Thursday, July 28, 2011
Written and owned by Greg L. Miller 2011
Chapter XXVI: The Paladin’s Training
Juliet pauses as she watches Larry toss children and woman aside. He appears to have forgotten the entourage as he drunkenly shouts to hospital staff workers, “I’m a cop and I demand treatment.”
An older woman bumps into Larry and falls. They pass Lot 1 & 7, emergency vehicles camp at Lot 7; Lot 1 is full of people who wait to be seen. The crowd pushes them forward but not threateningly. No one gets crushed or hurt but it does feel like they are being herded while on First Street. The old ladies cane skitters, Juliet helps the old woman.
“Sorry Ma’am, don’t mind the cops rudeness, he is a good guy, and he’s just stressed.” The masses engulf Larry; she doesn’t see where he goes. The VA Hospital is to the right; a massive fire burns the hospital to the ground. Much of the building lies in ember, and is vastly quiet. It’s evident many firemen and police officers sacrificed their lives when the earthquake struck. A few red fire trucks wait for crews who will never show.
Juliet looks in awe at the transformation of the parking lot in front of the hospital as they pass the now fenced and guarded street. Military personal are in the process of putting fences which divide the street from the hospital and have fenced off the Bus Turn Around. The masses have made their own path cutting through Hospital Center Drive, Juliet turns left as she passes POB North which is a small building before the main entrance. Half a dozen armed guards keep thousands from entering. Near the front entrance loom three medium size tents hugging one gigantic circus looking tent which spans the entire street.
Someone dressed with taste blows a whistle while directing the masses into four different lines in front of the beg tent; near the whistle blower are two nursing aids who direct the injured depending their need. They survey the injured and put them into two categories, life threatening and non life threatening. Both the National Guard and the Reserves keep the peace as they help the best they can. Many tables are set up with people handing out sandwiches and chips in the midst of the Parking Pavilion 1 for Staff and Visitors. Many people are frustrated and grief as they are rejected for not having serious wounds or needs, they head back towards where the tables with refreshments are set up. A closer inspection shows a group of college students manning the tables. A group of battle worn solders finish putting up armed perimeters at every exit; the soldiers look like they could have come from the war fields in Iraqi. The Hospital Main Entrance is clear but not twenty five feet away people beg and plead to be allowed in. Larry reappears; he makes dramatic gestures and is allowed into the hospital.
Juliet is squished in the crowd. She innately reaches for her backpack to make sure the zipper is closed. People from all walks of life shuffle around, all are sandwiched like sardines. A lot of street kids dart in the crowd, Juliet doesn’t doubt many will have their wallets missing by the end of the day. A lot of people speak foreign languages such as Spanish and various Asian tongues. She feels something cold and wet nudge her left hand and smiles, if dogs could smile Pixel would be smiling back.
Larry forgot his dog? He doesn’t seem to care about anything outside of chasing tail and booze.
“Hey boy, is it Pixel?” The K-9 looks at her with love and her heart thaws. Pixel barks in approval. People nearby are timid of Pixel, many part. The dog lovers don’t notice but it’s easy to walk pass them. Chuang is nearby. Juliet doesn’t know where Becky disappeared to. Juliet takes advantage of Pixels presence and makes her way to the big tent and the nurses who are surveying.
Becky reappears near Juliet. All the people make it hard to figure out what’s what. She tries gaining the attention of one of the nurse aids as she ignores the line, “Excuse me, can you tell me how to get to my dad who works here?” The nurse evaluates a family and ignores her request. A middle aged woman holds an infant while a teenager has homemade bandages wrapped around his head and chest. His body is on a homemade stretcher. Blood cakes the bandages and many wounds openly seep blood onto the cement.
The nurse patiently explains, “I’m sorry but your son it to injured, we need to treat those who are going to survive.”
The teenagers Dad fumes at the nurse, “What do you mean you can’t help my son! He needs help!” His son doesn’t seem to be breathing.
Is he dead?
The nurse’s name-tag reads Michelle. Michelle patiently tells the angry parent, “We are only accepting breaks, burns and things we can control in this line. Please step aside and allow us to examine the people behind you. There is nothing we can do for your son, he is dead.” Michelle puts a black tag on the teenager’s wrist, the mother wails.
The father pleads, “Will you at least look at him? How much do I have to pay to be heard?”
The nurse directs National Guard personal to remove the family as she apologizes for not being able to help. There are five more people waiting ahead of them. Juliet tiredly repeats herself, “My dad works here! Please let me in.” She steps in line.
Many people flock to an EMT worker who screens any in the crowd who could use his support. This ironically made many in line leave their spot. There’s a lot of confusion and very little communication.
The nurse hands out color coded tags, each tag directs the injured towards a different emergency tent. Four lines create a web reminding Juliet of a shattered spider, the big tent is its head. She stalls as she sees a pile of corpses with black tags near one of the smaller tents. A crude sign says T5 with a black back drop. A few soldiers quietly carry bodies into the main building. She’s speechless as the dad carries his son to the pile of corpses; they lament as a male nurse tries cajoling them over their loss.
