“Trauma alert arrival to bay one.” The overhead voice crackles monotonously and then falls into silence.
Regina is in the room before the patient is, waiting with a tense calm as the bed rolls in and the air around her shifts to accommodate the sudden influx of faces, all with different roles to play and responsibilities to fulfill. Senses are heightened but not panicked, hands quick but methodical, steady, efficient.
“Motor vehicle collision,” reports the paramedic, clipboard in hand in case he needs to reference it (he doesn’t). “Five-year-old male, restrained in a booster seat in the rear of a minivan. Father was driving; they were T-boned by a truck that ran a red light at forty miles per hour.”
Regina cringes involuntarily.
“No head injury, no loss of consciousness, no vomiting afterward. Able to speak, complaining of pain in the left side of his abdomen.“
Good, Regina thinks, and some of the tension is released from her shoulders. Not good that he’s hurting, but good that he’s speaking—it means his airway is clear, there’s no obstruction there. The most common cause of cardiac arrest in children actually has very little to do with the heart and everything to do with the lungs, if they’re not breathing properly; and a kid can’t get the oxygen his body needs if there’s something blocking his windpipe, or his windpipe itself has been crushed.
It’s one of those things you read about, it’s hammered into your head over and over in the sterile environment of a lecture hall, but some things you can never learn, never really truly learn, from books and talk alone.
And she’d learned that the hard way with her own son.
Regina’s eyes run over the small child lying in front of her and do a quick assessment of their own while the nurses cut through his clothing, attach wired stickers to his chest, a blood pressure cuff on his arm, a pulse oximeter over the pad of his left pointer finger. He already has a hand IV in place. The boy is crying, wriggling his arms and legs around as best he can with all the bustling around him, and she feels reasonably assured that he’s not in terribly bad shape, that she can do this. She can save him this time.
She ignores the wild and heavy thump, thump, thump in her chest.
The paramedic continues, “Patient accompanied by father, who is now—“
“Here,” says a man, stepping forward, his British lilt barely masking a frantic tremor in his voice. Regina clasps his hand in hers with a brief introduction and some vague, comforting words, but there’s no time for more than a second of eye contact before she refocuses immediately on the boy. He’s whimpering softly, reaching a small hand out to find his papa, so she takes it into her own instead.
“Hi, honey,” Regina says to him, soothing, “I’m Dr. Mills. Can you tell me your name?”
“Ro—Roland,” he stutters, “L—Lock—Locksley,” and he tries to wriggle in the collar that’s restraining the movement of his neck, a precautionary measure.