I write because it is one of the few things that makes me feel better. It makes me feel human, complete, sane again.
This entry is graphic. It’s probably disturbing. I’m so
sorry for that. I wish it weren’t. I wish I weren’t writing it. I wish
my shift had been uneventful, that I had come home and been the same
person I was when I went to work. But none of that is true. And so I
It’s been slow all day. I’ve done maybe 3 IVs, and a handful more
blood draws. I sit with my chin in my hand, tapping my foot against the
cabinet lazily. I refresh the screen to see yet another list of
“Come on,” I whine to no one in particular, “can’t someone order something on somebody!?”
“Eh, you’ve only got 10 minutes left!” Amanda smiles at me and snaps her gum. I yawn in reply.
I hear the squeak of sneakers as an ED tech comes running towards us. He’s out of breath, and gets his sentence out in pieces.
“Guys…we have…two trauma codes…coming in.”
“What?” I’m trying to figure out what the odds are of two separate traumas happening at the same time.
“Two little boys…badly burned…apartment fire.”
I look at Amanda and she stares back with wide eyes. We grab our lab buckets and head to the trauma rooms to suit up.
I start from the bottom and make my way up systematically. Booties,
lead coat, apron, gloves, mask and face-shield, and finally a hair
cover. I start overheating immediately as we wait for the first to
Amanda goes to the second trauma room as I wait in the first. My
hands are sweating as I set up the IV equipment and get the blood tubes
out. I’m not sure if it’s from the gloves or my own nerves, but little
sweat beads form on my brow.
As my patient arrives, Amanda comes running in. I try to figure out
what’s going on, but I’m overstimulated. Amanda is crying and so is the
little boy, but only one makes sense.
He’s two years old with soot around his nose, his body dark and his
hair singed. He looks up at me with confused eyes, and sniffles a few
“Oh god, Sam, I can’t do it, I can’t do it?”
“Do what, Amanada?” Tears are running down her face, and she just stares at me in horror.
“Sam, please go to the other trauma room. I’ll do this one. Please, I can’t do it.”
“Okay.” I’m confused, but I grab my bucket and head out.
I don’t know what the smell is, but it makes me almost stop in my
tracks. I quickly realize that it’s the smell of burnt flesh. I push
this out of my mind as I approach this boy.
My eyes widen and I feel my heart beat out of rhythm. His whole tiny
body is burned. Skin is peeling off in sheets, and he turns to look at
me. His eyes are as wide as mine, but glazed over slightly. I see them
shut, and before I know it he’s being intubated.
I pick a tourniquet out of my things and tie it around his forearm. I
try not to think about what that will do to the skin after I remove it.
I pick up his arm and look down. His tiny little fingertips are falling
off. My stomach turns and I don’t think, I just act.
As soon as I’m done, I leave the room, blood tubes in hand. Amanda
looks at me as we walk back to the lab. She starts to say something, but
stops as soon as she realizes I’m not paying any attention to her.
The third child, a girl, was flown to a bigger Trauma Level 1 center
on the coast. We didn’t have the resources to take care of him, but from
what I hear, she wasn’t doing very well at all.
Then it hits me. Three little children, all seven and under were in
an apartment fire. Why weren’t the parents in the beds next to them?
“Where are the parents?”
“In the waiting room.”
“Um…because they’re waiting?”
“No, I mean…why aren’t they hurt?”
“You didn’t hear?”
“No.” I know what’s coming, though.
“The mother wasn’t in the apartment.”
I try not to think, again. I see that I have another patient to get
before I go, so I push everything out of my head like always.
“I need pain medicine,” my patient moans.
“I don’t do meds. I just stick.” I know I’m being curt, but I can’t manage to say anything else.
“Ohhhh, it hurts so bad. I need some demerol!”
“Your nurse is coming soon.”
“Oh the pain! Can’t you give me anything?”
I just stare at his arm as I secure the IV, saying nothing. I don’t
look him in the eye. I know that if I were to meet his gaze, I’d be
unable to keep my composure. I’d yell at him. I’d scream, I’d cry.
Get the fuck out of my ER, I’d say. Stop wasting
everyone’s time so you can get high. Don’t you know that there are
children who are close to death? Don’t you know that I don’t have the
time or energy to waste helping you get your fix?
But I can’t. I have to treat him the same as I treat everyone else. I
have to give him great care, and I have to manage not to piss him off. I
succeed and leave before I can do any damage.
I clock out. I grab my things and just leave. I pass the mother of
the children on my way out and I try not to ball my fists. I keep my
face blank as I pass a few police officers as well. I hear some talk
about the fire and just keep on walking.
I make it to my car before I break down. I call my mom and just cry.
Sitting in the dark, all I can see is that little boy. All I can picture
is those three children burning in their home, surrounded by smoke and
flames. I can imagine the terror on their faces, the cries that no one
hears. I avoid thinking about their pain, about what they were thinking.
I just cry and cry to my mom.
I’m not quite sure how I made it home. I don’t live but a quarter of a
mile from the ER, but it’s the longest drive of my life. Before I
realize it, I’m back in my apartment, curling up in my bed, wrapping
myself around a pillow.
It’s going to be all over the news tomorrow, I think to myself. It’s
going to be popping up on websites and the various TV channels, but I
don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to remember what I saw.
But every time I close my eyes, it’s the only thing I can see.