"Epi, we have to be very careful with Maria, her nurses and sister watch us like hawks. A crew last week hit the door with her cot and the nurse was on the phone with dispatch before they even left the house." Sara knows the patient well, she's been taking her to dialysis and doctor appointments for a few years now.
I had not had the pleasure of meeting her yet.
Sara wasn't the only one who knew and loved Maria. Many of the crews who had been around longer than a few months loved her. There's something about going into a persons home a few times a week and seeing them in their natural environment. Not a nursing home room, not a hospital room. Really talking to those family members, the ones who often know just as much about the illness as the patient does.
"Of course I'll be very careful, Sara." I didn't know what else to say. I was a little nervous about what I would be walking in to.
I was driving a Mod for one of the first times ever. Something that already had my nerves raw. At the Little Private Service that Could, I had a brand new Vanbulance which I loved. Backing in the huge truck I was now driving was something I wasn't yet comfortable with. We pulled up to Maria's house, a ranch on a narrow street lined with cars.
"Okay, Epi, back in. And for the love of God, try not to tear the lawn up or hit her sisters Caddy." Sara winked at me.
I paused long enough to rub my temples and check the mirrors. Three attempts later and the truck was parked, lawn and Cadillac intact. I watched in the rear view mirror as the garage door behind us opened.
We walked the stretcher into the garage and through the open door leading to Maria's living room.
"Hey Francine, Jeff, this is Epi, she's my partner for today." Sara introduced me as we maneuvered the stretcher around a recliner. I paused long enough to shake hands with both Jeff and Francine.
"I hope she won't be driving, I saw her trying to back in." Francine laughed. I couldn't blame her. It wasn't my best performance behind the wheel.
"No Ma'am," I smiled, I'll be in back with Maria.
"But you're new, wouldn't it be better if Sara rode in back?" Francine stammered.
"Ma'am, I am new to the company, and I'm new to the larger trucks. But I'm not a new EMT. I promise to take great care of her." I made eye contact with both of them, I wanted to put them at ease.
"Pipe down, Francine, I'll be fine." The weak voice came from Maria, laying in her hospital bed in the living room.
"How are you today Maria?" Sara was fussing over her, arranging the several layers of blankets that enveloped her tiny body.
"Oh, I'm doing well, thanks. How are you two young ladies?" Maria had a wonderful smile and bright clear eyes that day. She took a few minutes to show off pictures of her beautiful Granddaughter, who appeared to be roughly my daughter's age.
"Her pride and joy," Francine quipped.
That's how I choose to remember her. Alert, relatively pain free, and gushing about her Grandbaby.
I haven't seen Maria in months, I believe the last time I had the privilege of caring for her was in June.
She was in pain. We didn't talk about her Granddaughter. We didn't talk at all. I did my best to keep her comfortable. She was on oxygen at that point, and even in the summer heat she shivered. I would pile on the blankets and stroke her hand. Every bump we would hit in the road would cause her to cry out.
You know the search... I tentatively typed in her last name and hit enter.
She's finally at peace. I'm sad that I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to her, but I'm happy that she's at peace, finally. I'll remember her the way she was the day I first met her.