I felt my holder’s shoulders tense as they rolled you into the room. The paramedic pumping against your chest barely pauses as your body is lifted onto the stretcher. Dark curls frame your face. It is a young face. Too young.
The angry mark around your neck tells a story too painful to comprehend. My holder’s hands move to your IV, flushing saline through the line to be certain it works, before pulling open the drawer of the red cart beside you.
“1 mg of epi,” the doctor says.
There is a barely audible gasp at the door to the room. My holder pushes the epinephrine into your veins, then turns to the sound. It is a woman. Her eyes are red and swollen and her cheeks are stained with tears.
She is your mother.
My holder crosses the room and brings her to your side. Your mother stands by your shoulder, close to my holder and she says your name. She tells you to fight. She asks you why.
My holder speaks quietly to your mother, while preparing the next dose of medication. I feel muscles tense beneath me as the doctor tilts your head back and slides a tube into your mouth. I am lifted from my perch and placed over your stomach. “No air over epigastrum,” my holder says and then slides me to your left, then right chest. “Bilateral breath sounds present.”
“Positive color change,” the respiratory therapist says.
My holder turns to your mother. “That means the tube is where it needs to be.”
Hands return to your chest, once again pressing against it, pumping the blood from your heart to your lungs and brain. Your chest rises as the respiratory therapist forces air into your lungs. Your mother whispers to you, telling you that you are strong. I am returned to my holder’s shoulder and I can feel that the tension has spread. I can feel the cry that wants to burst forth. But my holder’s hands keep moving. They prepare the next dose of epinephrine and push it into your veins.
“Are you having any difficulty ventilating?” the doctor asks.
“No difficulty,” the respiratory therapist replies.
The stretcher creaks softly as your chest is compressed.
The air moves in and out of your lungs with a soft whoosh, whoosh.
Your mother whispers your name. Her tears fall to the mattress beside your head.
Time seems to stand still as the team around you continues their battle with death.
“Hold compressions,” the doctor says.
All eyes turn to the flat line that makes its way across the monitor. A sob escapes your mother’s lips.
The doctor reaches out to my holder, eyes on me. I am handed across you and once again I find myself resting on your chest. I will myself to send a sound to the doctor’s ears. Any sound.
But there is only silence.
Tears fill the doctor’s eyes as they find your mother’s face. “I’m sorry, your child is gone.”
The respiratory therapist disconnects the bag that forced air into your lungs, then steps back.
The paramedic that stayed to continue your chest compression, looks down at the floor, then leaves the room in silence.
The doctor sets me on the counter and leaves the room.
The only people at your side are my holder and your mother. My holder rests a hand on your mother’s arm and asks if she wants anyone else here.
Your mother nods, the words are barely perceptible through her sob, but my holder understands and leaves the room. Now it is only you and your mother. She runs her fingers through your hair. She leans down and kisses your forehead. She wipes her tear off your cheek. She doesn’t speak. She has no words.
My holder returns with a man. He is your father. Your mother turns to him and he holds her as they cry. Together they turn to you.
My holder slips to the back of the room where I lay and picks me up.
“You okay?” the charge nurse asks.
My holder nods.
“It’s blowing up out here. Can you take a patient with abdominal pain in 6 and another with a headache in 4.”
My holder nods, but pauses for a deep breath before stepping into the first room. “Hi, I’m going to be your nurse,” my holder says. “I’m sorry if you’ve had to wait.”
I am proud to be a nurse’s stethoscope.
Note: As the holidays approach us, please remember that there are people around you who are alone and hurting. Some from a loss, but others because they don’t feel like they fit into this world. Guard your words, because they carry a power that you cannot imagine. You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes of the people you interact with…the sales girl who fumbles your order, the man that almost ran you over in the parking lot, or the nurse that finally enters your room after you’ve waited for hours in the ER…..
Teri Lee is an ER nurse working throughout the US and the author of Troubled Spirits, a YA paranormal novel.