“Eric McIntyre Schneider,” Chad, one of the EMTs, tells me.
“Fuck.” I turn to Dr. Arnold. “This is Hailey’s husband.” He just nods at me.
“Let’s try to make a miracle happen.” I nod, and we start running with the gurney. “What are his vitals, or what were his vitals?”
“He was DOA. We did CPR for three minutes but nothing. We shocked him twice and nothing.”
We make it to ER room five. “Firemen had to saw him out of the car.”
“On my count,” Dr. Arnold says, telling us we are transferring him from the gurney to a hospital bed in three seconds. “One, two, three.” We move him to the bed. I take out my scissors, cutting through his t-shirt, careful of the shards of glass falling off him. Not a speck of blood is present, but you can tell his chest has been crushed. I look at his face and see the swelling starting. His cheek appears shattered. Pale bruises forming where the blood has stopped flowing lead me to guess it’s been about thirty minutes since his heart has stopped. Thirty minutes without oxygen to his brain, which means he wouldn’t survive no matter what we did. No matter how long we worked on him, he was gone. His fingernails are white, but his hands are tinged blue. I look up at Dr. Arnold, who looks at me with a defeated look.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers as the EMT techs just look down.
“He was T-boned by an eighteen wheeler,” the EMT says, trying to make me see nothing could have been done. Nothing anyone could have done. He was gone.
Dealing with death is just a part of this job you have to come to terms with. Normally, I can block it out, but I can’t do it this time. “Time of death, twelve thirteen,” Dr. Arnold says, looking at the clock on the wall over the door.
I nod and walk out of the room, the tears burning my eyes while my heart starts to beat so fast, my breathing starts to block in my chest. I lean with my hands on my knees, the sting of breathing hurting. “I will handle it,” Dr. Arnold says, letting me know he would inform my family.
I stand, praying for the strength. “I got it,” I tell him, going over to the nurses’ station. I sit in the chair I was just in moments ago and pick up my cell phone to call Blake.
“Hey,” he answers, chipper.
“There was an accident.” My voice doesn’t raise; it doesn’t go lower. It stays monotone. “Eric.”
“Where is he?” Blake asks right away. I hear what sounds like running, then a car door slamming. I think it sounds like tires screeching, but I’m not even sure at the moment.
“He was DOA,” I finally say out loud, my body slumping in the chair. “There was nothing we could do.” I don’t even bother finishing because Blake is talking now.
“Call Hailey and tell her I’m on my way. I’m four minutes out.” He disconnects, and I feel a hand on my shoulder. Looking up, I see it’s Dawn.
“Do you want me to take over?” she asks. The news has already spread in the ER.
I shake my head as a tear slips out of my eye. I pick up the phone to call Hailey, gazing at the picture of us smiling at the camera. She is my best friend. But more importantly, she’s my cousin. She is my person. She is the one I would die for, the one who I know would die for me. I would use my one phone call on her, but knowing us, she would probably be with me. Growing up, I was older by six months, and she never let me forget it.
The phone rings three times before she picks up, and I hear the song “Glorious” in the background. “Hello,” she answers almost breathlessly.
“It’s me.” I try to mask my voice, but I’m not sure I’m doing a good job. “Where are you?” My voice tries to stay calm, tries to stay monotone, but toward the end, it cracks, and she knows I’m not okay. That nothing is okay.
“I’m home,” she whispers into the phone. I gather the strength I need to get through the phone call—one more minute before I can break down without her hearing it.
“You need to come to the hospital.” I keep the sob at bay, impeding the trembling of my voice. “Blake is on his way to get you.” I think of her at her house; the house she shares with Eric, her husband of six months. I think of the fact she will go back there alone tonight. Tears roll down my cheeks, and my nose starts to run. I grab a Kleenex and bring it to my face. “You need to get in the car, okay?” I say softly but firmly. “Listen to me, Hailey. Go outside and get here.” She doesn’t say anything as the call is disconnected, and I know Blake got there. The phone slips from my hand as I get up, rounding the nurses’ station as my aunt and uncle come running through the door. One look at them, and I let go of my pain. My uncle grabs me in his arms as I sob on his shoulder. “He’s gone.” Two words. Why does everything bad only take two words? Two fucking words break me for the second time in my life.