Labor Day, for the past thirty years, has brought one young man to my mind. A deep sorrow comes over me as I think of him. But, I know that what I am experiencing is not nearly the pain that his family feels, year after year, as they yearn for their son.
The memories start to come as a blur of scenes…the ambulance pulling up and the young man being wheeled in to the Emergency Room, CPR being performed, the blood…
As a young teenage volunteer, because of my eagerness to help in any way and my positive attitude, I was given the privilege of being allowed to assist the doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room. The staff often had me help with bringing patients from the waiting area, cleaning equipment, running for supplies, and other basic tasks. The ER became my second home. It was my refuge from the dangers that I was encountering in my young teen life. In one year I spent 3000 hours in that small emergency department. The nurses and doctors became my second family.
Despite my age, I was not shielded for the harsh realities of life. Trauma, suffering, pain and death were part of my daily life’s experience. In many ways I was immature, but deep inside the experiences made me older than my years.
Today, decades later, my mind again drifts to that fateful Labor Day. My imagination forms what the young man’s day might have been like. He was probably disappointed to have to work on a day when so many were enjoying a barbeque or the beach. Or maybe he was thrilled to get a chance to make holiday wages. I picture the warehouse bustling, heavy equipment moving large objects from place to place. Then, with dread, I imagine the scene that was described to me. A scene where a huge container fell from it’s shelving high above. I can see it tumbling down, and then striking the young man on the head, dealing a crushing blow.
The ambulance attendants and paramedics were performing chest compressions and artificial respirations as they rushed his gurney into the emergency room.
“He was in full arrest when we got to the warehouse, doc,” the paramedic said breathlessly, “We’ve got nothing”
The cardiac monitor showed a flat line when the emergency medical tech stopped performing chest compressions. The paramedics had gotten a line in place in the field and IV fluids were rushing into his body. From the foot of the bed, I could not see any trauma at all to his lean, healthy frame. As I moved to the top of the bed, I had to withhold a gasp. His head, from just above the eyebrows was deformed and bleeding heavily.
The resuscitation efforts continued. The doctor rapidly making assessments and giving orders to the nurses and respiratory therapists.
“Do you see the halo sign?” I heard the doctor say to the nurse.
When I asked the nurse what he meant, she brought me closer to the bed and showed me that each drop of blood had a clear ring of liquid around it. The clear liquid was cerebral spinal fluid, the fluid from within the skull that surrounds the brain.
It did not take long to determine that there was no way to bring life back to this young man. He ultimately had died upon the impact. But, a valiant effort was made to resuscitate him. No one could let him go without at least trying to save him.
As difficult as it was to see him there lifeless, the most heart wrenching part of the day came next. His mother and his siblings were brought in to see him and say goodbye. The wailing was so very loud, so very understandable. Soul-piercing. I can hear the mother’s cry very clearly in my mind, three decades later.
So today, and what I suspect will be for all my Labor Day’s here on earth, I remember him. Today, I say a prayer for his family.