The next couple in line makes little sense as they urgently explain an injury one experienced, the nurse rolls her eyes and rejects them instantly. Before the couple exits the line a man behind them rushes in with a heavy country accent, “I need my insulin, I am diabetic.” He waves his wrist which has a nifty medical bracelet telling who he is and what his medical issues are. The nurse smiles and asks him to fill out a white form. Within moments she directs the southerner to a line in front of the small tent labeled T3 which has a green back drop.
Michelle concludes by telling him, “You I can help, and you are very much welcome. Next!” A family of four tells the nurse one of them has a broken arm. After filling out a white form the nurse directs them to a tent labeled T2 which has a yellow back drop.
Michelle explains to the family, “You will need to separate and meet after she gets her arm set. We are overcrowded and cannot allow everyone in. You can choose one person to accompany her. Next!”
An elderly gentleman shuffles forward. He tries being cheerful but sounds scared, “I cut myself on the face and it stings. Can you do something, I’m worried about infection.”
Michelle looks him over, “Sorry sir, you need to get that looked at but we can’t help you at the moment. You can try again later. Make sure you clean the wound and apply Neosporin. Next!” The National Guard usher the elderly gentleman away, apparently his injury doesn’t merit attention.
Juliet glances behind her and sees the masses. She doesn’t understand how she got in front so fast but is grateful. She tries looking sweet and innocent, “Hi Michelle. My dad works here and I really would love to see him. My friend Becky has a minor wound but I cleaned it up.”
Michelle sighs, “I’m only used to injuries today, you’re a welcome surprise. You’re a new request. What’s your name honey?”
“Juliet. Can you help me? Please?” She pleads as tears threaten to run freely. Michelle looks perplexed.
“Who is your dad Juliet?” Michelle genuinely wants to know.
“My dad is Riley Johnson.” She doesn’t add he is a janitor.
Michelle whispers to another nurse, “Juliet, we are understaffed and I cannot allow you access to the hospital. However, if you would care to volunteer your time I might be able to do something at the end of my shift.”
Juliet can’t believe she is bartering to get into the hospital. Harry steps in, “We would love to be volunteers! Any way to help fellow Americans is my motto.”
Michelle says wonderful and gives them a white name tag to wear over their shirts. While asking them their names she pauses with Chuang; she shrugs and scratches Choou. Michelle explains, “These are your passes. Keep them near your heart and above your clothes. If you lose them you will be removed from the premises. I don’t know when my shift ends but when it does I will allow you to come into the hospital. Is this acceptable? We really need help on the bottom level.”
Juliet beams and tries her best to mimic Egor from Frankenstein, “Yes Master, direct and I will obey.” Michelle points to the Green Tent after giving Juliet a weird glance. Juliet sees Larry in the Yellow tent, so does Pixel. Pixel heads off to Larry who flirts with an attractive nurse who is not interested in his advances. Juliet does not wave or try to gain his attention. Their guided by a young looking Reserve. He has a sad expression as he absently starts conservation.
“I’m Ben. This is a terrible day. Thanks for volunteering. The hospital is an entourage of a whole bunch of hospitals and buildings. Did you see the Children National Medical Center? The earthquake destroyed the ceiling which caved in.
Surprisingly no children were hurt. I can’t say the same for many adults. We have emergency tents in the Parking Pavilion I for those who are in dire straits. We had to put the children into the National Rehabilitation Center a couple of hours ago. It’s like God is protecting the children. As soon as we evacuated the building the entrance collapsed but no one was hurt. The yellow tent is for patients who have potentially life threatening injuries but who can wait 6-8 hours. We need to treat the most severe but not waste our resources on those who will die.”
As a child her Dad volunteered her time. Tears come as she slowly understands the building is now destroyed and those memories will always be memories.
They reach tent T2 which is used for severe injuries. Hundreds of people stand and sit on various objects such as boxes and gurneys. College students from a surrounding University carry spare mattresses to the tents. They set them in a large pile near the big tent; a few men in the Reserves carry the mattresses to the tents. They put them in aisles, ten beds a line, three beds deep. The injured gratefully take comfort in the seats; many have been on their feet for half the day. Each mattress holds two people, depending their size and depth of their injuries. No one is worried about blood this day, the nurses still wear gloves but they stopped trying to change them as they go to patient to patient. Resources are scarce.
A large woman booms, it’s obvious she is in charge, “Mack, I need you to go back inside and bring out antibiotics and other supplies! We are under staffed and don’t have enough resources to go around!” Mack is a male nurse who patiently accepts her orders.
Ben introduces Juliet to the large blond woman who has short cropped hair. “Samantha, I would like you to meet your new staff. Juliet, this is Samantha.”
Samantha doesn’t respond but continues to talk to Mack, “Please go inside and get us more supplies.”
Mack groans, “They won’t give us anything. They say they don’t have it. They are waiting for someone else to come and help. They only are allowing for T1 patients. I don’t think anyone is coming to rescue us, do you hear the noises in the distance? What is it?”
Samantha booms, “That’s just great! The state doesn’t care enough to help us, we need to get resourceful. Take the sheets of the beds; they will have to become bandages. Look around and see what we can use to secure breaks. Maybe we could cut a wooden pole down and make stints. The college students could help by scavenging their pharmacy and cafeterias. Get a few solders and secure more resources at the University if you don’t want to go back inside.” Samantha walks up to a man who can’t move his left arm. She gestures the man to hold still as she gets Juliet's attention. The booming voice asks, “Who are you and what do you want?”
