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|There's a stain on my smock; it's blood. It's not my blood. I reassure myself of this fact by pulling the collar of my scrub top forward and looking down. Not my blood. I'm relieved, although momentarily annoyed that my favorite Victoria's Secret bra has been stained by the patch. Serves me right for trying to feel sexy in between mopping up puke and bandaging up the battle wounds of urban soldiers hurt in the line of duty, selling cocaine to school aged kids. Housekeeping works to restore order to the trauma bay; several of them having already gone out to vomit in the waste basket by triage. It's not normal to see so much blood, I keep telling myself. But to me - it is normal. I look down at my formerly white leather clogs and sigh. They were now a tie-dyed arrangement of pink and red. Always wear the blue booties. These shoes are trashed.|
The night started out reasonably well, I recalled, while sitting on a vacant and undressed stretcher; the stench of old urine and bleach wafting up from its plastic mattress to mix with the smell of my sweat and the metallic tang of congealed blood hanging stagnant in the air. A few minor traumas. A few gangbangers caught in a turf war, every one of them claiming "Some Dude" stabbed them; robbed them; shot them. If the police could only catch this "Some Dude", the city's crime rate would significantly drop. A few bumps. A few scrapes. But generally, it had been quiet. Quiet enough to order in a pizza and throw our feet up on the desk while talking about the latest reality show everyone was addicted to.
Then the call came.
"Center Hospital, be advised: MVA plus gun shot wound injuries incoming."
In the matter of mere seconds, the room became a flurry of activity. Our pizza long forgotten, cooled in the box it had been thrown in, while everyone scrambled in an organized chaos. Carts were readied. Blood bank was notified. Infusers were cranked. Warm IV bags were hung. Stretchers were rearranged to give room. No other thoughts prevailed other than what waited for us just beyond the sliding glass doors.
"Rescue 3 to CH on a trauma code; 48-year-old male MVA with gun shot wounds to the chest. Monitor reads PEA. Chest compressions commensed. ETA in 3." MVA and GSW? It's not our job to ask why these two events occurred.
They came in a blur of dark blue overalls, their patches stitched to shoulders identifying them as air paramedics. The noxious smell of Jet-A blew through the ventilation; Plant Services forgot to turn the vents off again. The Stryker was occupied not by one but by two. Beneath a young male paramedic, barely old enough to shave, was a large, ashen coloured man shaking from the chest compressions administered by the medic. Intubated and being ventilated, the shell of the man lay supine and lifeless.
To others in the department, those here because of a cold, or frequent flyers suffering from hypochondria, perhaps bearing witness to the mangled mess of bone and muscle that came rushing past, droplets of blood splashing onto the sterile white flooring, was cause enough to rethink their choice of visiting us tonight. Perhaps, too, there would be few complaints about timeliness or attentiveness. Though it was doubtful.
Evan, our TTL, intubated and put in chest tubes, both sides, the size of fire department hoses. Blood spewed out, a river of dark crimson spilled from the plastic.
"Where's his feet?" Someone asked. The department, for a split second, became eerily quiet as we all realized the man appeared too short, with blood saturating the bottom of the gurney.
"Don't know," came the reply from the flight paramedic. No feet. How do you lose your feet? Regardless, it was minor compared to anything else.
"Break the tray!" The flurry near the head and chest became increased. Murmurs rippled through us. Wheels rolled and clanked.
Then a sea of blood spilled across the bed. The linen drank their fill before the excess rolled over the edge and poured like thick juice onto the floor below. Clamshelled, Evan was elbow deep in chest.
Sometimes miracles happen here. Sometimes, babies are born before we can get them upstairs. Sometimes, aged loved ones pass away peacefully and in no pain. This can be a healing house. A place of unbelievable moments of triumph over the darkest odds. A place where disease and illness knows no race or gender. This can be a house of laughter, oddities, and blunders. The people within can bring joy to a new family, or comfort to those left behind. They are the miracle workers. They are the magicians.
But sometimes, their magic isn't enough.
The white sheet that covered the 48-year-old large, barrell of a man stained itself with the remainder of the blood while it was wheeled away to some dark hide-out in the basement to become familiar with the coroner and his array of tools. Tools not intended to heal but to merely investigate and repair enough for a suitable service.
The wails from the conference room make it apparent to anyone in the area who was in there and what had just been said.
The door clicks and she comes out; tear-stained face and puffy eyes, holding a gray, pink eared stuffed rabbit and looking as though someone had hit her with a Mac truck.
"We're so sorry," came Evan's words; patient, calm, understanding. We were sorry.
I look down at my shoes and suddenly feel a pang of guilt for becoming annoyed at their ruin.
I can buy new shoes.
But she can't buy her husband back.
*Note: This is a fictional story. This is not a true story relating to any patient current or past. If you think this is about someone you know, you are wrong.