Driving into the emergency bay I notice the units already parked, all but one empty: doors wide open, stretchers and crews missing. It's not exactly quiet in the bay but it lacks the noise of the waiting room and the chaos that often travels in the back of our units. I think of it as the sound of a moment of rest.
As we pull in behind one unit a crew member is working away mopping the floor. The stretcher sits outside cleaned with fresh linen. Everything appears to be back in place and there is no obvious evidence of the call that brought them here at this hour. The crew member is disheveled. His face is moist with sweat and his shirt is slightly untucked.
He mops the floor with such focused strength as if to clean up an invisible stain. In my mind I recall Shakespeare "Out out damn spot!" And then he stops. His shoulders slump and he drops to the bench seat staring across at the clean and well packed monitor. A visible sigh escapes, and the mop handle falls from his hands into the airway chair. His hands come together, elbows resting on his knees and his chin sits on the ledge of his thumbs.
He glances down and ever so subtly shakes his head. Everything in his body seems to sag in defeat. I know by watching his intense concentration that he is running through the events of the call in his mind. Attempting to reconcile his choices and actions with the outcome.
I'm reminded of photos we've all seen which capture pure emotion. I wish I could share this image in my mind.
His partner returns to the unit ready to load the stretcher but stops when he sees his other half. He steps into the unit and sits quietly beside him, leaning back using the head rest staring at the ceiling. No words are spoken and yet you can see that so much is being shared.
I have no clue what or who they brought in but I realize it hardly matters. Instead I wonder how long before I am him.
We park and unload our patient moving into triage and waiting for our turn. Our main concern is how long it will be until a bed opens for us. It is a waiting room filled with 'emergencies' most of whom are oblivious to what happens on the other side of the sliding doors. After some time we've passed care over to the RN and we return to the bay. The other unit is long gone likely already on another call.