MAE JULIAN

In my series about my adventures as an EMS nurse, I told you about my good friend and colleague, Boom-Boom. I hope you haven’t forgotten her, as I am finally going to tell you what happened at the end. You will recall that Beverly acquired her nickname from her partner, Mick, when they made the run to the Boom-Boom room on 7th Street. The exotic dancer (if one wants to be generous) was bumping and grinding her way on the dusty stage, periodically changing her own records on a portable record player at the edge of the stage, when our crew made the run. The events of that night earned Bev her nickname and it stuck the entire time she was at EMS. She had the most enchanting blue eyes God ever gave a woman, and I found myself envious of a physical trait so mesmerizing to others. She was well liked, and naive to a fault, but had a good heart. She is one of those people who lives in the back of your mind forever.

Anyway, my story continues on what happened that horrible night which ended Boom-Boom’s EMS career. Oh, not right away. It was a slow death, as these things sometimes are. It happens in marriages, and in friendships as well as jobs, but there is a turning point from which one can never go back. So, I will tell you of this night.

It started out routinely enough. Night shift street people restocked in the equipment room, taking extra supplies of what they sensed they might need that night. I cannot exactly explain what it is, but a sixth sense of sorts.‑We were all aware of it, and it tended to be “catching.” Sometimes we loaded up with extra ice packs for no explainable reason, and would come back with none, having used them all.‑For reasons known only to Boom, she picked up an extra OB kit. This is the kit that we carry that contains everything we need in the delivery of a baby.

Because we all monitored channel 9 at that time, we were always aware of who went where, what kind of a run they had, and many times anticipated if they might need a back-up and would head our ambulance that way.‑Street awareness was very keen, and if you could imagine a bunch of neighbors always peeking in each other’s windows, this was the case with night shift. There were few secrets. It was important not to have secrets. We were each other’s lifelines.‑We stayed alive by staying aware…not just of ourselves, but our colleagues as well. I think what happened to Boom could just as well have happened to me, or to any one of us, but Boom never stopped blaming herself.

Tick had dispatched Mick and Boom on a 10-65, and I remember only that I breathed a sigh of relief that they had caught the run. I have no desire to be delivering babies on the street. Even though my partner and I were dispatched on other runs that night, we kept in tune with what was happening with Mick and Boom. I listened intently to Boom’s voice as she called in the report en route to Children’s Hospital. Boom sounded a little breathless and I could sense the strain in her voice. Boom was delivering premature twins in the back of the ambulance whilst Mick was driving code 3 to the hospital. When the first baby was born, Boom delivered it and saw that it was stillborn. She quickly wrapped the baby in the provided wrap in the OB kit, and put the little bundle aside. She tore open the second kit, preparing for the next baby. The mother was screaming and crying, the siren was wailing, and Bev steadied herself for the second baby who was coming breach. When the baby delivered, Bev assisted its breathing, keeping it warm until arriving at Children’s ER.

The stillborn was wrapped in the paper blanket, and Mick carried it in, handing it over to one of the nurses. From what Mick told me later, Boom sat down, and put her face in her hands, taking a break from the stressful run. Shortly, she was approached by the ER charge nurse and asked why she did not attempt to save the first baby. Boom told them that the baby had no signs of life. The nurse rudely reproached Boom, informing her that the baby was still alive, and that it had been “neglected” en route to the hospital. What a heartless person. It was one of those disbelief moments for both Boom and Mick. Boom took it hard, real hard. As it turned out, both babies died, but Boom couldn’t find it within her own heart to forgive herself. I noted, but did not understand, at the time, what caused the change in Boom.‑Mick never said anything to anyone, not even me. Boom was never the same, though. She was no longer sure of herself. She second-guessed everything she did. She was not sleeping, and the joy had gone out of her.‑Boom never talked to anyone about it, and I wished then, and wish now, that she could have found it in herself to confide in me. I could have traded regretful stories with her. I could have told her that I was responsible for a man dying because I screwed up on directions and got to him too late. All of us could have told our own stories, if we had only known, and she might not have felt so alone. But that’s not how she handled it. She quit. She walked in one day and filled out resignation papers, went over to the time clock and inserted her card.‑She never spoke a word; she just walked out of the barn, got in her car and she was gone. It was a couple of months later, when I was working with Mick one night, that I got the full story from him. He almost broke down. He loved her. I loved her. Hell, I guess we all loved her. But we couldn’t save her from her own condemnation. I’m sure that she said things to herself, in her own mind, that no one would ever say to her or even think of her. She killed herself, in a way. She was unavailable to phone calls, and never came to the door when I went over. It felt like those old cowboy movies where the cowboy rides off into the sunset and is never seen nor heard from again.‑Such was the case with Boom.

Now, all these years later, I still think of her. I wonder what ever became of her. I think the lesson to be learned is that we are not perfect. We have to accept that we will screw up, and in some cases, especially in medicine, we can be responsible for the death of another. It is a heavy burden. It is an inevitable fact, I believe, that if one works in critical areas of medicine that it will happen. Just as the best mechanic can make mistakes on an engine, or a baker can burn a loaf of bread. I could go on. But I would say that everyone reading this column today can think back and know in their heart of hearts that there was sometime in their lives that they did, or could have, caused a death. Every one of us with children can recall saving our kids lives when they were small. We think with horror what might have been. With Boom …she could not get past what she saw as her negligence. It matters not that the baby would probably have died anyway, like its twin, but for Boom that probability did not ease her heart. We all need to learn to forgive ourselves just as we forgive others. We need to say kind things to ourselves and not ever say hurtful things in our minds to ourselves because it is so easy to fall into that hole of letting our minds condemn us. I hope that Boom has forgiven herself. I find no fault with her. Not now, not then, not ever. Life is a whole mixed bag of perplexing happenstances. We like to think that we have a whole lot of control, but in reality we have very little control. Fate has control. If we can bend to that reality, we might just all survive this world.

The Waynedale News Staff

The Waynedale News Staff

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