Harry steps up, “I was in the war in Korea, and I was a medic. I have been showing Juliet how to help the injured. We are volunteers.”
Samantha beams, her booming voice takes on rejoice, “Well that’s good! We need more people who care. I can use you and her. What’s you name girl? I missed it earlier.” She’s looks at Juliet.
“Juliet. What can I do to help?” Juliet fidgets as she tries spying her dad. He isn’t around.
Samantha ponders for a moment, “I want you to come here and help me set this broken bone. Can you do that? This is the Yellow Tent. We fix minor amputations, flesh wounds, fractures and dislocations. I hope you’re not squeamish with blood?”
Juliet timidly looks behind her, for a moment she thinks the nurse is talking to someone else. Harry smiles, “Juliet, I noticed you have a knack for helping people; give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.” Chuang gaily takes her hand and leads her forward.
Samantha explains, “Juliet, who is your friend?”
Juliet doesn’t remember the lad’s name, Harry answers, “Chuang. He is from China and doesn’t know English. I think he might be deaf.”
Samantha grimaces, her current patient cuts them off, “The ceiling in my house fall on me. Can you help me please?” A middle age man must be a car salesman. His slick hair is now disheveled. He doesn’t show much emotion, “My wife was crushed. I can’t believe she is dead. My dog is dead too. They were sitting on the sofa when the earthquake hit.” His facade breaks as he angrily stomps his feet.
Samantha pats him on the knee, “I understand your grief. I can’t do anything about your wife or your pet but let me help you get your arm correctly set.”
The man stairs off into empty space, he shifts which allows them access to his arm. Samantha beckons Juliet and Chuang; in sign language she tells Chuang something. Chuang beams and says something back with his hands. Juliet thinks Samantha looks tranquil and pretty when she isn’t booming.
Samantha explains, “I know a little sign language. I want you and Chuang to work together. I want you to watch how I set this arm. Then you and Chuang are going to repeat it as many times as necessary throughout the day. Do you understand?”
Harry counters, “Ma’am, I know how to set bones. How about I show these kids how it’s done and you take care of the serious patients.”
Samantha gratefully accepts the offer. She adds before moving on to a new patient, “Alright, I will always be a few beds down if you need anything. I want you to teach her how to set broken arms and legs. Get me for anything more serious. The hospital operates under the Triage system. Do you know what the Triage is?”
Harry nods affirmative but Juliet responds, “No.” Chuang looks on with innocence as his large eyes take in the motions around them. Juliet wonders about the Asian boys story as she listens to Samantha; she feels relief from being out of the sun and briefly wonders if it’s safe to be under a medical tent. Becky isn’t around again.
Samantha narrates, “World War I ushered in the Triage which comes from the French. During times of war and natural disasters medical personal need to ‘sift’ through victims. The reason for sifting is due to inefficient resources, not enough staff and too many victims.”
Harry snorts, “I always thought of Triage as a form of selecting who lives and who dies. Sorry, no disrespect attended.”
“Well yes, during medical emergencies doctors and nurses are in low supply while demand for our services is high. I’m not the one who makes the rules, I just follow them. No disrespect taken.” Samantha deftly cracks the middle aged mans arm back in place. He grimaces but does not cry out or mutter a word. Samantha nods towards Harry to help her with an arm brace, “You can show them the next patient, speed is essential.”
Samantha continues telling Juliet, “It’s our job to determine the order and priority; luckily we have an aid who is doing a great job as you can see. This tent is for broken bones. There are three types of groups which we focus on. The first are those who will more than likely survive. These people are high priority; this tent is for many of those people. The second tent, which is the other small one, are for those who have more serious injuries or who are about to die. The National Guard escorts them to a secure building away from the others. We do not want mass panic or have a biological incident on our hands. Normally we would separate the injured for evacuation but no one seems to be coming, we need to improvise. The serious injured are allowed in the hospital.”
Juliet hopes her dad isn’t in the Black or Red tent. She hopes he is safe inside the building. She watches closely as Samantha and Harry put the finishing touches on the middle aged man.
“The big tent is for the last group which is Red T1. There we treat internal hemorrhages, lesions and major injuries. Maybe if you do a good job we will have you go there later or tomorrow if you’re still around.” Samantha pats the gentleman on the knee, “You’re done, and have a good day.”
The middle aged man dryly mutters, “How can I have a good day after what happened today? Thanks for helping.” He gets up and shuffles off. As soon as he is a few feet away the next people in line take his seat on the mattress. More college students pile mattresses from the dorms, a few now bring random things they think the hospital could use. Juliet is unsure what University they come from. The hospital has two nearby. She thinks its wonderful people are banding together.
Before Samantha becomes engrossed in her next patient Juliet asks, “Do you know my dad? His name is…”
Samantha cuts her off, “Sorry honey, I’m a volunteer too.” She greets her next patient who tells their ordeal. Juliet looks at Harry who says, “Hi,” to a twenty year old looking female who has a broken wrist. He explains to the lady they are volunteers.
Everyone pauses as a dull roar can be heard in the distance. Many whisper it’s the tsunami but no one can do anything about it.
