As we march quickly into the resuscitation room, wading through the sea of people currently waiting for their turn in triage, one face looks directly at us. Most mumble amongst themselves, wondering what trauma had befallen our patient with his face a mangled, bloody mess, made all the more grotesque by the tube sticking out of his mouth. People stare. Human nature seems to render all those around unable to look away from the macabre scene. All except for her. Her gaze held for just long enough. Enough for me to realise that she recognised me, remembered me from some event in the past. Whether that past was recent or not was beyond me and in all honesty I was too busy with the patient we had right now.
The chaos in the resus room was as organised as usual. Doctors waiting for a handover, nurses anxious to begin treatment, paramedics eager to deliver their patient to the next link in the chain fighting for his survival. His chances were slim - we knew that. Falling, perhaps jumping off a bridge onto the road below should have been lethal. Being hit by the car after he fell should have sealed his fate. Somehow, however, against all the odds, he was still alive when we reached him. Somewhere, the stars combined. The calls came in fast, we were nearby, the hospital was only a few minutes away. We treated him on the move, leaving us on scene for as short a time as possible. We had done our best.
We spent some time cleaning our equipment in the resus room, keeping out of the way while trying to stay in the loop. As always, we knew that as soon as we left the department, chances were high that we would never know what happened next, so we took our time to grab more snippets of information. Anything from the results of an x-ray to the positing of a professor who happened to be in the area. Eventually, however, we had no choice but to head back out into the heat of the day, through the throng of people still hovering around the waiting room. Still, she sat there, a bandage wound round her head, with a small patch of blood showing through just above her left eye.
Outside, by the ambulance that looked inside as though full-scale war had just taken place, we started to take stock of what we had seen and done just as one of the nurses who was in the resus room came out, cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other.
"They've done their best, but they've called the organ donations team," he said, as he flicked the lighter into life. I couldn't help but grimly wonder if one day he too would need a new set of lungs.
We tidied up in silence, clearing the floor of the bags of fluids, of the empty wrappers from the kit we'd used, of the blood. The next link in the chain of survival meant that he wouldn't survive, but perhaps others would. It would be a tough call to make. They needed to find his family fast, give them the impossible task to make an impossible decision in an impossible situation - to do what's best.
Suddenly, she stepped into the sunlight, bandage still in place with its crimson spot and walked straight over to us, stopping only very briefly. "You don't remember me, do you?"
"No. I'm sorry, I don't."
"I'm glad. It's probably for the best."