Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Better Living Through Chemistry

I don't want this third cup of coffee. But I'm going to drink it anyway.

Besides, I need something to take the pill with. I hold it in my fingers, wondering whether my feeling better has more to do with feeling like I'm doing something than the actual medical action of this particular drug. I decide it doesn't really matter, that improvement is improvement and whatever dispels the dark is welcome.

I see skinny, tanned, shirtless country boys everywhere, ones like the one we loaded to fly a few weeks ago. The first crew onscene found him standing uncertainly next to a wrecked car, cradling his arm, his shoulder not so much dislocated as relocated. They had to ask him if he was in the wreck. "Which car were you in, sweetheart?" she asked. He pointed to the one wheels up in the middle of the road. He'd been asleep in the back seat, ejected somehow without a scratch on him, except for the shoulder. Twenty years old and terrified of needles. All I could do is stroke the five square inches of velvety crewcut that was not encircled with c-spine stabilizing plastic and vinyl and say over and over, "Its going to be okay, it'll only take a second, you have a great vein there, just relax." I wondered at the sinewy length of him and just how he was ejected without more damage. A perfect jacknife dive out of a broken window. The car was small. With every MVA my grasp of physics becomes less science, more mystery and chance, possibly miracle. Possibly. That accident put my skills in perspective. The damage was done. We cleaned up the mess. Maybe, maybe, we prevented more damage.

You walk out of EMT class with your certificate and your patch and think (secretly) that you are going to save the world. You stare hard at strangers whose perfusion seems questionable, watch them make their tentative way up sidewalks, down steps that never seemed so precarious. You shake your head at bikers gliding bareheaded through intersections. It doesn't take long to learn that your ceremonial duties are limited to cleaning up the aftermath of someone else's choices, or asking questions and bearing witness to forces of time and disease beyond all control, particularly yours.

Later on, after my third cup of coffee, I step to the front of the church and receive the cup, the throaty rumble of motorcycles behind me, headed to their destinations. Perhaps I am headed the same way in a hail of sound and flashing lights, though with a swallow of sacred wine and the knowledge that I do not save anyone, not even myself.

1 comment:

Jonny's Mommy said...

Oooh...wow. Tough one. But as usual...amazing writing.