My granny always said the one thing she hated about getting old was there was no road map. She told me to make a map and get out of this forsaken place, or I’d end up like her.
As long as I remember I wanted to be a doctor, to help people, to make a difference. Who wouldn’t want that? They told us at University a doctor is part of a team. I stood looking at the square building, the sirens, people rushing in. I could make a difference in people’s lives, sometimes sad, but often for the better.
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 patches of death. A young nurse ran past me listening to the frantic conversation of the paramedic, “BP falling; large knife wound to the abdomen, heart rate weak.”
I 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, with the other hand she pushed the trolley, talking steadily: “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 – blood everywhere. 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. Everyone listened to her. Her sleek black hair matched her dark eyes. She glistened. She thrived in these situations.
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 erratic 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 looked horrified. I placed the pad that should be on her abdomen to her chest. I can 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 held one of the crimson red bandages from the woman’s abdomen and said: “Her daughter phoned 999,” nodding to the little girl with sore red 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 the knife. So I don’t know. She said nothing else. The police are there now.”
Dr Furlong pulled back the bandage carefully, “Sarah. Now.”
Redemption, thank God I am going to prove myself. I stepped forward, breathing in.
“Take the daughter to the vending machine.”
I grabbed the little girl’s hand. It was cold. She wouldn’t move as I tugged her hand to walk with me, wide-eyed staring at her mother.
Christ how stupid was I? That mistake would be a straight fail.
“Come on, we’ll get chocolate.” I dragged her; she was heavy for such a little thing. She held her abdomen, but there was no blood, and her face showed no pain. It must be shock.
“Out now, Sarah.”
I gently pulled the girl into the hallway. I checked my pockets. 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 taking the hands, rubbing her fingers softly, “Sweetie what’s your name?” She didn’t answer, just stared ahead. This is harder than I thought it would be.
A tap on my shoulder followed by some coins from Derrick. I nodded thanks. Whispering I said, “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.” A flood of warm, happy memories flowed through me.
The doors closed in the trauma room. I could see the silhouettes through the plastic doors doing their job—saving her mum’s life.
‘Come on sweetie.’ She didn’t resist as I pulled her towards the vending machine.
I got two steaming chocolate drinks. We sat on the plastic seats behind us. I put my arm around her like my granny did.
“What’s your name?” She didn’t answer; I coaxed her to take a sip. The tears flowed. She took another sip. “That’s ok. Take your time.”
“Jane, your mum will be fine. What happened?”
She whispered something. I moved in closer to her.
“Mummy’s friend did it. He is horrible. He’s smelly and mean; he took my sweets.”
I hugged her tight. I soothed her with words and rubbed her arms – just like granny. She jumped up screaming in front of me, shouting something. A hot liquid trickled down my neck, sharp pain. I pulled my hand from my neck covered in liquid that was red.
Jane screamed. She jumped up and down and waved her arms: “He stuck it in just like that.”
Loud shouts and screams. I was on the ground. My neck stung. Derrick held a struggling Jane in his arms who was kicking wildly and screaming. In her hand was a small kitchen knife held tight. Blood dripped from it. Dr Furlong knelt beside me, she told me it would be alright. My chocolate drink spilled all over the white tiles.
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. They said I’d live, but Janes’s mummy didn’t. I saw the news; the boyfriend was never found. She never had a boyfriend, only the girl’s fingerprints on her brother’s penknife.
I’ll never speak or move. They told me she 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, sometimes I hear her sobs. 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.