“How’s the weather outside?” We were packed into the elevator like sardines. Myself, Blue Eyes, the bariatric stretcher and two Nurses.
Blue Eyes and I answered simultaneously. He told them that it was beautiful. “Sunny and warm.” I told them that it was miserable outside and to be happy that they were stuck indoors on such an awful day. I had been reminded earlier in the shift that anyone stuck indoors doesn’t truly want to know what the weather is like outside. Unless it’s awful and going to keep them from getting home. It wasn’t awful outside. I lied to them.
The male nurse laughed out loud. “You guys enjoy your day.”
“You too.” Blue Eyes returned. We walked our land yacht of a stretcher through the ambulance bay doors and into a beautiful 70 degree spring day. The kind of day that I wish I could recreate every day of the year. The shift had been uneventful so far. Just how I like it. I don’t know where I need to move to have 70 degree weather every single day, but if I can figure that out, I’m moving. I remember looking up and seeing a MICU that had just pulled in, not even bothering to park. It happens when the bay is full.
Or when something is going south in the back of the truck.
The back doors flung open and I heard some yelling, although it was nothing that I was able to make out. A few years back I would have been intensely interested in what was happening in the back at that moment. I remember the first time I saw a crew using a Lucas on an arrest patient. I practically stalked them through the ER, in awe that a machine like that even existed. It’s not that I care less about what I do now, far from it. I absolutely love my career choice. I love it to the point of distraction. I guess that since it wasn’t happening in the back of my truck, I wasn’t focusing on the big picture. Blue Eyes called my name. “Epi! It’s a code. Do you want to help???”
My stomach dropped. It hit me. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with that run. They had a full crew on the truck, Security was already at the back doors. They would be fine. If it looked like they weren’t okay we could jump in. I’ve done enough compressions to know that it doesn’t often end well.
“Epi? Do you want to help?” Blue Eyes was ready to go. In hindsight, I should have told him to go see what he could help with. He hasn’t had any arrests as an EMT, although he’s done compressions while on the Fire Department. I should have told him to go. Blue Eyes, if you read this, I’m sorry. I failed you, grasshopper.
By the time I could answer him, the Calvary was emptying out of the ER and heading to the squad. I remember seeing the girl in the front of the truck climb out. She was crying, her face was streaked with makeup and tears, her hair matted… She was doubled over in the middle of the ambulance bay and there wasn’t a soul with her. Her hands were covering her mouth and even from twenty feet away I could hear her deep guttural sobs. It’s that heartbreaking sound that one makes when they realize that a loved one is dying. Or has already died. I hear the echoes of those cries in my dreams sometimes.
“Blue Eyes, she needs us more.” We both jogged over to her along with a bystander that had been watching.
“He’s in good hands…”
“If it was going to happen at least it happened here…”
“You need to get on your knees and pray, right now. Right here…”
“It’s going to be okay.”
Blue Eyes had her by the shoulders and the bystander was there, they were both trying to calm her, to ease her fears, but there really isn’t much you can say to someone when they believe that they’ve just lost the love of their life. When she began to hyperventilate I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around her and whispered, “Stay calm. Slow your breathing down. Breathe in and out slowly. Very good, in through your nose and out through your mouth.”
Just as she began to slow her breathing down I realized that they were going to be pulling the stretcher out of the back of the truck right in front of her. She didn’t to see someone pumping on her husband’s chest. She didn’t need to see them forcing air into him through a BVM. There isn’t anything glamorous about CPR or working an arrest. Just as they were pulling him out of the back of the truck I turned her 180 degrees. The bystander told her once again that she should pray.
And that’s what they did. They got on their knees, on the blacktop in that urban ER ambulance bay. They prayed. My partner would later tell me that even though he’s not overly religious, he prayed as well. It seemed to bring her comfort. Something that I wasn’t able to do. Something that Blue Eyes and the bystander weren’t able to do with words.
I watched as they wheeled her husband into the ER surrounded by the best possible care that he could get in the area. His color was remarkable considering the fact that the one doing compressions was riding the stretcher. Good compressions… Maybe he had a chance…
Once her husband was safely inside of the ER I stood her up, slipped my arm under hers and walked her into the patient entrance. The bystander that had joined us insisted that she stay with her, and when I left them, they were on their knees yet again praying, holding on to each other. Two complete strangers.
I found myself outside once again, next to my partner in crime. This time he had his arm around my shoulders.
“I’m okay. Are you okay?”
We sat and talked awhile while the cars sped past us on that busy street. We sat and just tried to enjoy the sun. Sometimes that’s all you can do when you do this job. Even given what had just happened. As we turned to head back to the truck (you can only hide from dispatch for so long), we ran right back into the wife of the patient and the bystander.
The wife… she wasn’t crying. She wasn’t smiling, but she wasn’t crying. The bystander, bless her heart had a mile wide smile. I have no idea why she was at the ER that day, but whoever you are, THANK YOU for taking care of this woman.
Maybe there’s hope… I’m almost afraid to ask this but…
“How is he?” Blue Eyes and I asked almost simultaneously.
She managed a smile. “They told me that they got a pulse back right about the time he was getting into the ER!”
ROSC. Within minutes of an arrest. A witnessed arrest with prompt EFFECTIVE CPR and early defibrillation, in the ambulance bay of a top notch hospital.
I guess if it’s going to happen to someone, this is how it should happen.