Ever Wonder if it’s All For You

by Jinryu

During the night at about 3AM, while I was once again working as the N2 coordinator and the Red Phone rang.

The Red Phone is a lot like the one in the Batcave. Only the most important of calls come in on the Red Phone.  Usually it’s abulance tech riding shotgun who calls in to give us advance warning of an inbound patient in need of immediate attention due to some sort of arrest.  Whenever the Red Phone rings and a Coordinator is on duty next to it, he/she is, according to procedure, to find the nearest clump of nurses and yell “RED PHONE!”

A nurse will always come running to answer it.

[P], the charge nurse for the night, ran for it it this time, and I handed her the coming-in clipboard where she would write whatever information the ambulance technician could give her.  It took some time for her to get it down, and it sounded complicated.

I was scared.  Really, I was.  Deja vu was coming up in the back of my throat like bad bile: this was exactly how it started last time.  It was just a bit under two weeks ago when I was the attending coordinator for a crash, and because of my rookie screwups, we’d lost entire minutes, in the two digit range.   Last time it was a category 3 that had been upgraded to a category 2; I was lucky that my errors hadn’t resulted in something really really bad happening.  The patient coming in though was something entirely different: he was a category 1.

“What is a category 1?” I was wondering in my head. Again, I knew in theory, but I’d never seen a patient who was classified as such in person.  Well, I sure found out.  The patient was less than a day old– he’d come into the world just a little while ago.  He smaller than a football with apendanges, his head was a bit bigger than a baseball only. 

He was a neonatal case, and he was blue, and apparently, turning cold.  Category one means that the patient is non-responsive.  Basically, dead, and that what was going to go on in the crash room was to bring him back to life.

I started choking a bit when I saw the parents– and it wasn’t that they were crying or breaking down or anything.  It was, in fact, the exact opposite– they were cooing, whipsering words of reassurance to their baby, waving the baby’s arms up and down, shielding his eyes from the harsh examination light– and it was heartbreaking because they were pouring out so, so much love into that baby, who was, clinically, dead.  He might as well have been a rag doll.

Throughout the procedures, which lasted about an hour and a half, not once did they shed a tear, not once did they lose faith.  And that… I can’t explain it.  I’ve never seen that much love every before in my life.  I had this strange feeling in my stomach, like guilt.  As if I wasn’t a good enough person to witness something this sublime.  It was hurting me from the inside out.

And it’s insane, isn’t it?  It’s completly batshit insane.

The baby was less than a day old.  The cynic in me, who makes dead baby jokes all the time, says “well, you can’t have gotten too attached yet.”  How can you keep a straight face while telling someone so small, so fragile, that everything is going to be all fine, when the baby doesn’t even look real?  Babies kick and scream and cry.  This one was doing none of the above.  What did they believe in?  How could they?

I got through the night and you know what? I did my job perfectly yesterday.  Response was excellent.  I did everything I was supposed to do, and everyone else did the same.  It just went right.  It could just as easily have gone all wrong I suppose, but everything went right.  I had all the numbers right, I did everything I was supposed to do.

And somehow… the kid gets to celebrate his second day tomorrow.  He’s stabilized and been moved up to nenonatal intensive care.  The parents just carried on as they had the whole time– with that inexplicable, inexhaustable warmth.

That’s what it’s all about, or something, right?

High. Five.

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