Written by Scott:
A nurse escorted Heidi’s father and I to a small examination room. We had only known each other for a few hours, having been introduced by Heidi’s mother in the emergency room at MSA Hospital, Abbotsford City’s local facility. We had become only slightly more familiar with each other during the forty five minute drive to the more advanced Vancouver General Hospital, trailing well behind the ambulance that had rushed Heidi toward a better chance at survival.
The examination room in VGH’s Emergency Unit consisted of nothing more than a blue curtain drawn across a five foot opening to hide us within three stark white walls. As we sat on the two plastic chairs pressed against the back of the tiny room, I absently gazed at dozens of dark marks on the side walls. These were undoubtedly the scuff marks left from countless childrens’ shoes as they took their own turn in these chairs. I imagined them kicking their feet forward and back in discomfort and nervous anticipation of the unknown, only to be scolded by their anxious mothers who rebuked them more out of habit than any real concern for the property. The only other features in the room were a short, rolling stool and a florescent overhead fixture which relentlessly pressed out its clear blue light, nobly contributing everything it had to the room’s sole purpose of illuminating the source of pain and fear.
There was nothing to say. No hopeful words of encouragement were applicable. We both knew we were going to receive tragic news. We were simply waiting to discover how bad it would be.
After several minutes, the curtain was drawn back and a young, kind looking Doctor took his place on the stool. He introduced himself and explained that he had been examining Heidi and was responsible for deciding what immediate action would give her the best chance of survival.
“Heidi has sustained incredible trauma to her body.” he began, “The back of her body has been burned from her shoulder blades down and the front from her lower abdomen down.”
This much we were prepared for. The Doctor in Abbotsford’s emergency facilities had already painted this picture.
“The swelling in Heidi’s legs was so severe that we were afraid it was cutting off her circulation. So we cut into her legs to relieve the pressure. What we discovered is Heidi’s left leg is severely damaged but may still be useful. However, her lower right leg is damaged beyond repair.” He stopped speaking to the both of us and turned all his attention to Heidi’s father. “We believe it is necessary to remove Heidi’s right foot and part of her leg below the knee, in order to give her a chance. And we need your permission to perform the surgery.”
Heidi’s father sighed deeply. He squeezed his hands together nervously as his eyes roamed around the room, his mind searching for the correct response. His heavy German accent broke the silence, “Are there any other tests you can do? Maybe there is something that can be done.”
The Doctor’s face was clearly compassionate as he spoke, “Mr. Kroeker, forgive me for being blunt, but Heidi’s right leg is literally cooked like a piece of meat. There is nothing that can be done to save it. If we don’t remove it, it will kill her.” After a moment, he looked down at his clip board in an effort to give Heidi’s father the space he needed to make the most difficult decision of his life.
Heidi’s father turned to me, “What do you think?” The Doctor’s gaze followed.
I responded, “If it’s like he says, I can’t imagine anything else that could be done. He’s the Doctor. If it were my decision, I would let him do whatever he thinks he should do to save her life.”
Heidi’s father thought for several more seconds. “Ok.” his focus returning to the doctor “Please do whatever you can to save her.”
“We are Mr. Kroeker. We’re doing everything we can.”
The doctor held the clipboard while Heidi’s father shakily scrawled his name on a piece of paper, signing away his daughters past and preparing the way for many surgeries to come.