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Monday, June 11, 2018

Microstory 861: X Gratia

Most people around here grew up wanting to be medical professionals. They played doctor when they were children—and I’m not talking about exploring each other’s bodies; they legitimately pretended to treat patients. I’ve never had a problem with blood or broken bones, but I also never considered a career in the field. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood, working as a faceless engineer for a gigantic corporation that I started getting itchy. I saw a post on social media advertising for a free Emergency Medical Responder course. I had never heard of it before, and had always called knowledge that fell between first aid and EMT second aid. My role-playing game team recently disbanded when two of us moved out of town at about the same time, so I was looking for something else to do with my evenings. I signed up for the class, thinking a little extra education couldn’t hurt. I didn’t find out until later that my company provided a minor pay differential for intermediate medical training, because it allowed me to be a designated first responder in the office. That would have been good enough for me, because the worst that could happen in an office is a paper cut, or maybe a hot coffee accident. But then I started getting really into it. I didn’t realize how rewarding the training would feel, how satisfying it was that I knew something my friends and coworkers didn’t. Even if I never changed careers because of this, I felt comfort in knowing that no matter where I was, at least one person in the immediate vicinity would be able to help in an emergency. If no one better trained was around, at least I would be there. Once the class was over, and I was fully certified, I started looking into EMT training, while not being sure whether I would be accepted into a program if I had no intention of applying for a new job, and starting to drive an ambulance. Then the war began, and none of that mattered anymore.

Things got real bad real fast. My city was evacuated, and we were rushed to a refugee camp in the middle of nowhere. As I was sitting in the processing area, the intake counselor asked me for my profession, but I was not paying attention. All I could focus on was the triage canopy down the way. She told me to try to ignore the screams, and that the people there were doing everything they could. “I need to help,” I found myself saying. She asked me if I was a doctor or nurse, and I said no, but that I had to do what I could. So without permission, I jumped out of my seat, and ran over. I told them the limits of my knowledge, thinking there was a strong chance they would tell me to just take a hike. But they were happy to have the help. While the people with real expertise were busy treating patients, I could easily help with assessing newcomers, and assigning color tags. I also ran around to find fresh water, and helped unload emergency supplies. I wasn’t saving anybody’s life, but I was helping, and that was exactly why I continued my classes. I was finished cleaning the blood off one of the cots, and no one had told me to do anything else, so I went up to the nearest nurse, and offered my help. Before she could answer, the head of the patient she was treating burst open like a soda can in the freezer. Blood and brain matter oozed out, and I swear I could see some kind of gas leaking from the opening. I heard the nurse yell to the doctors that it was confirmed they were dealing with sudden onset intracranial pressure, brought on by a bioweapon that the enemy was using. I asked what the treatment was, and he just handed me a scalpel, telling me that I had to relieve the pressure manually since an EMP had fried all the drills. He ran off to help others before I could remind him that I was barely beyond a Boy Scout. I whispered to another nurse that I had no idea what I was looking for, or what I was doing, so she said that everyone in this canopy was in the same mall during the attack. They all had it, and would die if we didn’t help them. Then she showed me how she was doing it, carving the letter X in her patient’s forehead. So I gathered all of my courage, and got to work. And wouldn’t you know it, I was great at it? I should have started studying this years ago.

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