People always talk about the patients that get them, the abused kids or the pregnant Mom’s using drugs or the repeat OD’s. What they don’t talk about are the “What If’s”.
It was a usual shift, busy ER, downtown, summertime, the usual.
I got off of break and I saw my all time favourite cop, tall, Australian, seemed like he was 8 feet tall and I always joked that he was shaped like a rectangle; we talked about backpacks and dogs and mountains. He always brought the ER staff snacks, carrots or zucchini he grew in his garden, great guy.
So, I round the corner and he is leaning on the door of a patients room, a room that was empty when I left, and the look on his face is unreadable. I raise my eyebrow, he shakes his head and hands me the patient chart.
“18 year old female, found unconscious in a parking lot by city police with a 57 year old male, no fixed address, belongings are in purple backpack, suspect human trafficking, currently altered LOC, unknown drug source”
So at this point I still have it together, I’m still a competent medical professional, until I got a look at this girl and I thought ‘oh no’.
Oh no, she looks exactly like E.
Oh no, this could have been E, my E, the girl I love and will always love who has a crazy mom and a non existent dad, who has a bad choice in boyfriends, no support systems, queen of ‘wrong place wrong time’.
Oh no, she is all alone.
Oh no, she has no one to care about her.
Oh no, she has no place to go.
Oh no, I cant fix this.
This girl could have very easily been E, she is the E worst case scenario, she is E without my family to intervene. She was the living representation of my worst fear for E, the line between where she is and where E could be is so thin, it terrifies me that had one single thing been different their roles could be reversed and the girl in that bed could be my girl from a few streets down.
This girl ran away at 16 from a mom who needed more medication than she was on in an attempt to try to find her sister, who her father took by force when he left 3 years ago. She got to the next major city and got caught up in fucking human trafficking of all things. Who even knew there was human trafficking in Canada? 3 months later she’s half alive in my ER, reminding me of how easily everything could be different, how one choice, one action, one invite to dinner can change an entire life.
The doc wrote her a letter when she was discharged, he gave his personal cell number and said, among other things, “call me if you need help, day or night, and know that someone out there cares”.
I cried when I read it.
I cried in the ambulance bay where my favourite cop leaned next to me on the wall while I stuffed carrots in my mouth so I wouldn’t talk.
Wouldn’t talk because that meant crying, about how unfair the world is, about how the girl I love could have ended up like that, about how I was upset when a pregnant lady came in and was high as a kite on heroin yet when I pulled that curtain I felt like I had been hit with a bus, dead stop, do not pass go, air sucked from my chest ringing in my ears almost dropped the clipboard and my pen because that could be E. My E. The light of my life and the girl I live for and who I would drop everything in a second and drive clear across the country to save.
I cried when I called E, but I also lied, because how do you tell someone you just saw their worst case scenario? You just saw the person they could have become had you not saved them?
But at the same time, you have to want to want help, and I don’t know if either girl realizes they need it.
How do you save someone who doesn’t know they need it?