Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Sound Blood Makes

I hear a lot about blood.

When I'm not writing books, I'm a 911 fire/medical dispatcher. People call me when their loved ones are bleeding from places they shouldn't be. Even though I have the computer in front of me to give me the cues to read, I have the responses memorized. "Do you know where the finger is? Get a clean, dry plastic bag. No, DON'T put it on ice. That can damage the tissues. No, really, no ice, I mean it."

I hang up and look at my own fingers, grateful they're still neatly attached, still able to tap the keys on the keyboard, still able to move stitches across my knitting needles.

Or maybe their elderly mother has just fallen and cut her head open: "Get a clean, dry cloth or towel," I say as I press the mute switch and take another bite of my oatmeal -- I'm on hold while they look for a towel. "Got one? Good. Now press it firmly against the wound. Don't lift up. If it bleeds through, just get another towel."

Or maybe it's multiple gunshots. "He's GUSHING blood," they say. "Blood is EVERYWHERE. I can't STOP it. Which wound do I pick?"

"Just push more firmly. Pick the worst one. Do your best. I know you can do it."

The paramedics arrive. I disconnect. Finish my scrambled eggs. Take the next call.

And it just goes with the territory, I suppose, that with the disconnection, I remain so disconnected. I'm able to hear people screaming and crying, and then go back to chatting with my coworkers about what we're planning for the weekend. I can hear the vivid descriptions of pain and blood and gore, can hear the ribs breaking when I give effective CPR instructions, can hear the sobs as people realize that this is it, this is moment their life will be changed forever, and I can really, truly honor the fact that I'm the one with them in this important moment, and we're both doing the very, very best that we can, but then I'm the one that gets to hang up and remain unbloodied.

I don't have to clean anything up.

I don't have to figure out whether to wash the towel or throw it out.

911 is the first call. I don't have to decide who to call second.

My desk remains clean, and somewhere a siren is screaming.

Hell, it might be part of the reason I write romance. I saw District 9 over the weekend, and I was truly freaked out by it -- all that blood, pain, sadness. I know it's a good movie. Maybe even a great one. But while it's a science fiction movie about aliens, it's also about how awfully badly humans can behave, and how much pain people can end up in. Is it wrong that I don't really want to be reminded of that? I get enough of that at work. So I combat that with episodes of Glee and The Amazing Race and romance novels and happily ever afters. Blood stays inside the body and kisses heal everything.

Nothing wrong with happily ever after, in my book.

For a chance to win an advanced reader's copy of Rachael's first novel HOW TO KNIT A LOVE SONG, please visit her at Yarnagogo.com. Spoiler alert: Happy ending guaranteed.


Sophie Littlefield said...

R darlin - as someone who has leaned on you to be the dispassionate kind listener, I can vouch for you - there's no one i'd rather find on the other end of the phone in an emergency than you.

Also I do know what you mean about combating with a genre. As I write my horrifying horror novel I find that I'm reading sweeter and sweeter books for my everyday fare. Got to get that sunshine somewhere, I suppose.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Great post, Rachael. Fascinating glimpse into your worklife. I sure do hope I never need to call 911, but if I do, I'm sure I'd be lucky if you were the one to pick up the phone!

Martha Flynn said...

(checking phone..) whew, I do have a direct line to you in there. how late is too late to call you....3am...4am....i *am* a hypochondriac, you know!

Anonymous said...

been there, done that. got the bloody greens and mucky theatre clogs.
I now help people pick up the pieces, those left behind or bereft.
the world never seems to want people like you hun but we're very glad your'e there.
I like romance, mixed with knitting of course and, sometimes, murder & mystery so long as it's not too messy.

Gigi Pandian said...

I'm right there with ya, Rachael. No District 9 for me. I want that happy ending.

Lisa Hughey said...

I can totally see you munching on your eggs and then talking about blood...and based on that image I'm so glad you chose to write about happy endings :)

Carol said...

You are a good writer no matter what you are writing, I've followed your blog for years and (I'm in healthcare) had never thought about the nitty gritties of your day. Wow.

toni in florida said...

I once had to pause in eating my dinner (at my desk, of course) at my 911 center to deal with a hyperemetic elderly woman who kept apologizing for bothering me... in between bouts of epic puking. Blood, guts, broken bones don't put me off my feed, but hearing someone upchuck sure did. At least until I got an ambulance on scene, that is. (work-related side note: what is it about older folks who think they shouldn't call 911 if they're not dying? poor old dears!)

I really liked District 9, cringing at some of the gorier parts, but Glee? Well, Glee has my heart!

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