First Aid


kayla_icon.gif megan_icon.gif

Scene Title First Aid
Synopsis Kayla lurks while Megan fields a few routine medical concerns from various refugees.
Date March 9, 2009

Thomas Jefferson Trailer Farm

Before the bomb, this was Thomas Jefferson Park. Some of it still is, stretches of grass and trees that far fewer people visit than once did.

Some of it is not.

Faced with the sheer number of people displaced from their homes after the bomb, but too stubborn - or without the means - to move from Manhattan, this is one of the many places the city and various federal agencies have given over to shelter the refugees. As such, what was once meticulously maintained greensward has been turned into dirt road and trailer lots. The grass has been worn thin by the repetitive passing of hundreds of feet. Trailers sit all but side-by-side, with room only for a car and perhaps a few chairs to be parked in between. Younger children run around underfoot, seemingly undeterred from their games; older ones might slink behind the trailers with hungry eyes, resentful of those who have more, while the adults seem more heart-weary and worn-down than not. These are the people who have nowhere else to go; some have jobs, but many do not, surviving on as little as possible. Alcohol and drugs are common; so is suicide, for those who have passed from desperation into surrender.

The people most likely to suffer burnout in NYC: Cops and medical personnel.

Especially when they use what few hours of off time they get to volunteer somewhere, as Megan does. She's a regular at St. John's Cathedral, but she's also becoming a regular in the area around Thomas Jefferson. After the riots drew so much attention to the trailer park and the plight of its residents, Megan began joining up with people like Sonny Bianco, who was also supposed to be out here today doing triage work. He got held up somewhere, and Meg came on her own. Generally she works out of a small van, patching up various relatively small injuries, doing some stitches, checking on the prenatal health of women who are afraid to go to the public clinics, any and all medical stuff that people feel like they want to bring to her that any local healer doesn't deal with for whatever reason. She deals gently and casually with everything, and she keeps anything they say confidential — that gets around. Today she's sitting with a 10-year-old kid who broke his arm a couple of weeks ago that she casted, checking to be sure no infection has set in and just in general that he's okay.

For all that she wasn't officially 'medical personnel' for very long, Kayla could very much be considered a case of burnout. The van is immediately recognizable to her by type; there's a few of those wandering around the park, nomadic do-gooders who have somewhere pleasant to go home to at night, secure in the knowledge they're helping their fellow man.

It's getting warmer now that spring is impending; the refugees don't have to wear quite as many layers of clothes, particularly now that the sun has passed noon somewhere behind the thick layer of clouds obscuring the sky. The woman who leans back against a 'temporary' pygmy-sized utility pole (small, at least, relative to the real things) is therefore dressed lightly, if not exactly well. Who here is?

Arms folded across her chest, Kayla watches the nurse deal with the boy, gray eyes narrowed slightly and a peculiar twist to her lips. Something duller than scorn, but ungracious and unkind all the same; it could be ascribed to resentment, envy, jealousy. Not an uncommon sentiment. Neither is it uncommon for strays to loiter about and watch; it's not like they have anything better to do. Kayla certainly doesn't, at the moment. Though standing here, not quite far enough away, means she has to make a conscious and continual effort not to favor her own right arm.

The nurse has soldier's eyes — though her full attention is on the boy and his mother, the people immediately in front of her and in her care, she is also situationally aware at all times. She knows who shows up on a regular basis just to watch, who might need help just by their attitude as they loiter. But she doesn't push her attention on people who don't seem to want it generally. When the boy gets up to leave, Megan looks after him with a small smile. He's going to be fine, thank goodness. She glances toward her supplies, allowing whoever else might need to step forward to gather their courage and do so while she tidies up and deals with things like her gloves.

In some sense, watching Megan at work, Kayla is disappointed by her consummate professionalism. If the woman were a poor nurse — if she took shortcuts, yielded to expediency beyond the level of practicality — the onlooker would have an easy excuse for expressing spite and resentment. But she's not. Megan's good at what she does. It makes Kayla even more sour, despite the fact that the boy jogs happily home, and perforce away from her, letting the woman relax a bit.

There are always more.

Today is a day for kids, it seems — or perhaps it's the ones with kids who are most willing to walk up to a stranger, cadging help they wouldn't take themselves for sake of their flesh and blood. The girl is younger, perhaps seven, carried by a man presumably her father; illness, viral, probably influenza.

As he walks past, self-conscious, Kayla turns her head away, eyes closing and tension returning to her posture.

Waving the frightened father to a seat, the little girl in his lap, Megan slips on new gloves and does the things she needs to: listens to the child's chest, checks her vitals, frowns a little at the high fever. Asks some pointed questions about fluid intake, and looks a bit alarmed by the answers. She speaks with the father quietly, intently, and he shakes his head negatively, adamant that he's not going to do what she's saying. Megan looks very serious, nibbling on her lip. She offers something else, and the father doesn't look much less upset. Their discussion is in low tones, but Megan seems to be attempting to convey that the little girl's situation is not good. She's too dehydrated, they need to get some IV liquids into her really soon, or the child might not make it. There's nothing Meg can do for the virus, but the fluids, she can — the problem is, she can't do it here. It has to be at the clinic.