Thousands of people bypass the hospital as they continue their trek out of Washington DC. Juliet wonders if she is making a mistake staying here but soon forgets this thought as Chuang happily takes her hand. Together they set many bones.
Faces and people become a blur, hours pass. Juliet goes on autopilot and soon discovers she isn’t afraid of the injured. People from all walks of life come in, most men are scared and don’t want to talk. A lot of women hysterically recount their day. The Old canter about children and grandchildren but many don’t know where their families are. A lot of people look like lost souls; they have a haunted expression which will stick with Juliet until the end of her days. Names are not important. What is important is doing a good job and healing as many as she can. She learns she can intuitively feel out broken bones and injuries by tentative touch and by listening to her patients. Most people are in shock and don’t react negative to her or Chuang. Harry does a wonderful job in telling them what to do. The people who are lively and outspoken have nurses and military personal escort them off the premises. Juliet sees one real doctor in the red tent, but he is swamped by patients. The National Guard and Reserves keep the masses out of the tents and hospital but she doesn’t notice them anymore.
Juliet comes upon her first horror experience. An old woman unlike the previous man who had diabetes is experiencing severe trauma in her foot. She didn’t get to take her medication and her left foot bulges. She can’t walk. Michelle asks Juliet for her assistance, she needs help to amputate a toe which is full of infection. Amputating the toe will release stress on the woman’s foot. Michelle things the blood infection might have come from blood clotting and not circulating correctly.
Juliet shuts her eyes and envisions herself as her Paladin. Her Paladin in World of War Craft is near Shattrath City, something went dramatically wrong in the instance/dungeon. She didn’t get the dragon and it somehow got out of the dungeon. She’s killed dragons before but this one is destroying her home. Sometime’s a paladin needs to put her sword down and heal her people.
Samantha’s cuts into Juliet’s day dream, “This poor woman is going to need her toe removed. We are out of morphine, can you give her something to help her not focus on what I’m about to do?” The old woman blinks and sputters something about her grandchildren.
The Paladin isn’t in Shattrath but is in a camp in the woods nearby, tents line the horizon, a dragon can be seen in the distance. It breathes fire onto the city. Many characters swarm the flying beast but to no avail. Colorful spells shatter off its thick hide, the giant lizard sweeps doom upon the characters with its own dark spell.
The old woman screams in agony as Michelle prods at the toe. Looking up Juliet sees thousands of injured before her, she doesn’t want to see the toe removed, it’s better to look into the masses. Juliet forgets her character’s name, now she is Juliet in her Paladins body.
Is there a end to the suffering and injured? How are we going to take care of all these people? You would think the woman just got her toe removed.
“Juliet, I’m going to start soon, can you hand me the blue marker? We need to prep by sterilizing her foot.” Juliet opens her eyes and sees the injured in the medical tent as the injured in world of war craft. She prefers to parallel gaming with real life. She’s going to have to look at the procedure which makes her queasy.
There is no reason I can’t make my fantasy world into my real world. What would my Paladin do?
Her Paladin would look for something the old woman could use to help with the pain when the cutting starts. The pain is going to be great. She remembers the vodka in her pack. Juliet offers the vodka to the older woman but the granny refuses to drink it. Juliet opts to give her wooden stick nearby to grip, she saw it in a movie.
My Paladin focuses on healing by tapping into her light source, can I find something like that within me?
“Lady, squeeze the wood when you feel pain. It might help.” Juliet goes back to her imagination as Samantha cuts the toe off. All the while Juliet keeps her eyes open and registers proper techniques in dealing with the amputation. She wonders if it’s possible to get healing powers such as her Paladin. She feels something warm and light tug at her conscience, Juliet feels good helping the masses. She reaches out for the old woman’s shoulder; she visualizes positive healing energy flowing into the woman. She opens her eyes and is startled to see the old woman calmly smile back at her and say thanks as she firmly grasps the wooden dolly.
Juliet’s feet hurt, but the blisters gives her a sense of satisfaction, her knees are rubbed raw from kneeling and applying bandages and fixing fractures and dislocations. She dreams about the cheeseburgers she gave Mike. She’s a little hungry. Every hour or so a volunteer comes around with clean water and vanilla wafers, she drinks a lot. For some reason she hasn’t needed to use the bathroom, or maybe the incident earlier at burger king made her a little bathroom shy.
Rumors go around the President is dead. Some say terrorists attacked from the Middle East, others say the President is hiding in another State and will come to their rescue when things settle. Too many say they were at the White house and saw the building collapse on him. A simple redneck is rumored to have spiritually quieted down tens of thousands after they saw the President being carried to Air Force One in a coffin, yet others say it’s a ruse to keep our nations enemies off their feet. A few crazies talk about an alien invasions but looking into the sky Juliet sees no space ships. She doesn’t understand why people can’t admit it’s simply just a earthquake. Many point to two suns but she has yet to see for herself and assumes they are hallucinating due to the stress of the day.
Why do people have to make it worse then what it is? Why are so many people talking about God and Jesus? I guess it comes down to ‘to each or own.’ I would like to know more about God though. Would a person like me be good enough to go to heaven if I died and was judged? Why would God or Jesus even care about someone like me? Maybe someday someone will come and help me figure it out.
