As a child it meant safety. Your parents or caregiver were present to get you. Now I'm on the opposite end, and it looks much different from here.
You're terrified. Petrified. Your skin is a pale as the white linens on my stretcher and you sweat as if you've run a marathon - and you still are. You're having a heart attack. I'm fighting for you, begging the wheels on my ambulance to roll faster, and hold your hand as I tell you "I'm here."
You ask "will she be okay?" in complete panic. Heartbroken, confused, and unable to process the fact that your mother is lying on the ground while my white line family tries desperately to revive her. The soft thump of her heart has ceased, and the flatline on my monitor is as steel cold as my stomach feels. I can't tell you she will be okay, although that's all I want to do. I hold back my tears, swallow the dread down - the taste like turpintine - as I know after the hard fight of cancer, her body can't take this anymore. I tell you we will do everything we can. I tell you "I'm here."
You've been trying for years, seen the inside of more clinics than some do in a lifetime, and now you look at me pleading because the small life you've created not even a month ago has started weeping tears of red. I double check everything, triple check, and make you as comfortable as I can. Praying that you'll receive the greatest gift of life, but all I can do is tell you "I'm here."
You look to me, horror stricken, as you shove this fragile limp child in my arms. My heart sinks, my gut curls, I fight to keep a solid face, but I tell you "I'm here." It's not only for you, but for me too.
It's our only way of comforting you. It's our way of saying "it'll be okay" without the cruel false hope attached to it.
It's our secret. It's how we survive. Your day of horror and tragedy sticks with us. You're forever engrained in our minds as we ponder and speculate what happened once we left you in the hands of doctors and nurses whom we trust to take care of you. All we want is to tell you "it's okay," but "I'm here" is all we've been given. We bite our tongues, tuck in our shirts, clean our boots, and prepare for the next round of someone's worst day. "I'm here" I say. I mean it. I care for you just as I would family. Your loses hit me in the gut like an icy dagger. Your pain that my medicine cannot subdue causing me to feel helpless. Our "I'm here's" give you reassurance, but it does for us as well.
At the end of day, we are left with "what if's" and "what become of's" and it's a torture in and of itself.
We look to our partner - the person that sees us at our lowest, weakest moments - the times when the "I'm here's" have stacked too high and crush us like a ton of steel. The ones who didn't make it, the ones we were too late to save, the ones who didn't deserve it, the "what if's" taunting us like a bully on a playground, the "what became of's" eating at us like fire ants to a picnic.”
The pager is squaling, again, like I imagine the minds of those calling for help are. It's time to focus. You look to your partner, the lights breaking apart the darkened sky and sirens piercing the air, as you remind them: "I'm here." It's still a phrase of safety, but we're not kids anymore.