Within Reach

by Thomas Campbell


I will never forget the night of October 15, 2009. It was the first incident in my life that I learned the true meaning of perseverance. I was working in trauma at the time, and the paramedics had just brought in two patients from a serious car accident, a young man and a small boy, who looked to be no older than 12. I remember the bent and crimson form of the small child when he arrived. The smell of singed flesh assailed my nostrils as I looked at what was half of the boy’s stomach and spleen. Doctors and nurses crowded around the boy as he was taken into one of the wards. I asked the paramedics about the boy’s condition. They described to me the massive amounts of internal and external bleeding in his abdominal organs, as well as the hemorrhaging in his skull due to whiplash. I remember standing by, feeling utterly helpless, as I watched this child suffer. His body was convulsing, and one of the doctors shouted that he was going into shock. I vividly remember looking into his eyes as his body writhed on the bed, those frightened and innocent eyes. I was oblivious to everything around me, as I simply stood, paralyzed. Doctors and nurses were desperately trying to resuscitate the boy. And then, the boy’s eyes stopped moving and went blank. My normal composure dissipated, and I didn’t know how to react. I felt so empty.
I don’t remember leaving the room, or where I walked, or who I saw. All I can recollect is coming back as the doctors were talking to the mother about her now deceased child. The hardest part of that night was hearing the mother’s screams. I will never forget those three piercing words, “No, No, No!”, and then her uncontrollable sobbing and screeching. I walked over to a chair, sat down, and wept.
One of the nurses saw me crying, and came over to console me. I remember asking her “How do you guys see somebody die, and just move on? Do you just get used to it?” She looked at me and replied, “We are not callous. Every death affects us, but we persevere in the moment and take comfort in the patients we heal. It’s a rewarding job, and no matter the condition of the patient, we persevere.” I spent the next few days reflecting on that night, reliving those moments in my dreams. Still, I persevered and returned to the hospital for my next shift.
I can still see the boy’s eyes in my vision. I can still hear the mother’s screams in my ears. But it was perseverance that kept my life and goals within reach. When our heart gets torn, we sow it back together. When our ego is crushed, we build it back up. And even when our dreams start to dissipate and fade, we reach out and hold on to them. That is the power of perseverance. That is what I believe in.

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