My granny always said the one thing she hated about getting old was there was no roadmap. She once told me to make a map, and get out of this forsaken place, or I’ll end up like her. I didn’t want that; I’d prove to everyone I was somebody.
At school, I studied hard winning a scholarship to the best medical school in the country. Leaving the unemployed and drug dealers in our estate behind I headed to university. There among the elite, the brightest I kept my head down. I spoke different, I looked different I had to keep proving myself.
Now, at 26 years old I had made it. I stood and looked at the large square glass building in front of me. Sirens passed me. People rushed into the building all in a state of anticipation. Some left with tears in their eyes. Some with joy in their eyes, dangling blue or pink balloons, and occasionally both.
The electric doors whooshed open as I neared the entrance of the ED, but it wasn’t for me. The fast clicking of trolley wheels behind me only meant one thing. Two paramedics rushed past me, the blood on their green uniforms like large badges of death. A young nurse listened to their frantic conversation, ‘BP falling, heart rate weak, possible knife wound.’
I followed them and took off my faded denim jacket and threw it to Derrick at the reception. He knew what to do he, was our fall guy.
A female paramedic ran past holding a small girl by the hand.
‘It’ll be all right dear; it’ll be fine.’ But the words didn’t slow the girl’s tears. Blood seeped fast through the bandages. Three nurses in white uniforms already covered in blood. The floor was the same colour of death now.
‘Ok, people we’re in trauma 1.’ Dr Furlong shouted now taking control. She was good; she was the best. My friends had worked with her before; she had taught them how to respond in difficult situations with difficult patients. Everyone listened to her. Her sleek black hair matched her dark eyes. She glistened. She thrived in these situations. I was lucky to have her as my mentor.
I waited for my orders. My first real emergency. The adrenaline rushed. What did my lecturer say, Breathe, breathe and continue breathing?
‘Sarah,’ I ran towards my name shouted from the trauma room. This was my time to prove myself.
Beside the erratically beeping ECG, I moved the defibrillator to the woman and placed the pads on her bare chest.
‘Move, for God’s sake the pads are on the wrong way around, I’ll do it.’
I placed the pad that should be on her abdomen to her chest. I can to do that in my sleep, it’s the basics of first aid. The pads even have pictures on them where to place them. I gulp back the tears. It’s a straight fail.
‘Stand back. Clear.’
A paramedic who held one of the crimson red bandages from the woman’s chest said, ‘Her daughter phoned 999, nodding to the little girl with eyes red sore eyes. One of her pigtails had come loose, and some of her hair had stuck to the congealed collection of snot on her upper lip.
‘She said a man stuck a knife into her mother, but we couldn’t find any. So, I don’t know; she said nothing else. The police are there now. There is a wound to the chest.’
Dr Furlong pulled back the bandage carefully, ‘Sarah. Now.’
Redemption, thank God I would be able to prove myself. I stepped forward, breathing in.
‘What’s the daughter doing in here? Take her out now. Now. Sarah. Go.’
Christ, how stupid was I? That mistake would be a straight fail.
The daughter stood beside the swing doors into the trauma room. I grabbed the little girl’s hand. It was cold.
‘Come on pet. We’ll get some hot chocolate,’ in the same voice my granny always spoke to me when I was little and upset. But this was different. I may have grazed my knee, or fallen off the garden wall, not watching my mother bleeding with doctors and nurses manically trying to save her life.
I gave her hand a gentle squeeze, her face white.
‘Out now Sarah.’
I pulled the girl into the hallway. Derrick stood talking to another porter near the vending machine.
‘Derrick, do you have some money? For chocolate, for… I got down on my hunkers.
‘Sweetie, what’s your name?’ She didn’t answer, kept her head down with her hands in her pockets. This is harder than I thought. A tap on my shoulder followed by some coins from Derrick.
I nodded thanks.
‘I know you’re frightened. Your mum will be alright. I’ll get some hot chocolate.’ My granny thought it was a cure for every situation and a flood of warm, happy memories flowed through my veins. The doors closed in the trauma room. I saw silhouettes through the plastic doors doing their job -saving her mums life.
‘Come on sweetie.’ I put my arms around her shoulders and drew her in close, just like granny.
She stopped crying, and we waited for the machine to dispense our chocolate, silent. I struggled to find the right words to comfort her. What do you say to a child whose mother is fighting for her life? With lukewarm chocolate drinks in my hand, we sat on the plastic seats behind us. She didn’t take the cup, her hands stuck deep in her coat pocket, her shoulders hunched.
Chocolate wasn’t going to work.
‘What’s your name?’ She didn’t answer. The tears started to flow again.
‘That’s ok take your time.’
‘Jane, your mum will be fine. What happened?’
She whispered something. I moved in closer to her.
‘Mummies friend did it, he’s horrible, he’s smelly, he’s mean, he takes my sweets, he’s a nasty man.’
‘I told mummy. She didn’t listen.’
‘I’m sure she did pet.’ I hugged her tight. I soothed her with words and rubbed her arms.
Jane pushed me and jumped up screaming in front of me, shouting. Pain. I raise my hand to my neck, hot liquid trickled down my neck, sharp pain, down my hand.
Jane screamed, she jumped up, ‘He stuck it in just like that.’
Her little hand went for my neck, more pain. Loud shouts and screams. I was on the ground, my neck stung. I tried to get up. Derrick held a struggling Jane in his arms kicking wildly and screaming. Now I saw it. In her hand was a small penknife held tight, blood dripped from it.
The urgent click-clack of wheels, the doors whooshed open, but it was for me, I was on a trolley. The bright lights of the ED shone into my eyes, Dr Furlong told me it would be alright.
Now I lie here the machines beeping all day long. Bright lights above me, the white tiles on the roof, I counted all the little indentations, 1,000,564. The said I’d live, but Jane’s mummy didn’t. I saw the news. The police never found the boyfriend. Only the girl’s fingerprints on her penknife.
I’ll never speak or move. I was told Jane went straight for the jugular and it was a blood clot that caused a stroke – just like granny.
Dr Furlong comes every day to see me, I know she cries, I can still hear. She whimpered once between sobs, she was sorry, she had failed me. It was her job to train me as a doctor, not as a childminder.