Sweet Baby James

The trailer is the last one on the right, pressed up against the infinite night sky. I swear I can see everything and nothing at the same time in that sky as I round the corner to search for the stairs. Eric shines a flashlight at the ground and I see the beginnings of a step. With one foot reaching out for it, I look up.
"Shit!" I jump back into Eric, who catches me around the waist without hesitation, pulling me away from whatever unseen danger I encountered. He starts laughing as he sees what startled me; a big dog as black as the night around it sits happily on the steps, wagging his tail and panting heavily. Drew rounds the corner and laughs as he approaches the dog.
"Good boy," he says approvingly, "you show her." He growls at me jokingly as I try to calm myself before knocking on the door.
The wall of heat hits me first, followed quickly by a disarming smell. I put my arm up to my nose, and steady myself as I begin breathing through my mouth. A roach skitters across the floor and finds refuge under the TV. I want to leave. I want to go back to the station and curl up under my clean blanket while I breathe fresh air. I don't really care where I go as long as it's away from this trailer with this smell.
My eyes lock on the little boy sitting on his mother's lap. I take a deep breath and remind myself why I'm here.
"Baby," I mutter under my breath, "febrile seizure."
We waste no time on scene, and the family lends us their car seat to use to transport their baby, James. Securing the seat onto our stretcher, Drew falters.
"Um, Sam," he says unsure of what to do. I see him trying to buckle James in, but the latch simply won't catch. Laughing, I move the buckle to the proper position and press down firmly. The seat responds with a satisfying "click!" and Drew shakes his head.
"What would I do without you," he asks with a wink.
I sit down on the end of the stretcher and start getting a set of vitals as we head towards the hospital. I stick a pedi-pulse-ox on his finger and secure it. James looks at me, looks down at his finger, looks back at me and lets out a sigh.
"You're kidding, right?" I can almost see his thought process and I laugh. Drew notices his frustration and breaks out one of the stuffed animals we keep stocked on the rig. I smile and hand the bear to James who looks at it warily.
"It's okay, you can have him," Drew says softly.
"I think we should name him, don't you?" Drew looks at me with a look that says, "He can't even talk yet, why would he care about naming the stupid thing?"
"We should definitely name him," I say more emphatically this time. "How does David sound?" Drew plays his part and nods sheepishly.
"David sounds like a great name, Sam." I tuck David in with James who reluctantly decides that this bear might be okay after all. Every once in a while, he gives me a little smile accompanied by a slight noise. It's obvious that he favors Drew, however, as he continually offers him the bear.
"One of us has to be the bad guy," Drew notes as he shows me the glucometer.
"I'll do it," I say, thinking how James favors him anyway. I prick his finger and he barely moves. He looks at me as if to say, "was that really necessary," and then he shoots Drew an annoyed look.
"I know, little man," Drew says without missing a beat, "she's mean."
James reaches out for my hand and squeezes my finger when I oblige. For a second I get lost in the moment. In the ambulance windows, I can see the reflection of my long red hair cascading in soft curls down my back. I can see Drew talking to James through the teddy bear as if it were animated itself, and James squeezing my finger tightly as he giggles softly back.
Feeling him let go of my finger, I turn back around. Drew is writing something down on his clipboard, and I focus on James. A small bug crawls out of his hair, across his forehead and pauses there for a moment. Without hesitation I reach over, pull it off of him and smash it. Normally I'd put it outside, but at 60mph in an ambulance driven by Eric, I resort to smashing. As I flick the dead offender into the trash can, I feel suddenly sad.
The happiness of that moment is gone, I realize as James closes his eyes sleepily. The car seat is crawling with the tiny bugs, Drew notes, and regardless of James' many smiles and little noises, I feel inexorably sad.
No matter how good the care is I provide for him, no matter how much I make him smile, when he goes home, nothing will be different. His trailer will still smell of smoke, rotting meat and ammonia. His car seat will still be covered with bugs. Nothing I do for him will change any of that.
And as we arrive to the hospital, I give his hands a little squeeze.
"Did the best we could," Drew says as he pats my shoulder knowingly.
"I wish I could have done more," I say quietly. He tousles my hair playfully and I smile reluctantly.
Eric comes around the corner, nods his head in my direction and says, "so, how about that dog?"


Anonymous said...

Aw, my love. This makes me sad.

In other news, Eric's juvenile.


Scott said...

Awwww! I hate it when children are raised by animals. I've been in some nasty toxic dump homes and trailers as a locksmith, so I can picture this. You did the best you could for the little guy.

Fyremandoug said...

I have had calls to homes that should have been condemed and torched, and the owners locked up for child neglect. makes me sad

Epijunky said...

Sam that was very well written... It also broke my heart.

Are you okay? That stuff can wear you down so quickly... BTW, you have a fantastic partner. I'm jealous.


ERnursey said...

That is why I could never do your job, it's bad enough dealing with this in the ER, but to go into those homes, ewwwww! Nice blog BTW, I've linked you

Rogue Medic said...

Did you notify whatever Virginia's child protective services agency is?

Many states have mandatory reporting laws that affect EMTs, nurses, and doctors. If you do not report suspicions, you could be charged with a crime in some states.

A good book on dealing with abused children is "Turning Stones" by Marc Parent. It covers 4 years of a case worker in the NYC Emergency Children's Service.

John-Michael said...

For You, Dear Sam, I break out one of my 'stuffed animals' of loving appreciation and admiration. "It's okay, you can have him," I say to You.And "I think we should name him, don't you?" How about "Compassion?" For all that you give of it ... I want to replenish your supply.


Lucian said...

in response to rouge medic's comment: sadly, VA is far behind when it comes to reporting, reporting child abuse is not technically mandatory according to state law...yet...that is *hopefully* being changed soon though!

be safe!

sam's "other" partner