The doors to the emergency room banged open as a team of EMT’s rolled a blood-soaked gurney toward the waiting ER nurses and doctors. The call of a gunshot victim in route had come a scant ten minutes earlier giving the ER staff precious little time to prepare, but they were ready.
They were always ready, thanks to Dr. Franklin Hawkes III, the team’s Chief Resident. He ran a tight ship and preached preparedness at all times. The nurses and Residents who worked under his watchful eye had heard him say at least a thousand times, “Don’t just prepare for what you know is going to come through those doors. Be prepared for anything.” As a result University General Hospital had the finest trauma center in the tri-state area.
Sergeant Jessie “James” Dalton of the Metropolitan Police Department lay on the gurney, his face ashen and swollen from an obvious beating. He was a big man, standing fully six feet six inches in height with the build of an NFL lineman.
Now, however, he looked quite small and helpless.
Having a bullet sever your femoral artery will do that to you. That and being beaten my multiple attackers once he had been shot and was lying unconscious on the ground.
One of the EMT’s started rattling off vital statistics while two nurses began cutting away Sgt. Dalton’s remaining clothing.
It was a mess.
There was even blood in his shoes.
Big shoes to fit a big, big man.
The biggest shoes either of the nurses had ever seen–like giant’s shoes.
Nurse Charlene Atkins carried the bloody footwear over to a side table, peeked inside the left shoe and noticed that they were size 18’s. Size 18? Nobody wore a size 18! She sat the shoes down and walked back toward the frenzied medical team.
Sgt. Dalton’s eyes started to roll back in his head and his body began to spasm violently requiring the efforts of everyone in the room to hold him onto the gurney, but the spasm passed quickly and with considerable effort the team was able to transfer him to an examination table where they quickly hooked him up with every restraint available.
The doors banged open once again to admit three more patients, two of whom looked to be beyond help.
The one on the lead gurney, a young gang-banger by the looks of him, though badly injured had sufficient energy to spit toward Sgt. Dalton’s inert form and holler, “How do you like me now, pig? Huh? You don’t look so big and powerful anymore, do you! We got you good, tough guy!”
His colorful commentary was rewarded by one of the residents performing a forced intubation thus cutting off any further observations he might have wished to share.
Sgt. Dalton’s heart monitor suddenly flat-lined which generated a new level of action on the part of the medical team. With a shout of, “Clear!” the defibrillator paddles were pressed against his huge chest and a jolt of electricity sent directly into his heart.
The huge body arched under the power of the electric shock.
Then…the faintest blip.
“We’ve got rhythm,” cried one of the residents.
Being the youngest, and newest member of the team, Nurse Atkins stayed out of the way and only did what she was told to do, which at present wasn’t much. It gave her a chance to detach from the frenetic scene playing out in front of her and consider Sgt. Dalton as a man rather than the latest victim of an outbreak of violence that, in her opinion at least, seemed to be spiraling out of control.
She picked up one of his shoes and looked on the bottom at the worn rubber sole, which reminded her of a sign she had seen over the door of a cobbler’s shop in Seattle, “Sole’s saved here.”
Trying at first to imagine how many miles the man on the table had walked in those shoes, she quickly changed her musing to wondering how many lives had been saved as a result of the wear and tear she now observed.
In a nearby trash bin she caught a flash of bright blue and walked closer to spot the source. It was Sgt. Dalton’s uniform shirt, or what was left of it, wadded into a tight ball with only the shoulder patch showing.
Glancing behind her at the still struggling gang-banger it occurred to her that Sgt. Dalton’s wounds, suffered at the hands of this arrogant young man and his now deceased friends, could have just as easily been gained as a result of the Sgt. trying to save his life. She decided that he actually was a giant.
She shook her quite pretty head slowly, sadly thinking to herself that it just didn’t make any sense. None of this made any sense at all!
“To protect and serve.”
The slogan seemed to jump out at her from the uniform’s patch.
“That’s it,” Dr. Hawkes said sadly. “He’s gone. I’m calling time of death at 12:37. You did your best, team, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
The medical team stood around Sgt. Dalton’s lifeless body, a group portrait of frustration and failure, while across the ER the Sgt’s killer lived on and would require significant effort on their part to continue living.
But that’s what they did.
They saved lives.
Nurse Atkins clutched the bloody worn-out shoe to her chest and wept.
“One of you want to notify next of kin?” said Dr. Hawkes.
In the silence Nurse Charlene Atkins heard her own voice saying, “Can I do it? Please, sir?”
Turning to spot the source of the sound Dr. Hawkes stared at her as if seeing her for the first time.
“Well, that would be highly irregular, uh, Nurse…”
“Atkins, sir. Charlene Atkins.”
“Ah, yes, Nurse Atkins.” He stared at her for what felt like an eternity before saying, “All right, then. You know the procedure.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, clutching the shoe tighter, already beginning to walk toward the exit.
Her final thought before going out into the long, tiled hallway was that there were things about the job she would never understand.
Not if she lived to be a hundred.