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Anemone Knight, 24 Sep '12

“Blue Light” goes out the call over the tannoy. I gulp down half my cup of coffee and force my legs to straighten. Eight hours into my night shift and I’m feeling disorientated, the adrenaline is the only thing that keeps me going. That and the caffeine. I pull my stethoscope round my neck and start checking the equipment. Oxygen hooked up ready, syringes and needles of varying sizes, the crash kit. The nurses have all sprung into action, I watch absent-mindedly wondering whether I’ll ever get used to working these hours.

The doors crash open, the paramedic spilling out a long list of information that tunnels into my head. Male, 58, severe burns from a petrol fire, unconscious at scene... God, he looks awful. Barely human in fact. The smell of burning flesh rises through the room. We start cutting away what’s left of his clothes, the bits that aren’t stuck to his skin. I feel the familiar sense of detachment as I’m working away, the steady beeping of the monitor keeps me focused. In cases like these, if I let myself think too much it becomes unbearable. Overwhelming. I see only body parts, things to fix, things to heal. I don’t even know his name, maybe I’m glad about that actually. I glance at his face, he is truly anonymous, I doubt even his family would recognise him. My thoughts are interrupted as the steady beeping stops, the monitor flatlines. The defibrillator appears beside me and I grab the paddles; “All Clear”, no response. I try again, nothing. Third time, a shaky beeping starts back up.

Twenty minutes later, I watch hopelessly as a colleague pounds the man’s chest. I steadily squeeze the balloon on the face mask, inflating his lungs, but I can tell it’s pointless.
“I think we should stop.” I find myself saying.
“All agreed?”
I wonder now if I should have carried on.

The police identified him two hours later. I sat next his body, held his hand. The hand of my father.

I was supposed to have gone to see him the day before, maybe if I had then he wouldn’t have doused himself in petrol. I wouldn’t have seen him charred and unrecognisable. I wouldn’t have to wonder what would have happened if we’d continued CPR. I feel guilty.

Twelve years later, and a blue light is called over the tannoy. Only this time I’m not struggling to get going and gather everything together. I’m not listening as the paramedic reels off the details. I’m not jumping into action as the monitor flatlines. Because I’m in the one on the bed. The blues were too much.

Comments · 3

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  • Anemone Knight said...

    Untold Tales Entry

    • Posted 7 years ago
  • Audrey Semprun said...


    • Posted 7 years ago
  • Ross Tarran said...

    Although I questioned what could lead a man to set himself on fire (such an extreme behaviour, especially from a not particularly old man, but I suppose it could have been an accident taken as a personal fault by the guilty conscience of the narrator), this has a powerful emotional kick.

    • Posted 7 years ago