Four adults had her pinned to the floor, each holding a limb. Her foster mother stood to the side shaking her head.
“She’ll be like this for hours,” she said. The guys from Engine 12 stood back and waited for some direction. We are not trained or authorized to use restraints. The patient, a ten year old deaf girl named Emily continued to struggle as we figured out what to do.
“How do I say her name?” I asked one of the people in the room, a teacher at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf. He showed me. I formed my hand into a representation of the letter E then bumped my chin with it twice.
“How do I say my name?” I asked. I bumped my M shaped hand to my chin twice and knelt beside her.
“Tell her we have to put her on our bed and take her to the hospital.” The teacher signed the message, Emily responded. She said she would go only if the firefighters went with her.
“She spits,” somebody said. I decided to put a surgical mask on her.
“She’ll gnaw on it and might choke. The last time they put masks on themselves,” said the mother.
There was no way a beautiful, scared ten year old was going to make us wear masks. I put the mask on my face, looked at Emily, pointed to her, then the mask. She understood and shook her head, yes. Without a whimper, she let me place the mask over her face, never losing eye contact. I had the guys take over holding her and lifted her to the stretcher. My grip on her arm relaxed as she relaxed. Before I knew it I was just holding her hand as she stopped struggling. We let her go. The staff at the school were impressed but I’m pretty sure Emily was plain out of gas. She pointed at her backpack as we wheeled her into the corridor, one of the firefighters from Engine 12, Dave handed it to her. He was as captivated by her as I was. She reached inside and took out a little electronic video game and started to play.
Inside the rescue Dave kept her entertained while I filled out the report. She was fascinated by everything. She wanted us to take her blood pressure and pulsox so we did. She pointed at the heart monitor. We ran an EKG. She knew which button to push for a print out. I let the paper roll. She folded it neatly and stashed it inside her backpack. Emily’s smile lit the back of the rescue.
At the hospital we waited for her foster Mom and the interpreter from the school. Emily sat on the stretcher and played with me and Dave. Her hair was a mess, her skin still red from the exertion and her brilliant blue eyes still swollen from crying, still she was beautiful. We put her on the hospital stretcher without any trouble as the mom and interpreter came in. As we wheeled her into one of the treatment rooms I asked the mom about the tantrums.
“She was good for a while but I’ve had to leave work three times this month,” she said.
“What causes them?” I asked.
“She has been through a lot. Her mother was making money using her. Her father is in prison for the same thing.” I heard her but didn’t comprehend. “She was being prostituted.”
As they wheeled Emily away she looked over her shoulder at me and Dave, gave us a big smile and a wave. I watched until they turned the corner and disappeared. Dave didn’t hear about her past. I considered telling him but decided not to burden him. Instead I walked outside into the bright sunshine, found a quiet spot and sat there until the cold air made me numb.