She appreciates hearing all the opinions; her tranquil bliss is cut short, Juliet thinks she recognizes the general outline of the person in the next bed. Sure enough there’s Mat’s boyish voice before she sees his face.
“Juliet, Oh my Sweet Jesus, you made it!” It’s Matty Fatty. Juliet loves giving pet names to people; of course he doesn’t know she calls him that.
Juliet blurts, “You’re alive! Do you know what happened to Sean and Steveo?” They are two gamers in the group whose apartment she was at earlier. Juliet hopes Matt went back to the apartment but her expectations are dashed.
“Sorry. I tried going back to church. My priest was helping some poor kids in a different parish and I wanted to help them but I missed the bus. My shoulder is broke.” Matt flexes his left shoulder and gasps from pain, his brown eyes plead for Juliet to relieve his hell. He pauses, “Why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be working at Burger King?”
Juliet directs Chuang; she learned a few new movements with her hands saying Help and Thank You. She also knows a few hand gestures to direct him towards specific injuries pertaining to breaks. She’s been learning broken limbs can be fixed with a little patience. Chaotic mayhem has turned into systematic order. Muscles and bones connect certain ways which need to be directed other ways for they can mend. Breaks come in three to four different styles throughout the day, the outlier breaks get sent to Samantha.
Juliet flips her hair, “It’s a long story. By volunteering I get to see my Dad sometime tonight. I think he’s in the main building.” She evaluates Mat’s shoulder. Something feels odd, she cannot pin point the break. She tries feeling around for it while having him lift his arm.
Matt yelps, “My arm feels really heavy. I can’t move it.” Harry comes back from using the bathroom. He looks at Matt quizzically. Matt wheezes and profusely sweats as he shutters.
Harry wants to know, “How did your shoulder or arm break?”
Matt ignores the one arm homeless man, “Juliet, can you and your dad help me get home?” He tries flexing the arm but grimaces and looks like he’s going to hyperventilate. Juliet begins to wonder if Matt doesn’t have a broken arm but something worse. A little voice in her urges her to get him to the big red tent.
“Sure Matt, as soon as I meet my dad we can go. How did you break your shoulder?” She continues to feel around but won’t ask him to take off his shirt. She knows he is embarrassed for being obese. Back in high school he was picked on for being fat, many nick named him ‘bullet tits’ and the meaner kids put training bras in his gym locker.
“Gee, I don’t remember. I hit the ground at the bus station. The people in front of me got killed by glass!” Matt wails as tears flow freely.
Harry demands, “Can you breathe well?”
Matt continues over Harry, “I’m so glad I ran into you Juliet, can you fix my arm please?” He briefly looks at Harry, his contemptuous attitude bothers Juliet.
Juliet asks, “Matt, can you breathe?” She doesn’t want to hear his answer, she worries he is having a heart attack. She understands Harries question.
Matt looks at her, his boyish eyes cloud with concern; he slowly understands why she asks these questions. He remembers doctors and bullies talking and joking about him getting a heart attacks or stroke. His face pales, “No. I can’t breathe and my arm feels heavy. Help me Juliet!”
Juliet barks for Samantha, the second time she gets the nurses attention, “I think this guy is having a heart attack! What do we do?” Juliet is in shock and feels not so competent to deal with Mat’s medical crisis.
“Take him to T1 which is the red tent and ask someone there!” Samantha continues to help her patient; she puts her back to Juliet.
Juliet sighs in exasperation, “Get up Matt. You don’t have a broken arm.”
Harry interrupts, “To the big tent, kid you need to lose some weight.” Matt blinks and becomes aware of Harry.
Matt ignores the rude remark, “Please Juliet, I need help getting up. This mattress is low. How do people with broken legs get up and down?”
Juliet replies, “They do it very carefully.” Juliet takes her plastic gloves off; they are smeared with a lot of medical waste. She shutters in disgust as she makes sure to not get anything gross on her. There are two buckets nearby, one is for washing wounds and the other is clean water. A large pile of torn sheets are heaped in a smelly garbage can with many flies buzzing around. Juliet tosses the gloves into the biological nastiness.
Harry stretches out his good hand, “I’m traveling with Juliet, pleased to meet your acquaintance.”
Mat’s eyes go big, Juliet thinks he looks like a deer trapped in head lights late at night. Juliet sighs, “Harry saved my life; he can tag along as long as he wants.”
Matt grimaces but nods in acceptance, “Hi Harry, I could use your help for real. I thought you were a homeless person who was butting in. It’s cool you saved Juliet. How did it happen?”
Harry smiles, “Lad, how about we get you fixed and then I will buy you a beer when this is all over, it’s a long story.”
“Cool. Juliet, please don’t leave me, I’m scared.” Harry helps Matt up.
“Don’t worry Matt, everything will be fine. Let’s go and see the fat lady sing.” Chuang is quiet but follows. Juliet lost track of Becky hours ago.
Together they head to the big red tent labeled T1. No one stops them, they have proper passes. Many people sit on the road and the sidewalk, in the distance a murmur starts in the masses but she doesn’t know what they are saying. Juliet remains focused on getting Matt looked at. The beds are a mess; it looks like MASH from when she watched FOX as a child. This tent is much larger than the rest, there must be three to four hundred beds touching each other with no apparent order.
