As I was leaving for lunch today, I heard the overhead pager:

“EMS to the ER, STAT, please, STAT.”

“Pediatrician to the ER, STAT, please, STAT.”

Shitty, thought I. Really sick kid.

When Nala and I came back from lunch and pulled into clinic, we saw the driveway barred by security, and Classic – the critical care helicopter transport – on the ground, firing up the rotors, ready to take off.

Nala ate her hamburger (no cheese, no lettuce, no tomato, no ketchup, no mustard, no onions, just buns and a burger) and I ate my gardenburger (I am now devoted to Burger King for actually having them), and we sat together and watched the helicopter lift gracefully up and off into the air. We sat by the side of the building, in the shade, out of the way of the tremendous sandstorm the rotors cause as they angle down to get the helicopter up.

The helicopter moving always gives me a sense of vertigo; it seems so unexpected, you can never tell exactly in which direction it’ll go. Airplanes? Bicycles? Skateboards? They usually go forward, linearly.

Cars and trucks? The usual: linear, forwards.

And sometimes backwards.

Biz, the paramedic, was also watching the chopper take off. She came over to share some fries after it vanished into the sky. “What happened?” I asked.

“Grandmother backed the truck up over her grandson.”

“Jeeezus fucking christ. How old?”

“Three. She didn’t even see him, and then hit something, and everyone around her started screaming. She just picked him up, put him the truck, and drove straight here. Walked right in the back door with him in her arms.”

“He OK?”

She shrugged. “He’s stable. He’s got a basilar skull fracture, and was bleeding from his left ear. He wasn’t moving the left side of his body.”

“Horrible.” We ate more fries.

Biz was quiet for a second. “You know, seeing him, on the gurney…I worked another one like that last year. Mom didn’t see her kid, about the same age, and hit him and ran over him with the truck. Right over his abdomen. Our rig went out to stabilize him, and Classic met us there. We intubated him and everything, and put him in the helicopter, but at that point we all knew we were doing it for the mother. The child was already dead. It was her only child.”

We were silent again for a few minutes. Nala finished off the fries.

Then she said, “You know what I remember about that day, about that child? He was wearing a little Ninja Turtles t-shirt. That’s what I remember.”

I looked up at her, startled. “You remember that code green we worked last month? The girl who died here in the ER? You know what I remember about her? She was wearing — ”

“Teal underwear,” said Biz.

We looked at each other, and shared a small, sad, quiet smile.