Number Three…

For those whom know me or feel as though they do through the written wounds within this blog, you will know that rain is my ally. The euphonious sounds of falling sky bring respite to my aching mind. It helps me bring peace to an otherwise war-torn soul. So, tonight when I began to fall asleep whilst listening to the gentle tapping of rain against my window, I drifted away quite contently. My eyes closed, and my tortured mind eased into a needed rest. As the rain continued to fall, my mind unwittingly continued to listen. Eventually, like prey to a spiderweb, it caught a sound – the sound of a staccato of rain that fell through the drainage attached to my building. It splashed violently atop of the pavement below. And with that, my eyes slowly peeled apart and glared upon the black canvass of my darkened room. And just as the rain saturated the leaves, grass and pavement, memory seeped deeply along the crevasses of my brain. I could see her face now. I remembered her hair. I could see her small-build. She looked nothing like the pretty-young girl immortalized within that affixed frame downstairs in her home that night – even though it was the very same person… As her features became clearer to my minds-eye, I began to hear him… the rain subsided, and his painful plea took over – the awful wails of a father who gave-up presentation of pride and masculinity to that of childlike inconsolability. The images and the sounds were anything but peace and respite…


Through the blackest corner of my room, a story began to emerge; a terribly true story. It stapled itself to my eyes and I was helpless in my ability to look away. Changing sight-line would be futile anyway – the story and all of its accompanying characters are etched to my medic’s mind. Thoughts that bleed from my wounded mind tell my eyes what to see; even when I plead for it to stop…


The sound of crashing rain to pavement incited a simulacrum of memory from a time that seems not so long ago. The story takes place on a night much like the one descried; rainy and dark. We were on our way to a call for help. I remember feeling exhausted that particular evening as we had been on some heavy runs already that same night. That shift, we had already declared two people dead… As paramedics, sometimes you have shifts like that. Shifts where every call is “bad.” We call this: Being a black cloud; a shift where the bad things follow you from call to call. It is basically anything nefarious pretending to be meek and mild in terms of emergency. That night not only was it raining overtop of the city, but atop of us as well…


The call had come across as: “14 Y/O female. Unresponsive. Unknown if breathing.” The parents of a fourteen-year-old girl had called 911 when they entered her room and found her seemingly without life. And that’s why we were going – to battle the Reaper. We had already declared two people dead, I was angrily determined to not allow for three…


When we arrived on scene, it was if by some ominous stroke of an ethereal observer’s brush, that the rain began to fall with increasing hostility. It was the kind of rain that should you find yourself in, you become soaked within a matter of seconds. My partner placed the ambulance into park and we dismounted with haste as we grabbed the gear and made our way towards the opulently built home.


Before having a chance to even knock and announce ourselves, the prodigious door swung open with onlookers inside pleading in silence for us to ‘hurry-up’. My partner and I ascended the spiral staircase towards the upper level. In front of us there was a man leading the way. His hands were swollen from years of blue-collar work; something mechanical judging by the blackened pigmentation beneath his nails. He was a big man, and his footfalls landed almost as heavily as ours, and we were encumbered with our gear. He walked briskly towards a room nearing the end of one of the lavish hallways. We pursued. He would take us to an opened door and motioned with his considerable arm that this was were we needed to be.


I entered the room just after my partner and as he stepped aside I became witness to a woman on her knees performing what looked to be mouth to mouth, on a smaller and much more youthful version of herself – her daughter. The fourteen-year-old. She looked up at both my partner and I and with an emotionally contorted gaze, she stood and allowed for us to take over.


Ryan, my partner, began managing the airway and other complexities while I initiated CPR. Her small bones cracked beneath my hands. During the call and while we worked feverishly, we began to learn what had happened to make her this way. At some point earlier in the evening and after a brief admittance of feeling depressed, the young girl ascended the same stairs that we had and navigated through the rich halls until she made it to her room, where she grabbed a thin waist-belt and fastened it around her neck. She then went to her closet and secured it to the bar inside. From there, she managed to cinch it in such a way that it would not release with ease. On that rainy night beneath a blackened sky in a city that was unaware, the young girl would end her life. Depression would kill her.


