Friday, July 22, 2011

Winter 1996 - Will you please stay with me?

The light drizzle in the dark evening made the cold of winter all the more miserable.  Working the night shift I was lucky to be paired with P, an experienced EMT who also taught martial arts and as best I can recall had a young son at the time.  The first couple jobs that night included a young woman having contractions at a movie theatre, a guy with chest pain and the usual assortment of asthmatics and non-specific complainers in search of a ride across the city.  

Approaching midnight we get called to this high-rise near 280 for a domestic.  We roll up and outside the building are a couple of firetrucks, two other ambulances that beat us there and three NPD cruisers.  We grab our bags and carefully walk across the slick open area between the street and the building.  The lobby is huge with tall glass windows on all four sides.  As we enter our attention is drawn to the right where one cop is questioning a clearly agitated guy while the other cops form a semi-circle to cut off all escape paths.  I for one appreciate their effort to protect us from crazy guy.  

In the corner we see a young girl, around 6 years old being tended to by two of the firefighters.  One of the cops breaks away and tell us how this guy beat the crap out of his wife while she was trying to protect her daughter from him.  She's upstairs in the apartment, apparently unconscious and being worked on by the other two EMS crews.  The firefighters seemed really concerned and this girl looked shaken, understandable given the situation.  Well P hears this and sort of goes off, ready to kick this guys ass.  So as the firefighters now work to calm P down the cops finally decide to take the handcuffed guy out removing the distraction.  

Now to put this in perspective, I was 25 at the time and had no experience with kids.  They terrified me.  P is still a little too worked up to deal with the girl so I do a quick assessment, take her by the hand and walk her out to the ambulance.  P drives, lights and sirens off.  I can't remember if I said much to her on the way to the hospital.  I only remember holding her hand and trying to understand how one little girl could handle this.  What do you do if your dad beats your mom unconscious in front of you?  What do you do when the one person who was always there to protect you is not?  And then what if that person is really gone, and your dad is arrested by the cops and you don't have any other family?  

We brought her to the pediatric ER at UMDNJ.  The triage nurse saw her for a second and gave me the room number to bring her to.  As I'm walking her down the hall, holding her hand, she starts to cry.  The hallway is dim and quiet.  No one else is there and the silence is just too big a metaphor for the moment.  She hugs me, holds on to me and whispers, "Will you please stay with me?"

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