Far from Okay
Shots were fired into a crowd on Westminster Street in the West End, just past midnight. One person was shot, a hole in his hand and another in his thigh, near a femoral artery. The wounded leg grows as the seconds tick, blowing up to twice its normal size.
“It’s just a leg shot, I’ll be okay, right?” asks the diaphoretic patient, his heart rate skyrocketing and his blood pressure crashing.
I look him in the eye and tell him we’re doing everything we can and open the ringers to full flow while my partner sinks a 16 in his other arm. . .
He went to the bathroom and didn’t come out. When we arrived at 0122, he was Code 99. CPR started; IVs going; one, two three defibrillations; tied to a trauma board; carried down two flights of stairs and out of a million-dollar home on the East Side.
“He’ll be okay, won’t he?” asks the man’s wife as we rush into the night and the waiting ambulance.
“We’re doing all we can,” I tell her. “Call somebody and meet us at the hospital. Please don’t drive.”
And we’re gone. . .
Their car crossed the line, sideswiped another car, crossed two lanes of traffic, and crashed into a utility pole–the wooden ones, the ones that don’t give. The car was demolished, the three kids whose night came to a sudden end at 0314 were critical. More rescues were called for, the most critical of the group extracted first. She’s the driver, she appears intoxicated, and she is worried about her friends.
“Are they okay? Will they be okay?” she repeats herself over and over as we restrain and immobilize her, put her on the stretcher, then put the 02 mask over her face. Her questions are muffled now but the same. “Will they be okay?. . .
She’s on the couch in her modest home in the North End; it’s a nice house, well kept, pictures of little girls on the mantle, schoolwork on the fridge. Her face is swollen, her arms bruised.
“Where is he?” I ask.
“Gone. He’s drunk. He hit me then left.”
She doesn’t want to go to the hospital. We bandage her up, wait for the police, offer our condolences, and leave. Her boyfriend is under arrest. It’s 0430 when she asks, “Is he okay?. . .
The group home calls at 0600. It’s a respectable place on the South Side, usually no trouble there. One of the residents didn’t wake up. He’s sitting in a recliner, TV on, eyes open, syringe and spoon on a little table next to him, near the TV Guide.
“Is he okay?” asks the group home manager.
“No. He’s dead. . .
I know she was up late; I try not to wake her. I slip under the covers, put my arm around her, and close my eyes. It’s nearly 0800, home at last.
How was your night?” she asks, before returning to sleep.
“It was okay.”
I wake up. She’s been awake for hours. It’s afternoon, probably late, might be time to get back to work. She’s busy, doing the things that normal people do, laundry, some food for the night, both for me, and for her. We’ll be separated again, me back to the city, her, alone. Again.
Sometimes I wonder which is harder; leaving home or staying in it. At least I have some excitement to look forward to, even if it comes with a price.
She gets to look forward to me coming home, only I never return the same way I left, and every shift tears another piece of my humanity away, leaving her with less and less of the person she used to love with abandon.
Now, I wonder, will she abandon me? Will she continue to sleep alone in the bed we once shared? Will she tolerate my silence?
Sometimes things are far from okay.