I was stupid to think there is just one doctor in here, is that four I count? Oh no, just three, one person looks like a doctor but isn’t.
Heavy duty emergency equipment blocks the aisles, injured people with acute injuries moan and cry. Unlike her yellow tent this tent reeks of body odor and something that smells sweet and pungent. Juliet gags as she smells stale blood, urine and feces. A black woman looking like her grandma reaches out a frail hand; her eyes beg Juliet to ease her suffering. A respiratory system sits idle near her, the lack of electricity has cut off her life support.
Rasping for breath the old woman beseeches Juliet, “Heeelp me, I… cannnn’t breath.” Juliet pauses.
Harry pushes her along, “Juliet, you can’t save everyone. Tend to the ones you can save. I’m sorry.” They pass her bed. Juliet freezes as she sees the doctor telling a soldier what to do with a few patients a few beds later.
In a heavy German accent a blond hair middle age foreigner briskly informs a young soldier, “I marked the tags of the most urgent. I need you to evacuate them on the medical helicopter as soon as possible. There are eight I think we can save.”
“Yes sir! We only have one helicopter.” Juliet sees its Ben from earlier. “Hi Juliet, this is Dr. Schiller from Berlin. He had the misfortune of visiting DC for a conference. He’s the one who is in charge out here; he helped everyone set up the tents. Dr. Schiller, this is volunteer Juliet, Harry and Chuang. I’m sorry; I don’t know who this man is?” Ben looks at Matt.
Juliet cuts to the point, “Doctor, Matt might be having a heart attack! Can you help him? Michelle from T2 told us to come over.”
Dr. Schiller pauses over his now deceased corpse; he absently marks the black tag with his marker. After a moment of he says, “Ben, kann Sie bewegen diese Leiche und lassen sich Matt hinsetzen?”
Ben stutters, “English doctor.”
The doctor rubs his brow, “Err, sorry about that, I’m tired from flying over the Atlantic. Can you get the corpse of the bed to allow Matt to take a seat?”
Matt and Juliet look at the bed as Ben gets the attention of another soldier to help with the dead weight of the corpse. Dr. Schiller continues, “We are allowing too many people in we can’t help. I lost count of how many people died from internal hemorrhaging.”
Juliet looks at the dead corpse. She’s never been into dark morbid things. The corpse makes her discomforted. A dead twenty year old looking fit man has a wound in his chest. Blood spills from his open mouth as his eyes blankly stare at the canvas ceiling. His hand clutches a picture of someone who looks like it could be his wife or girl friend.
Matt whines, “Juliet, maybe this isn’t a good idea. I don’t want to sit there. Ben and the soldier carry the body to the building. Juliet wonders how many bodies are in there and what they are doing with them.
Maybe they have my dad cleaning the corpses before they burn them. Are they cremating them?
Juliet doesn’t have much patience for Matt, “Get on the mattress Matt. We need to get you looked at.” Harry directs Matt to the bed. Matt groans as he accepts his fate.
Matt squirms as he tries to sit on the edge of the mattress, “This is so disgusting Juliet. I can’t wait to I can go home.”
Dr. Schiller looks Matt up and down, “I’m guessing you have high cholesterol and are inactive.” Matt nods as the doctor continues, “Do you smoke or have high blood pressure?”
“I don’t smoke and I don’t know about my blood pressure.” Matt looks at Juliet as if she could answer the questions for him.
Dr. Schiller doesn’t have any gloves on, “Take off your shirt.” Matt blushes but obeys. Juliet doesn’t understand why kids in school made fun of Matt. The doctor asks, “Is there history in your family of heart attack?”
Mat’s eyes become beady, “Yes. My dad had a heart attack.” Juliet didn’t know.
Dr. Schiller whimsically declares, “Matt, you need to incorporate moderation into your life style. Stop eating fast food.”
“I know.” Matt sullenly agrees but hates being told the same thing over and over. Juliet pats him on the knee.
Dr. Schiller mutters, “Fastfood wird der Tod von Ihnen sein.” More loudly, “You are lucky. Most people during natural disasters who get heart attacks have to wait one to three days before being seen by a doctor, I remember watching CNN show a special on La Plata which talked about it.”
Matt cuts him off, “Am I having a heart attack?”
Dr. Schiller raises an eye brow, “Everything will be answered in good time. Juliet, please get one of the EMS workers to come over for a moment?”
Juliet is confused, “Who are they?”
Harry replies, “They are the ones in this tent dressed in white.” Juliet feels a little stupid thinking they were doctors. She maneuvers around beds trying to get one’s attention. It doesn’t take long.
Dr. Schiller tells Matt, “I have a few more tests to perform.” A dozen firefighters pass through the crowd; they carry one of their own to the tent. Dr. Schiller tells the EMT worker to assess Matt as he quickly goes to the firemen. “Sorry Matt, you’re in good hands with Zack.” He puts a red tag on Mat’s wrist.
Zack is a heavily built middle age Caucasian. Zack isn’t into small talk. Dr. Schiller yells over the commotion, “He might have had a heart attack. I wasn’t done checking him out.” Matt vomits all over himself and feints.
