Muerte

A sunny Sunday morning. A crowded neighborhood; the closest thing we have to tenements, filled to the brim with people seeking the American dream and finding everything but. Paramedic 9’s diesel screams at the curb, nose to nose with a fire engine in the tiny one way street. They will have to back out.

We charge up the stairs with bags, oxygen, Autopulse, cardiac monitor, and the virtual suitcase that is our drug box. The firemen follow with a backboard, and the stair chair in case we are wrong.

We aren’t.

Grandma sits at the kitchen table, slumped over into her Cheerios, not breathing. The apartment is a beehive of activity and unintelligible chatter, but no-one does anything to help her. That’s our job.

Police officers corral the family to one side, quizzing them in Spanish and relaying the answers to us. We pull her down to the floor, start CPR. Push hard, push fast.

The ballet rolls on, each of us dancing his assigned part. Airway, IV access, drugs, electricity. The Autopulse does its job without fanfare, filling the now quiet room with its rhythmic VOOMPA-VOOMPA sound. Clear a path, prepare a way downstairs to the ambulance.

Partner hands an oxygen tank to the firemen. “Here, can you get me another? This one’s dead.”

A wail goes up; the room is filled with sound and fury.

I only know about 4 words of Spanish, but muerte is one of them.

Oops.

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