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Linda Armstrong-Miller
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Sam felt totally helpless as he watched a tall male nurse—very muscular, bald, and black—do chest compressions. His upper body bobbed up and down as if he were doing a ritualistic dance. With each compression, Lisa’s whole body shook. Sam estimated the man weighed one hundred and ninety-five to two hundred pounds. That was almost twice Lisa’s weight. With each compression, he half expected the man to go crashing through Lisa’s ribs and into her chest cavity. With each chest compression, Sam cringed.

Without being aware of it, Sam clasped both hands over his heart. They were pressed tightly against his chest as if he were trying to do CPR on himself. This made the muscles in his arms hurt. The self-inflicted CPR made it hard for Sam to breathe, and occasionally he had to let up on the pressure. Each time he took that much needed breath, he asked himself how his family had arrived at this point. The answer to that daunting question would have to wait.

While Baldy did compressions, a female nurse pushed medications into one of Lisa’s many IVs. Nameless people worked quickly and efficiently to save the life of their patient—a young, intelligent, and beautiful woman whom Sam knew he had helped put there.

The medications nurse was pale with red hair. Where Baldy was big and muscular, Red was diminutive in stature—slim to the point of being skinny. Both were fast and confident. If Lisa could be saved, Sam was sure these two opposites would have a lot to do with it.

The monitors beeped constantly. Both Sam and Zach had seen monitors like them a hundred times before on TV. On TV though, there was always either a straight line or a musical, rhythmic blip.

Lisa’s line was a chaotic mass of zigzags that ran across the screen. It reminded Sam of a seismograph. The line on the monitor would easily measure a ten on the Richter scale.

“Stop compressions.”

Neither Sam nor Zach had any idea how long compressions had been in progress. But if the sweat on Baldy’s forehead was any indication, they knew it had been a while. Once Baldy stopped doing compressions, he switched places with a female nurse. Not Red. This nurse had a deep tan and short blond hair. She was in great shape, much like Baldy, but stood only about five feet.

“Someone slide that stool over here.” Shorty positioned herself over Lisa’s chest.

This worried Sam. He had been afraid Baldy’s strength would crush Lisa’s chest but, if Shorty needed a stool, he feared she would not have enough strength to do compressions adequately, regardless of the good shape she appeared to be in.

They never got the chance to find out. From where Sam and Zach were standing, they could not see who had given the order to stop compressions. The voice they heard, however, belonged to a woman. She stood behind the room’s privacy curtain, making it impossible for them to see her identity. All that was visible of her were the black flats she wore.

All eyes turned towards the monitor. Once compressions stopped, the earthquake did, too. And Lisa’s rhythm settled into the familiar blip they were both used to seeing on TV.

“I see a brady rhythm,” the unseen woman said. “Do we have a pulse?”

Shorty placed her hand on Lisa’s neck. “We have a pulse.”

“Give 0.5 mg of atropine then cycle the cuff. I want to see what her blood pressure is. While you’re at it, set up an arterial line. I want a better way of keeping track of her blood pressure.”

“It’s already set up,” Red said.

The black flats moved around, revealing a very attractive, heavyset, mature lady with blond hair and dark roots. She glanced at the monitor then reached for the phone.

Her chest heaved up and down as if she’d been the one doing compressions. She had beads of sweat on her forehead and a wet spot between her generous breasts. It appeared as though she had been nervous.

Sam took comfort in that. When one was nervous, one had the tendency to be careful. In Sam’s field, that was a good thing. Too much confidence caused accidents and overlooked details.

After making two calls, she turned back to Lisa, then to the monitor. Once satisfied with what she saw, she looked out the door and noticed Sam and Zach for the first time.

“Could someone pull that curtain? That young man shouldn’t be watching this.” She flashed Sam a look of disapproval then turned back to Lisa.

For the first time since arriving at room 104, Sam looked at Zach. He stood as straight as the wall behind them. He was drained of color, making his light skin lighter. Pale was not strong enough to describe how white Zach looked. His scalp showed through his short brown hair, and even it seemed drained of color. His hands hung limply by his sides. His mouth hung wide open, as did his eyes.

Tears ran down his face. His whole body shook as he fought desperately not to lose his composure. It was a battle he would lose.

The curtains to 104 closed. Sam put his arms around his son, and Zach allowed him to pull him close. Sam looked back and found Tish standing behind them. He didn’t know when she’d joined them, but he realized he was glad that she had. She placed a hand on Zach’s shoulder.

“How ’bout we take him someplace private?” she said, already leading them away from room 104.

Sam wanted to go in and see Lisa, to stay with her. He was torn between which of his children he should be with; knowing he couldn’t help Lisa, he stayed with the child that he could help. As Tish led them away from room 104, Sam’s mind drifted back to Saturday morning and when this nightmare began.



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