on the corner of the fireplace mantel.
She had ended up on the floor after the impact and was still bleeding. I got off the phone and we cleared the hit-and-run call. I couldn’t just go home at the moment because we still had to drive back to the station, unload our gear and then change.
Thirty minutes later, I called and said I was on my way home. My wife said the bleeding stopped but had started again. I told her to call my mom to watch the kids because she was going to need stitches. I ended up meeting my wife and kids at the emergency room and my mom took my kids home so they could go back to sleep.
This was my second time in a different ER that night. Earlier, I had gone to check up on a pedestrian who had been struck by a car. When I’m at work I’m used to walking into the ER and getting what I need from the nurses. I’m usually out of there pretty fast. Now I was in street clothes and had to sit and wait.
They checked my wife’s head and said she was going to need stitches. We then went to the waiting room and you know, waited…and waited…
While I was sitting there, my wife retold the story of how the cat, Jasper, had tried to kill her.
She had been walking to the restroom when the cat went in front of her. She tried to avoid the cat and stepped one way. She had to step a different way because the cat went left and then right. She then tripped and lost her balance.
My wife described in great detail how her head hit the corner of the fireplace mantel, which made me cringe at the thought. She then ended up on her back.
With a dazed feeling, my wife instinctively reached up to her head while on the floor and felt blood on her hand. She finally was able to get up and dripped blood on the floor down the hallway as she tried to turn on the light.
She described it looking like a homicide scene with blood on her face, on her nightgown, the carpet, bathroom floor and on the light switch.
My wife told me the cat looked like she knew something was wrong.
This cat loves my wife more than the rest of the family combined because she feeds her. I’m sure the cat was worried about her next meal of canned food after she saw the blood running down my wife’s face.
My wife then went on to tell me what my mom had said after she called her to come over.
“Your mom thought you were shot.”
“Why?” I asked.
“She saw the phone number and thought something had happened to you when I called.”
I thought “wow” to myself. I never even thought about that when I asked my wife to call my mom to watch the kids.
Hours later, we were home and my wife had five brand-new staples in her head, confirming the epic clash that occurred with the cat and fireplace mantel.
It was a reminder of my wife’s cat-like ninja reflexes and the assault our pet made in the dark. My mom was at my house and told me it was good to see me as I gave her a kiss on the cheek before heading upstairs for bed at 8:45 a.m. She ended up taking my kids to visit my grandparents and I went to pick them up later.
When I saw my mom that night she described how she felt when she saw my wife’s number pop up on her phone at 4 a.m. This is because nothing good ever happens from a phone call at that time of night.
She then heard my wife’s upset voice and my mom described how her heart froze when she heard my wife say she needed her to come watch the kids. This was before she learned about my wife’s injury.
My mom said as she hugged me, “I was scared because I thought something happened to you.”
I recently went to a seminar on officer stress and suicide and one of the topics brought up was how our children feel when we go to work.
Most kids don’t usually have to worry about mom or dad going to work, but ours do because we don’t have a normal job like other people.
The instructor told a story about picking up his son early from school one day. The parents had wanted to surprise him by taking him to lunch because he was getting his braces off. The son thought the braces were coming off next week, but the officer’s wife had scheduled it for a week earlier so it would be a big surprise.
When the son was pulled from class, he was told he wasn’t coming back for the rest of the day and to report to the office. The son then cried as he walked to the office because he thought his father had been shot at work.
When he saw his dad, he ran to him and hugged him as he told him what he had feared. It was a big wake-up call to his parents, who never thought their child worried about this the way he did. The instructor encouraged us to go home and ask out kids about this and talk about it.
I went home and asked my son, who is 12, if he worried when I went to work at night. My son told me he did. I asked him what he worried about.
“That you’re going to get shot,” he replied.
I was surprised he actually thought that.
I next asked my daughter, who is 9, and she gave me the same answer. I had never thought to ask them until I took that class.
I explained how well we’re trained at my department and how my goal every night was to be safe. I told them it was OK to worry, but not to let it bother them because I planned on coming home after work no matter what.
My wife is used to me working the night shift. I’ve worked it ever since I met her and we’ve been married over 13 years. I always knew my mom worried, but I guess I never really thought about it after 20 years until this past Sunday.
In closing, I leave you with this.
Hitting your head on the corner of the fireplace mantel is something to avoid in the middle of the night. The cat and my wife had made up and are friends again.
Secondly, talk to your kids about your police job because chances are they’re worrying about it a lot and you don’t even know it.
Depending on their age, some might even be stressed out about it because of what they have seen on TV, regardless if it’s the news or a cop show. Give them an extra hug and kiss on the cheek because they might need it.
Editor’s Note: John Roman is a traffic officer for an Orange County police agency who writes a blog, Badge 415 (badge415.wordpress.com/). His posts focus on the human side of police work and safety tips. Roman, a cop for 20 years, has handled more than 5,000 accidents as a collision investigator. behindthebadgeoc.com will share some of his columns.