Last night at work was memorable. I saw the worst open wound I've ever seen on someone that wasn't created surgically. That is, this 37 year old man, who wrecked his motorcycle with a 27 year old woman on the back with him, scrubbed along the pavement before ending up wrapped around, and caught on, a guard rail. The rail inflicted a large gash wound starting at his right groin and continuing laterally to his hip, and around to his buttock. The tear exposed part of his sacrum (tail bone) and continued down the back of his thigh, so that he had a large, loose flap of skin and muscle that was unattached nearly to his knee. The wound was made even more astounding by the fact that this was a very large man, of easily 250+ pounds. When they brought him from the ED (Emergency Department) they left a trail of blood drips through the hallway.
He bled so much. By the time I left today, we had given him a total of about 12 units of blood, 14 units of plasma, and about 15 liters of NS (normal saline). It was one of these times where we feel as though we are engaged in combat to continue a life. Things normally important fall away. It didn't matter that at least two of the women who came in to see him had children by him. "You have to live for your children!" It didn't matter that yet another woman was on the bike with him, and was now occupying a bed across the hall in another unit. It didn't matter that he had huge, intimidating tattoos on his arms and shoulders. It didn't matter whether or not he asked for or deserved the fate so frantically chasing him, and us, right now.
I assure you, there are many things that can happen to the human body that Hollywood make-up cannot replicate. What mattered was that we "pounded" him with fluid to keep his blood pressure up, trying to keep ahead of the sudden drops. What mattered was the blood and plasma we "slammed" into him through the warmer so as not to drop his body temperature. What mattered was all of the blood, clots, mud, and grass we cleaned out of his wound, replacing it with moist gauze that was saturated dark red before we could finish. What mattered were the looks we gave one another, each of us knowing what was coming, and wishing we had some way to change it; the looks the family used to plead for better answers; the looks behind their eyes, as we instilled them with what hope we could give without lying.
The finite nature of life is never more definitively demonstrated than in the world's trauma ICU's. A resident physician, eager to splint various other broken limbs, wanted to know what Attending Physician would be here today to decide when enough was enough. He asks, "Who decides if he will live?" and the obvious answer was given, "God." And I leave with a familiar, unpleasant feeling. It isn't just being "spent" as I've called it before. Yes, I'm so tired recovery seems unlikely at best right now. But I leave with a hole, where I've poured so much effort out, and all I have left is a cavernous, ringing, WHY? Why did this happen? Why was I there? Why don't we, as a race, learn faster from our mistakes? Why?
But, I hesitate in the directions I turn to for answers to these questions. I know most people, don't care why, or care but don't know why. And I know better than to ask God. Man digs his own graves, makes his own bed, butters his own bread. God waits, as I do, for us to learn better. God waits for us to learn not to live dangerously for the thrill of the moment, or to do risky things under the influence of drugs or alcohol. God waits for us to stop killing ourselves and each other.
It is the waiting I share, and the waiting I feel at times like this. Times like this morning
Writing prompt courtesy of http://onionboy.ca/writingprompts