Take My Pulse

Entry by: MONARCHB

4th September 2015
Take My Pulse

The nurse left work at 5:00 PM in the middle of a Chicago November so gray, she couldn't remember if it was early morning or early evening. Her shift had been that draining in the Emergency Room, she had lost all sense of time: the day, the hours, the minutes. As if everything reflected in the face of a clock was a hoax.

"We need the Pediatric Trauma team for this one," the ER doctor told her at the beginning of her shift. A car accident--three already dead at the scene--and this one. The only survivor of a two-car crash. Young girl. Maybe eight or nine. Shoulder-length brown hair. Thin frame. Translucent skin that gave the appearance of muted dusk, the faint blue of it. Almost ghost-like. As if she was hovering between life and death.

No visible signs of major cuts or lacerations. Pulse slow but steady. Blood pressure slightly elevated but still within the normal range. The initial blood tests showed nothing unusual--nothing out of the ordinary. But the girl remained unresponsive to any stimulus the nurse or doctor attempted.

"Must be a closed head injury. Where the hell's the trauma team? Get this kid up to X-Ray for a complete CAT scan. Now, nurse, NOW. Not next week."

The nurse froze for a second and in that second she thought she saw the slightest of movements, like a small white moth flickering under the skin of the girl's left cheek.

"Wait, doctor, look..." the nurse's voice trailed off as she stared at the girl's face--the slight tremor, the moth struggling to break free from it. Suddenly, the girl opened her eyes: hazel-tinged with flecks of earth, sky, and sea. She looked around the trauma room. The bank of bright lights, the white tile floor. She noticed the nurse before anything else.

"I know you," she calmly said. "Why are you here, Mona?"

"Mona," the doctor murmured, relieved that the girl was finally conscious and talking, although not quite coherently. "Mona like the Mona Lisa?" he smiled. He pointed to the nurse. "No, young lady, this is not Mona but your nurse. She and I are taking care of you here in the ER. Do you remember what happened to you? Can you tell us your name?"

The young girl kept staring at the nurse. "Why are you here?" was all she could say.

The girl was eventually taken to the X-Ray department; her CAT scan was normal. She was later transferred to the pediatric unit where her vital signs remained stable and she continued to improve. But every now and then, she would ask about Mona.

Back in the ER, the nurse moved as if in some time warp. She dropped her stethoscope numerous times. She almost had to remind herself how to use the blood pressure cuff. She asked her supervisor if she could leave early before her shift was over.

When she left the hospital at 5 o'clock, she wasn't quite sure if the day was just beginning or if it had just ended. The only certainty was the long walk home and her empty apartment. Why had the young girl unnerved her so much? Why did she seem to know her? Was it pure coincidence that the nurse's nickname was Mona when she was a young child in school? And, how could the patient know that when no one--not even her colleagues at the hospital knew?

These questions continued to haunt her as she ate her dinner in silence. The only sound that interrupted her thoughts was the rain that began to fall: at first, a gentle drizzle; then a strong torrent of sheets of water. And with that rain, images of her past emerged.

The marriage that had ended in divorce eight years earlier. The devastating miscarriage two years before the divorce that strained and ultimately destroyed her relationship with her husband. The brutal prognosis from her doctor after the loss--she would never be able to get pregnant again. The realization that she would remain childless sealed the fate of her marriage long before the divorce was finalized. So she drowned herself in silence, in her work at the hospital, in her devotion to her patients.

But still the questions remained. As if the young girl at the hospital who survived the horrific car accident was someone who actually knew something about loss, about loneliness. As if she was the reincarnation of everything the nurse had forsaken in her grief.

Without thinking about the pouring rain, the nurse left her apartment and raced back to the hospital. She knew she had to see the young girl again. Could this child be the spirit of the one she lost so long ago? Or just a mirage of her longing? As she ran back through the streets, the only sound she heard was the steady pulse of her heart.