Today, Humble Swede over at FiveHundredaDay wrote about a dramatic situation that ended with having to call an ambulance. Suddenly, I knew I wanted to write about one of the times I’ve placed that call.
My sister and I were living in a tiny studio apartment in Portland, OR. I was in graduate school and she was working nights as a social worker in a group home for girls. We had bought a second-hand bunk bed, pushed up against one wall and draped a dark blanket all around to make a sort of sleeping cave. Most of the time, we both slept in the bottom bunk – me at night and her in the daytime. Along with that, we used the room’s built in dresser and a tiny patio cafe table with three chairs that my friends’ grandmother had loaned us for our table. Our kitchen was mostly dinged up pots and pans that we’d found when we bought the bunk bed. We were young.
We saw each other most afternoons when I got home just before she went out. In the precious moments that we were home at the same time, my sister talked almost non-stop. Apparently even a very quiet introvert needs to talk to people sometimes, and her night job provided little interaction with others. In fact, I had threatened to hide a tape recorder and record her talking so that the rest of the world would hear how much she talked when given the space. She was not amused.
So, it wasn’t as unusual as you might expect for my sister to walk into the bathroom while I was taking a shower and start talking to me. I struggled to hear her quiet voice through the stream of water, and had only just made out the words when she fainted.
“I think I cut myself quite badly.”
The water was still running when I called 911. Water puddled and dripped on the white tile floor of the bathroom where I had glimpsed the blood leaking out between her fingers. Water soaked a trail into the old gold carpet from the bathroom door over to the cafe table where the phone perched precariously on some books. Water pooled around my feet as my naked body shivered and I said to the operator, “It’s my sister. She’s cut herself. She’s bleeding and she’s fainted and I don’t know what to do.”
The ambulance arrived in minutes. I don’t remember when I put on clothes – just sweatpants, really, just enough to be decent – but I was on the floor with my sister, holding her while she squeezed her wrist and hand and we held our breath. The EMTs took over, and I called her work to say she wouldn’t be in. I heard them in the bathroom, telling her that she had to release her hand, she had to let go so they could see. They were gentle, but she was trembling, crying.
When she finally released her hold on her wrist, lifting one finger after another, holding her breath to see what damage had been wrought, everyone let out a huge sigh. The knife she was using to cut brownies – the dinged-up, second-hand, dull old knife – had cut her, scratched her, really, a scratch so negligible that an EMT smiled, wiped the blood off and put a band-aid on her wrist.
Then the EMTs left, assuring us that we should always call 911 when we think there’s an emergency, and though we were both embarrassed and relieved, that night we slept in the bunk bed together.