Another word was delivered by a friend last week to fuell another blog post. The word was “sandal”, inspired by the first week of Spring. The word should evoke a sense of oncoming summer but my memory butts against the iconic summer scene of sandals and sand and all things beach like. Instead, my memory seeks the shape of a shoe and I am thrown backward in time.
I’m in my mid twenties, working as a Paeds E.D nurse. The ambulance phone has just gone off and I feel the surge of adrenaline shoot under my skin as a warm flush of fear. A child in full cardiopulmonary arrest is on its way in. ETA – two minutes.
Children, for the most part, are resilient things. But when breath and heartbeat fail them simultaneously, the road ahead is very unsure. As we man our stations, we hear the approaching siren. I still recall being stuck in that tiny window before the drama began to unfold. Standing in the resus bay, priming I.V lines with saline, grabbing bag and mask, ripping plastic covers from front line drugs designed to haul human life from death. I remember the sick knot of fear twining itself every larger the closer the ambulance came. This was adrenaline sports at its best.
They were working on him as they brought him in. He was small, under seven. After a two hour battle, we lost him. Too soon. and too, too young. I recall the doctor’s face as he left us to go to the parents, to deliver the news that no one could really fathom. I stayed behind with my colleagues to do our best to clean him up, make him resemble the child that the parents last saw only hours ago.
I slip into “deal with it” mode. The steely coat we nurses wear when things go horribly wrong and we have to cope. It’s the coat that holds our ache inside. The coat that shouts to the world that “everything will be OK. We’ve got it under control.” But it’s nothing more than a technicolor dream coat. On the inside, part of us is dying too as we witness the loss of such a tiny thing.
I spy the little guy’s shoe, and it is the shoe that snags me and causes me to unravel. I pick it up from where it has fallen upon the floor during the mayhem. Its laces are still tied and I imagine the mother in the next room, who I can now hear wailing, tying her son’s shoes that morning. For the last time. I stand beside his lifeless body with this small shoe in my hand and a million questions snaking through my head. Where is God in any of this, I wonder? How can any of this serve any purpose? The answers don’t come and all I am left with is a shoe and not a clue how I will face this boy’s parents in the next few minutes when they come to begin their goodbyes.
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