Nothing we did worked. All of our implementations, drugs, advanced airways, compressions, none of them worked. To my dismay, she became number three…


When the battle was over, and the Reaper left with his spoils of war, we all stood and peered down at this poor young girl. I was angry at her for dying. I know how horrible that sounds, but I was. I did everything I could think of to bring her back. Everything that the textbooks had taught me in medic school, everything, and it was useless – she was dead. And there I stood, a uniformed stranger, a “failure” who was about to tear that family’s life apart.


I turned around and was surprised to see the large man in such proximity to me. I took a stutter step backwards before planting my feet. Had I continued to walk backwards, I would have tripped over his now absent daughter. He looked at me, his eyes like saucers. He was otherwise composed, just waiting for me to say the words…


“Sir, sir, I am very sorry – but your daughter is gone. There is nothing more we can do. She is dead.”


There was a split second of silence where I was not sure if he was going to hit me or explode into a rage around the room. He did neither. What followed was a mountain of a man that began to crumble. First, his lower lip shook, then his knees, and then he dropped with a tremendous thunder to the floor. His face now mimicked that of the mother’s who had been desperately trying to breathe life into their daughter; contorted in grief.


“I am sorry – “before I could finish my sentence, an enormous wail boomed from his chest through to his mouth. Now at my knees, was an inconsolable bear of a man. His cries overshadowed the thunder from outside. Thor was silent, he was not.


When I went out to the ambulance to return the gear, the rain had yet to let-up. I did not want to go back inside right away, so I made busy work for myself in the back of the ambulance. While placing the gear back into their correct positions my eye caught sight of the stretcher. The stretcher that we would not have to use here, because there was no life left to save. Suddenly even the back of the ambulance became inhospitable. I popped the collar of my high-visibility, water resistant jacket and stood outside beneath the cascading rain. I took a few moments of “me” time, before returning inside. The rain slapped heavily against the side of our rig. I was becoming drenched, and I really did not care. It was getting to the point where water began pouring down my sleeves to the pavement below. A steady staccato of rain fell from the corners of the ambulance to the roadway – the same sound I could now hear outside of my window. The conductor of this rumination.


The rain is not the only sound that brings this back for me; from that day on, whenever I am out somewhere, or with someone and I over hear a deep resonant voice, my ears perk, causing my head to spin towards the sound. I scan whatever room I am in for his face – the father’s face. It’s an intrusion symptom that lasts mere seconds but, that’s long enough.


Many people think Thor is the god of thunder. I would disagree, and then I would tell you of this man; the god of thunder and grief…


Last night the rain made me feel sad. It brought forth a memory of which I did not care to revisit. I felt bad – I felt bad because I thought back to that wet, rainy night, and I realized all I left that family with was a hole in their hearts, and muddy footprints to their carpet.


Failing to sleep, I withdrew from my bed, threw on some clothes and went for a walk. Unlike that night, the rain eased-up as I reached my destination. I was stood by the water at the pier. Watching as the lights of the city bounced along the surface. I did not find peace nor respite standing there. I did however skip an unspoken apology along the water. Hopefully it gets to where it is supposed to.


I remember that girl and her father quite clearly. She was number three, and he became thunder. She was not the last, though. There were many to come after her… I dare say too many.


Nights like this happen for me. It’s just part of who I am now. It is the injury you cannot see within me. Well, maybe you can – some people have said my eyes are always sad. That I look sad, even when smiling. I will concede to you that I am disconsolate. That part is true. I have not only walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I have once taken residency there. I held a line. I tried to keep the valley empty. It is a dark place to be. And as a first responder, that valley is our fucking job. So, stands to reason that yes, I am in pain. After all, it is said that paramedics can see more death in one week than many will ever see in a lifetime… how’s that for sad?…


The memories of number three and her father will always be there. They are scars to my weary being. I am hopeful that one day, however, thinking of them will be less painful. Maybe I will one day no longer feel the need to apologize? But, until then, I am sorry, Three, I am sorry

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