Zack mutters, “We don’t have electricity to perform a MRI or an echocardiography. There might be a backup generator inside with something working. I know the National Guard was digging the generator out of the rubble hours ago. Why don’t we bring him into the hospital? I need to put him on an ECG to watch his heart beat if nothing else.” Juliet and Harry agree. Zack puts a finger into Mat’s mouth; he deftly makes sure Matt doesn’t swallow his tongue or choke on the vomit.
Maybe I will find my dad.
Harry pipes, “I think the heat and stress of the earthquake jacked his blood pressure which messed with his heart. Zack, can we get him on some oxygen?”Chuang appears with an oxygen tank. Juliet looks at him with some respect.
Chuang carries himself with dignity and seems to have a knack for bandaging people up. I wonder what his story is. I think his last name is silly but maybe it has a meaning? How old is he?
Zack cleans the vomit off of Zack and Harry picks up the obese male. Matt has a pulse. Juliet forgets about Chuang as they make their way to the hospital. Becky darts from the yellow tent and joins them. The sky gets dark as the sun blots out, dark clouds fill the sky. The entrance to the hospital yesterday looked over large round sidewalk with many colorful flowers and white park benches. All the flowers have been trampled and a few trees have fallen. One tree is on top of an emergency ambulance.
Juliet pauses at the entrance; two armed guards with machine guns manually open the front entrance. They don’t use the revolving door which has rubble from the ceiling heaped in a pile. Rather they use the door near it. Shutters close off most of the windows. Guards are stationed every forty to fifty feet along the walls. Every ten minutes or so a person makes a mad dash to the hospital; it’s as if they have a need to touch the walls, similar how a moth goes for the light. The guards peacefully and apologetically escort them back to the masses.
Zack declares, “Matt is having arrhythmias, we need to get him looked at ASAP.” Juliet looks up as she catches her breath. It’s going to take the guards at the entrance a moment to open the door. She knows he’s talking about irregular heartbeats. Her inner awareness is tuned with the injured.
Zack tells no one in particular, “The Washington Hospital Center is a private hospital. We cater to Georgetown University School of Medicine. That’s where I go to school. I was doing a class in the ER when the earthquake struck. Many doctors were killed when the cafeteria’s ceiling caved in. Others didn’t come back from lunch who dined out. They must have gone home or something. We only have 926 beds and one of the wings got destroyed. It’s a mess in here.”
Juliet peers towards the clouds which dot out the sun. She knows more than Zack about the hospital her dad works at. Back in 2011 Mayor Vincent Gray declared a budget crisis for the city. Every hospital was slapped with a $500 bed tax. Over 200 employees lost their jobs at Washington Center Hospital. Juliet’s dad was almost one of them but God had mercy on her family, or so that’s what her dad says.
The mayor should never have implemented bed taxes. Policies such as this directly affect American families and medical services. Rather, Washington DC could implement other ways of creating revenue. The city could collect recycled materials such as pop and beer cans. Or how about legalizing medical marijuana and charging patients and dispensaries steep taxes to help bolster health care or public education?
Juliet is glad her dad didn’t lose his job. Pandemonium breaks out down the street. The crowd surges forward as a new hysteria can be heard and felt. The earth shakes with a deep rumble but it’s not a earthquake or tremor. The masses hush. Scores of birds fly overhead, they fly inland.
Is it the Tsunami?
The front entrance is open. Zack and Harry carry Matt into the receiving area. The guards at the entrance forget what they are doing as they look in the direction Juliet looks. Becky and Chuang are near her. Becky gasps.
In the distance a large wall of blue water surges towards them. It looks like one big mass of water with a raging river on top of water wall. It’s big, but not as big as the movies show. The wall of water looks to be about 30-40 feet high. Maybe it was higher when it hit land. The wave behaves odd. It appears buildings and the topography of the city is altering the tsunami.
Juliet is scared, she feels Chuang left hand in her right. He feels warm which comforts her. Juliet fatalistically says, “It’s a tidal wave.”
Becky corrects her, “No it’s a tsunami. Tidal waves look different. But I did notice there are two suns which confuse me. Tidal waves react off the sun and moon. The waves are going to come in for many hours, maybe a few days. We need to get inside now!”
Chuang moves forward while holding Juliet’s hand. She lets herself be herded into the waiting room. She lets go of his hand and runs for the stairs. She needs to see what’s happening and the roof is the best place. No one stops her. Chuang accompanies Juliet. She bounds up the stairs; two heavy fire doors are open due to debris but the others are securely shut. There doesn’t seem to be any order, she sees Harry help Matt who slowly comes back to conscience.
I need to see what’s happening. Then I will come back for Matt and my dad, we’re all in the same building, they need to take care of themselves for a few more minutes. The entrance faces north, if I remember correctly there are windows in a waiting room on the second floor overlooking east within the NE wing. The water is coming from the East.
Juliet runs up the stairs and leaps over an upturned food cart. It’s eerily quiet compared to the rest of the hospital. Nearby a hallway leads to a waiting room, many of the windows are shattered, sunlight comes and goes quickly. Clouds move fast, even during overcast Juliet’s surroundings are illuminated.