There are inevitably more kids. The next comer is immediately recognizable as fitting into a particular class: one often described as unholy terror. The sound of small feet thudding on the worn-in pathway presages his actual arrival by a good deal; enough time for Kayla to look that way first, and when he gets up to where she's waiting, to reach out and grab his arm.

Even in what amounts to balmy weather, compared to winter's former icy grip, her hands are gloved.

The boy, also young, provides instant protest. Hey what're you doing lemme go I'm gonna go see the doctor! Kayla growls, shoves down on his shoulder. "You can wait. Sit." He's not a trained dog, to heed commands well. But I have a scrape it needs a band-aid! See? Look, see? Waving the injured arm (the one Kayla isn't holding) in her face doesn't elicit any sympathy. Not in the least. "Get that thing away from me. Fucking sit." He doesn't. But she settles for holding him here, and watching the petitioning father with narrowed eyes. It's not the same expression that bestowed no grace to her visage before — not resentment of the intruder with her comfortable life and practicable skills, but disparaging annoyance. You're going to ask the woman for help and then ignore her advice?

Funny how quickly the categories of like and unlike, the affinities of intangible kinship and identification, can change axes in an instant.

Megan looks regretful about whatever she's telling the father next, but he now seems utterly terrified… finally nodding his agreement reluctantly. Megan strips off her gloves and picks up her phone, most likely calling ahead to the free clinic where Sonny's been putting in his time as well, and letting them know the particulars. When she hangs up, she speaks to the father again, urging him to go ahead and go. He still seems reluctant …. or more likely, afraid… but whatever she's said to him seems to have finally gotten through because he goes. The redhead looks around toward Kayla and the little boy she holds.

With the prior patient moving on, Kayla allows the impatient boy to approach. Where 'approach' means with her gloved hand still attached to his shoulder, and at something less than an absolute breakneck pace. She only lets him go when they're both actually up beside the van, and all the kid has left to do is shoot a glower at his shepherd and then display his scraped arm to Megan, accompanying the 'show' with a great deal of 'tell' inspired to elicit sympathetic attention. Kayla goes back to watching with folded arms, gathering isolationary distance about herself somehow in spite of being in arm's reach of the van and its attendant nurse.

Megan smiles at the boy, she can't help it. She loves the little ones. And his immensely entertaining 'tell' that goes with his scrape is enough to make her chuckle as she washes it up and puts a bandage on it. She tousles his hair, sending him off back to his day, with a truly affectionate grin for his bedraggled, cute self. And then she looks up to Kayla with a smile for the cranky one. "You're good with them," she says mildly, stripping off her gloves.

"No," Kayla disagrees, as the stripling dashes off to more chaos and shenanigans. She sounds faintly offended at the suggestion she has anything to do with kids. Cranky, indeed. "I just refuse to put up with their crap." Nonetheless, her gaze flicks to his rapidly-departing back. "Besides. It's not like he was hurt." No grin there. Not even so much as a twitch of a smile. Her set expression is apparently a permanent feature.

There's a tilt of her head. "I like dealing with those ones better, honestly," Megan tells Kayla. "When the serious ones come along, there's only so much I can actually do for them… and so many of them are afraid of the system for as many reasons as there are grains of sand on the beach that a boo-boo that just needs a little band-aid and some TLC is a welcome thing." She studies the younger woman. "Wanna tell me what's hurting you? It looks like it's pretty chronic, whatever it is." She gestures to her own face. "The lines grooved here and here look like they've been there for some time," she explains her reason for asking. She's businesslike, professionally interested without trying to invade Kayla's space too much or show too much pity. Pride is a rough thing.

Pride is a prickly thing, and one Kayla isn't likely to grow out of anytime soon. She glances sidelong at Megan, lips twisting in an expression of instant negation, backed up by an automatic step away from the other nurse. "I'm fine." True, and not entirely true; but which particular grain of sand comprises her fear? A twitch in her expression, the involuntary tug down on one corner of her lips; Kayla turns away a few moments before a young woman, late teens or perhaps very early twenties, shyly pokes her head around a corner of the van, looking like a single harsh word will send her scuttling back into some distant burrow.

Kayla doesn't supply it.

Megan doesn't push Kayla, instead giving the other woman some space. "If you change your mind," she says calmly, "I'm sure you'll find me." Then she turns her attention to the shy young woman and gestures her over, lowering her voice to talk to her privately — insofar as privacy can be offered when you work out of a van. She listens intently to everything the woman tells her, asking pertinent questions where she can.

The girl glances uncertainly at Kayla, then ducks past her into the van. The complaint is very simple, even if the girl is uncomfortable about discussing it with a stranger; toothache, one that won't really go away and sometimes gets really very bad. Kayla only belatedly shows any semblance of the courteous inclination to get out of earshot; she tucks her hands in her pockets, the better not to absentmindedly rub at her own cheek, and walks away.

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