Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Triage


"GET OUTTA THE G*DD*MN WAY, ROOKIE!"

He jumped back, panting. He'd thought he was ready for this, but he'd never imagined anything like the pandemonium he was witnessing. He found himself staring, paralyzed by the chaos.

"MOVE IT ROOKIE! NOW!"

He snapped out of his stupor and leapt into action. He hurried over and stood before the gleaming tray of equipment.

"Tongs!"

He slapped the tongs into the waiting hand and was rewarded with a withering look.

"Handle First, Dumbass. Didn't they teach you anything?"

Suddenly a scream rang out, rising high above the cacophony of noise and leaving a moment of silence in it's wake. He looked over to see a bright red geyser spurting through the air and one of the others trying without success to contain it.

"WHAT ARE YOU STARING AT, KID? GET OVER THERE AND HELP!"

He rushed over, slipping on the fluid that had quickly puddled on the floor. He looked around for something to staunch the flow, but he came up empty. Thinking quickly, he improvised by tearing a strip of cloth from his shirt and creating a makeshift tourniquet. It worked and he felt a momentary surge of pleasure at having so ably resolved his first crisis.

"GET OVER HERE, ROOKIE. WE HAVE A CODE BLUE!"

He sprinted across the room again, skidding to a stop next to the woman who'd called him. Her hands moved like lightning as she attended to the burn victim before her. With no time to think, he did his best to keep up. Only afterwards did he stop to consider what they'd done and he choked back a wave of nausea as he looked down at the pile of charred flesh they'd been working on.

She glanced over at him.

"You're looking kind of pale, kid. If you're gonna be in this line of work, you're gonna have to get used to seeing this kind of stuff."she said. "This is the worst of the lot - third degree burns over 98% of the exposed area. I don't think this one is gonna make it."

She gestured to her left. "Its not all bad news, though. I think the rest of them will be okay."

As the day wore on, he ran himself ragged gathering supplies, reacting to emergencies, and doing what little he could to help.

Finally, it was all over. He pulled off his hat and slumped to the ground, exhausted. He looked around the room. When he arrived that morning it had been spotless and gleaming, now it looked as if it might never be clean again. He was near tears as he considered the futility of it all. No matter how hard they worked it would never be enough. It was like using a bucket to empty the ocean.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up into a pair of kind but exhausted eyes.

"You did okay today, kid. You might not realize it now, but the work we did mattered to a lot of people."

His chest swelled with pride. Suddenly, he saw everything in a whole new light. He glanced across the room at the ketchup hose and recalled how he'd improvised to save the day. He stopped thinking about the few burgers that they'd burned, and instead he thought of the ones they'd saved. He remembered the hundreds of satisfied customers that had scarfed down their value meals and went back to their jobs sated and ready to face the afternoon.

He'd survived his first day and he knew that he'd earned his place on the McDonald's lunch crew.