I barely have a chance to hang up my coat before a rushed ER doctor hands me a patient file to input in the computer. Opening the folder, I skip to the page detailing the patient's injuries. Car crash: multiple hemorrhages, broken ribs, cracked skull, possible brain trauma. Shuddering, I pull out the drivers license and my heart jumps into my throat. Marcia Jones, 5'9", blue eyes, organ donor. My sister.
Glancing at her room number, I pocket her license and dash down the hall to the elevator, pounding on the UP button until the doors slide open and then close behind me. The sound of my tapping foot echoes off the elevator walls and drowns out the Muzak. It seems like an eternity before the doors ding open again. I squeeze through their small gap before they can open fully and weave my way through the people walking down the corridor.
Her room door is ajar, but the lights are off. I cautiously push it open and take a moment to let my eyes adjust to the darkness. When they do, I gasp and take a step back. My sister doesn't look like my sister anymore. Her face is swollen and covered with dark bruises. A bandage encircles her head, and a pacemaker keeps her heart beating while life support pumps oxygen into her system. I collapse into a chair with the urge to puke. She looks like the kid who got his face beat in by a baseball bat last week. It feels like the floor gave way beneath me, and it's not until I hear screams from outside that I realize the ground actually is moving. Earthquake.
I drag myself to the doorway and hold on for dear life. The lights flicker as the minutes drag on, the floor rolling beneath us. Finally the tremors lessen. Shakily standing, I can already hear the wailing sirens as ambulances leave the hospital. I rush back to Marcia's side, checking all the machines hooked up to her. The PA system buzzes on as the backup generator kicks in.
click "All nurses and doctors report to the Emergency Room. Repeat, all nurses and doctors please report to the Emergency Room." click
Reluctantly I pull away from the bed, checking to see if her license is still in my pocket, and climb down two flights of stairs to the ER. Already it's clogged with new patients demanding to be checked in. Nurses scramble around, jotting down names and injuries on dusty clipboards. I grab one and start making rounds. The list of injuries borders on the horrific; a man with a possible concussion, a woman who dug her son out of rubble, a little girl with a broken arm in two places. I treat anyone who is spurting large amounts of blood, and direct the ones with more serious injuries to examination rooms.
"Please, will anyone help my son?"
"Hey, I need help over here!"
"Dammit, someone needs to help me NOW!"
Each new claim raises the level of sound until it's deafening. Nearing the third hour of darkness, I exchange another full paper for a new one when I hear a doctor say, "Yeah, I heard they've started taking patients off life support because it's costing too much energy." I stop in my tracks. Could Marcia have been one of those patients?
Dropping my clipboard on the desk I sneak out of the ER and race up the stairs to her room. There are two nurses in there, rifling through stacks of papers. The male nurse looks up when I walk in.
"Hey, do you happen to know where this patient's drivers license is? We've been taking organ donors off life support because of the increased demand for organs."
My hand drops to my pocket as I shake my head.
"Ah, well. It won't be much longer before we have to take them all off anyway. The generators are running out of juice and we haven't been able to contact City Hall for more gas to power them." Both nurses slide past me to the door. I stand still, shocked. Staring at Marcia's prone form, I finger her license and wonder whether I should have given it to them. What if someone needed her heart, or her liver? I just signed their death certificate.
I slump into the seat next to her bed, head in my hands. They're gonna take her off anyway before the generators give out. I'm fighting for a lost cause. Deciding to stay with Marcia until they come back, I reach forward and take her hand.
Thirty minutes later, I hear footsteps come into the room, but I don't take my attention off her.
"Miss?" a voice questions. "Are you family?"
"We're sorry, but we have to take the patient off life support. The generators are going to fail soon, and we need the last bits of power to go toward different tasks."
I nod again, letting go of Marcia's hand and stepping away from the bed. Making her way to the machines, the nurse methodically turns them off one by one. The monitor beeps one last time before flat-lining. I grab the nurses arm before she leaves, taking the license out of my pocket.
"Here," I say, handing it to her. "She's an organ donor."
The nurse nods and makes a note on the clip board before leaving the room. In a daze, I walk back down to the ER to continue working. Twenty minutes later, the PA system comes back on.
click "Good news; the city has been working non-stop, and will be able to turn our original source of power on in ten minutes. Thank you for your perseverance." click