Half the window is intact; no one seems to have been injured on this wing. Juliet looks out, the first wave of the tsunami rushes past the VA Hospital. It’s not high, but it moves steadily forward. The hospital takes the brunt of the assault and stands, people on the road rush to the buildings. None of the armed forces deny people entry. Everyone abandons their posts; the masses easily overcome the fences. Juliet can hear distance noises as people pound on the windows and doors for entry.
Juliet encourages people as many crash through windows on ground level buildings and disappear inside. It’s not enough, the first wave washes many away. The people on the middle of the street never had a chance. Within moments the wave has become twenty feet, the buildings have reduced much of its velocity. It continues forward without mercy. One large blue and gray cold mass hungrily engulfs the medical tents Juliet was in not five minutes before. Chuang reaches for Juliet’s hand. She feels comforted knowing someone else is near her. She shuts her eyes as thousands of people vanish in the cold blue sea.
Chuang gasps, Juliet opens her eyes. Many bodies float to the surface, a lot of people are still alive. Juliet watches as various wooden objects life, the wave is now across the parking lot and is continuing west. A fire still rages in the VA Medical Building. Support beams break under fire and water pressure, the building collapses with a final boom.
To her left Juliet sees the Cancer Institute. The building is half submerged under water but holds, a dozen people escape to the roof. Two of them appear to be doctors. POB North building is on the other side of the Cancer Institute. Juliet watches as a group of people break a window on the third floor and toss out wooden tables and doors to the ocean. People in the water swim to the wooden platforms and hold on for their lives. The hospital wing creaks under the brutal assault of the ocean. Juliet hears many windows break, the roar of the ocean is deafening.
She looks back to the medical tents where she set many broken arms. The tent cannot be seen, not many bodies appear on the surface. Juliet knows the people instantly in the tents had a quick death. She is glad she wasn’t one of them. Looking up Juliet clearly sees two suns. One is normal and the other is half its size. It appears to be shining brighter than the normal sun. Juliet doesn’t know what it means.
Juliet sighs in bitter defeat; she heads back downstairs to Matt. She grasps Chuang’s hand, she is grateful he is around. She doesn’t make it the top of stairs. Military personal rush up, each soldier holds as much medical supplies as they can, behind them doctors and nurses shoulder patients, hundreds of people flood the stairs. Juliet has no choice but to step aside. Ocean water floods the lobby, critically injured patients don’t have time to get of their beds. Within seconds ocean laps half way up the stairs but abruptly stops, water recedes for a moment and then picks back up. Young adults and a few fire men scramble over each other on the wet stairs, as soon as one person makes it to safety everyone would watch as the ones behind them struggle to survive.
Shit, everyone is going to higher ground! What was I thinking of leaving Matt down there? I’m so stupid!
Tears build as Juliet scans the people as they enter the second story waiting room. She hopes her dad, Harry and Matt materialize soon. Ocean water covers many, it looks cold, and Juliet is dry so she wouldn’t know. Harry boldly carries Matt who is cries like a lost cat. He shrugs off the watery assault as Matt clings to his neck. His left arm holds onto the left railing banister.
Young men use Harry as leverage as they scramble to safety but Harry doesn’t let go. Half his body is submerged in water.
“Harry, Matt! Over here!” Harry looks up, he squints as new water hits him hard, a staff stool slams into his back and he almost loses his grip. The water rises two to three inches, another man rudely yanks Harries jacket as he tries to survive.
Harry fumes, “I can’t hold on, sorry!” Harry kicks the man off while Matt reminds Juliet of a Banshee from Dungeons and Dragons. The man falls into the water, half a dozen others fall like domino's into the cold depth. Chuang isn’t holding her hand, he found a water hose. Juliet is stunned as Chuang expertly entwines the water hose from the emergency latch around his waist.
Juliet screeches, “Hold on Harry, Chuang is coming!” Harry fights for his live, he slips to his knees. The ocean water covers his chest and almost all of Matt. Juliet looks around for the firemen and doctors but they are across the room and are exiting to higher ground. Most people are running to higher ground as soon as they get to their feet. Juliet pauses as the building groans from the assault outside.
Chuang briefly touches her shoulder, Juliet spins around. Chuang looks handsome; he smiles and gives her the thumbs up.
“Hurry Chuang, they need your help!” Chuang leaps over a few people who gasp for air, within seconds he’s in front of Harry. Matt reaches for Chuang who isn’t as strong as Harry. Mat’s weight makes pushes Chuang under water, but only for a second.
Juliet needs Chuang to survive, “Harry, don’t let Chuang drown! Matt, get your fat ass up here this instant!” Matt freezes, his eyes bulge. Juliet sees everything in slow motion. Matt steps forward but his heart gives under pressure. He looks at Juliet with love and remorse; his eyes lose contact as they go dull.
Did Matt say I’m sorry?
The obese boy crashes back into Harry and Chuang. The two men feel and see something isn’t right with Mat’s posture. Neither grasp for Matt as the current wave lays claim to its newest victim. It doesn’t take long for Harry and Chuang to get to safe ground. The water levels increase a couple more inches. Harry doesn’t take a breather.
Harry peels off his leather jacket from the Salvation Army, “Thanks. The jacket takes on too much water. We need to get to higher ground ASAP.” Harry wears a solid black short sleeve shirt. Juliet is speechless as she follows.