(Part 3 ended with Hannah strapped onto the ambulance gurney on her way to the ER of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.)
With eight miles to go to the county’s trauma hospital, I sit up front with Dominique, an EMT for six months, while Hannah is in the back with Zach, the more experienced EMT. And Zach does what good EMTs do, he lifts Hannah’s spirits by keeping up the conversation by providing information and asking her questions – all to keep her mind off the subjunctive – the what ifs, the might have beens.
While Dominque drives through Montecito and then on The 101 for the hospital, I notice there are no lights and sirens. Wondering to her if that is a good sign, I see Dominique smile and nod that it is.
Once within ten minutes, Zach calls in our ETA to the hospital ER; it is not lost on me that it is a call I couldn’t have made if I were driving Hannah to the hospital myself.
Arriving at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in the downtown of this city of 90,000, we have still another advantage since I didn’t drive Hannah to the ER – we bypass the waiting room as they whisk us through the dedicated ambulance entrance, directly into an operating room of the ER. I hear that room 4 is ready, and within 60 seconds the Ed Techs are lifting Hannah off the gurney and onto the operating table.
Karen, an RN, takes charge with assurance and warmth. Soon, she puts a clip on Hannah’s finger to measure her oxygen level. An IV is inserted for the pain medication. A nasal cannula breathing tube is put in her nose to deliver supplemental oxygen. Throughout this time as I sit next to the operating table, Hannah is alert and turns my way to remind me how fortunate she feels.
Throughout the 1.5 mile hike out of the woods after the trail gave way beneath her feet, Hannah has mentioned how lucky it was that it was she and not our grandsons or their mom and dad. She tears up with that realization. The subjunctive, when it goes down to the dark place of what ifs, what might have beens, can cloud judgment and focus on regrets rather than the beautiful present. Karen and the Ed Techs can’t believe she is not in any pain since they now have all seen the wound that goes to the bone in her upper thigh. This is the same leg that she fractured her tibia five years ago when water skiing.
Karen asks about medications, allergies, blood thinners or diabetes. Hannah’s answers are none, none, no, and no. Coincidentally, they describe Hannah as the patient-of-the-year, just as the EMTs had, because, despite the large wounds, her disposition remains sunny.
Dr. Richmond, the head doc of the ER, comes in upbeat and talks to Hannah as he examines both the deep calf and the deeper thigh wounds. Turns out he had been hiking on the very same San Ysidro Trail that we were this morning. Looking for clues, I see no distress in his voice or worry lines on his face. It seems Hannah’s upcoming surgery is not crisis surgery; and for that I am again grateful.
We don’t know who, but another angel is about to come upon the scene.
Phuc Tran on the TED stage
With my use of the term subjunctive, you would be correct if you had guessed that I had recently listened to a TED Radio Hour podcast on the subject. Here is the thought- provoking Dark Side of the Subjunctive by Phuc Tran, a resident of Portland, Maine (15 minutes).