Once upon a time, back in my younger days, I was doing a shift on an ambulance. If my memory serves correctly, it was just as the fall was starting to set in, when it’s still very chilly in the morning and evening, but way too warm for a bright reflective safety-yellow jacket during the day.
Oh that reflective safety-yellow jacket was wonderful. People (and coworkers) would often ask me why I wore that obnoxious thing in public, and I would usually respond with, “The ladies love it. Duh.” When in reality, the ladies did not love it, not to my knowledge anyway; I just wore it hoping that it would get the attention of the cashier at the fast food joint and would provoke them to give me a discount. What can I say? EMS pay isn’t that great and I needed a 1pm milkshake and didn’t want to wait for the milkshake happy hour to start.
That tactic worked about 40% of the time on a good day, but that’s a whole other story for another time.
This particular day at work was a night shift. It was around 11pm and we were dispatched to do a transport from some random hospital to another random hospital.
Our patient, Hadley, was a 9ish-year-old girl who had broken her leg somehow. If I remember right, she was dancing in socks on a hardwood floor or something. Or maybe she was dancing in water shoes on a basketball court with volleyball paraphernalia. I don’t remember. Regardless, her leg was broken. I saw the x-ray; it was a very good break. And by “very good,” I mean “very broken.” She had a picture perfect tib-fib fracture. Seriously, that was the kind of break they put in textbooks.
After fighting through the vigorous 11pm traffic, we finally made it to the hospital. We went inside and chatted with the nurses for a few minutes while trying to figure out which room they were hiding our patient in.
Funny thing about transfers: it’s like a game of hide-n-seek mixed with a wild goose chase. Example: You have to figure out which room the patient is in, find the room, realize that the hospital staff moved them into a different room and haven’t updated the system yet, track down the nurse/hospital staff member you originally talked to, have them talk to someone (who talks to someone, who talks to someone), they have to refresh the system, both of you go find the new room, wake the patient up (only to be told that they need to use the restroom first), tell the aid/tech/other nurse about it, and then wait for the hospital staff to finish getting the paperwork ready. It’s an ordeal sometimes, but being paid by the hour makes it all okay. Three cheers for overtime!
Luckily, I was a hide-n-seek aficionado of sorts back in the day, so we only had to rigorously search for about 10 minutes until we found her. She was sleeping soundly with a giant soft cast on her leg, which was just more proof at how beautiful of drug morphine really is.
She was an average sized 9ish-year-old, and quite pleasant when she was awake. It had been a couple of hours since they gave her the morphine, so it was on its way out of her system and she was still a little groggy.
I don’t think she remembered my obnoxious reflective safety-yellow jacket that glowed like a radiant sci-fi channel sun under the dim fluorescent hospital lighting. Actually, I don’t think she remembered much of anything that happened before we were inside the ambulance.
Finally, we were in the truck and headed down the road. Hadley woke up and started asking where her mother was. Her mother just happened to be sitting behind young Hadley’s head securely seat belted into the airway seat for just such an occasion.
Mom reassured Hadley that everything was okay, that she was right there, that she was a very brave girl, blah blah blah supportive mom stuff.
I took the opportunity to introduce myself. I said, “Hey Hadley, I’m Adam.”
She timidly said hi back and asked me if she could go back to sleep. I said, “Of course, but I need to ask you two things first.”
Normally if the patient is a grown-up and not sleepy I’ll start asking my usual list of questions, including (but not limited to): How are you feeling? Do you hurt anywhere? Do you watch NASCAR? My partner thinks he’s Jeff Gordon sometimes… Are you breathing ok? Good, let me know if you stop.
However, since she was only 9 and sleepy, I kept it to two questions.
The first was the obvious “do you hurt anywhere?” question. She said no, so the morphine was still working decently.
The second was the Tail Question. I said, “Hadley, if you could have a tail, what kind of tail would you have?”
She looked at me in confusion, then looked at her mom, then back at me again and said, “Like an animal tail?”
I grinned and said, “Of course!” I would like to think that I had a glow about me when I asked her the tail question, but in hindsight I think the glow was from my reflective safety-yellow jacket under the fluorescent lighting of the ambulance.
Her mom cut in, stared at me, and said, “Answer the handsome man, Hadley. I want to know your answer too.”
When the mom said “handsome,” I knew two things: 1) She needed to have her vision checked. 2) Maybe the reflective safety-yellow jacket actually did work.
I also realized that the mom didn’t have a wedding band on and that she made a point to tell me that she didn’t have a husband or any form of significant other. I guess that reflective safety-yellow jacket really did work! Too bad she was 40ish and had 3 other kids, one of whom (which? Whom? Whatever.) was almost my age.
Hadley got very quiet and made a face that is universal among all children: The thinking face (also known as the poop face in children under 4 years of age).
She said, “I would have a Jojo tail!”
“A Jojo tail? That’s awesome! What kind of tail is that?” I said with a yellowish glow.
Mom answered first, “It’s our dog. She’s a schnoodle; a poodle and schnauzer mix.”
Hadley cut in, “And she only has half of her tail!”
Hadley’s mom explained that somehow their dog only had half its tail when they bought it and that they still weren’t entirely sure how half of it went missing, but said that when she gets excited the half tail-stump moves very fast.
Hadley also went on to say that Jojo was gray with black and white fur all over. Oh, and that she imagined the schnoodle could talk and had a voice like Cinderella from the animated Disney movie.
Then she started to talk about the conversations her and Jojo would have if they really could talk…and then she started to doze off and fell asleep mid-sentence.
Yes, she really did fall asleep mid-sentence, snoring and all.
The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful and boring. Mom and I made small talk about the school system that Hadley was in, how George Clooney needs to permanently have a beard, that kind of stuff.
We arrived at the other random hospital a little while later and did the whole “drop patient off in the other bed while giving report to the nurse” thing. Then we left and did our usual post-run gas station coffee trip.
…and Hadley lived happily ever after with a limp and her half-tailed schnoodle.
Just kidding. Her surgery went great and she went on to do semi-professional interpretive dance, except now she wears shoes and not socks while dancing on hardwood floors.