I don’t remember your name. When they wheeled you into the trauma bay you were motionless on the stretcher. The accident you’d come from had been bad, the damage to your body was extensive. I watched as the organized chaos that had prevailed before your arrival suddenly sharpened. Many skilled hands lifted you from the stretcher and placed you on the bed.
Already we were noting wounds, torn skin, bruises, and glass everywhere. Patches, cuffs, electrodes, and wires were placed quickly but something was wrong. Even before the monitors began to cry in alarm many hands were again on you this time trying to find a heartbeat. They failed. I began CPR, the noise and sudden activity of the room fading as I focused on my task. I was dimly aware of people crawling around me, sometimes reaching even under or between my arms.
I stepped back to catch my breath as two figures moved in on either side, with a flash of metal and a splash of blood two tubes were placed in your chest. Again I stepped up to resume my task, my moments’ respite just enough to catch my breath and stretch stiffening muscles. I watched as more needles were placed, more patches and wires run. And then you came back. I had to fight to hold you down, you kept trying to pull the tube from your throat.
You were so strong it was all I could do just to stop you. You looked at me, I remember thinking about how blue your eyes were. You were able to nod or shake your head to answer questions, but still, I had to keep a hold of you. I said your name, I said it repeatedly to keep your attention, to distract you from what was going on. I said your name over and over, and over again. Those blue eyes stared at me. I could see your pain, confusion, and your quiet pleading. I didn’t know then what you wanted, I still don’t. I do know that I shook my head at your silent request, I told you to stay calm, to let us help you.
I wish we could have done more. When you coded again fifteen minutes later I was still right there, still holding your hand though now in an attempt at comfort. I slipped on your blood as I stepped back up to start compressions, I hadn’t realized how much was on the floor. Again and again, I stepped down and let someone else take over, again and again, I stepped back up. You came back again but you didn’t open your eyes this time. I was still standing over you when someone tapped my shoulder, told me to take a break and they would stand-in for me.
I looked at you one last time, at the wires, the tubes, and the blood. I went to lunch, you never opened those blue eyes again. When I got home later that night I sat with a pair of gloves, rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs. I spent thirty minutes cleaning your blood from my shoes. I don’t remember your name.
– Story written by an emergency department EMT, 3 years on the job.