“Whoa. Your hands are cold.” Eric Morrow winced.
“Sorry. Sorry.” The EMT shoved her hands inside her jacket. Eric tried to smile through his grimace of pain.
“I guess that’s pretty petty of me, complaining about your cold hands, Erin,” He whispered, reading her ID badge as she went back to inserting the IV. “Considering you’re saving my life.”
“My husband always complained about my cold hands,” she said with a smile. “And I don’t know about saving your life. The doctors and nurses will work on that, when we get you to the hospital.”
“Wow, that was kind of cruel – your husband should have been happy that you wanted to touch him. I’ve met a lot of ice queens who didn’t want to touch or be touched.”
“My husband wasn’t complaining, really,” Erin replied. “I do have cold hands. But he always said that meant I had a warm heart.”
“You keep talking about your husband past tense,” Eric said, struggling against his weakness to keep talking, to keep from blacking out. “Can I be nosy and ask–?”
“He passed away.”
“Thanks. Okay, you should have less pain now, right?”
“Yeah. Thanks. That is better.”
“That’s the best part of the job, when it’s that easy to make people feel better. So, you were all done waiting for this day?”
“Yeah, they told me when I described what was happening that it’s now or never. I should be thankful this match came up at just the right time.”
“I’m sure it’s not easy to come up with a match.”
“Yeah, and they tell me I’m a rare type.”
“Wow. My husband was, too. Small world.” Erin fell silent, apparently checking something out of Eric’s field of vision.
“Hey, could you take over on this for a minute?” Erin said to her partner. “I need to make a phone call.”
“A phone call? What can be so important?” His badge read Jose, and he grumbled as he moved over to take her place.
“Trust me. This is important.”
“Mr. Morrow! Eric!”
Eric climbed mentally out of that deep white place of unknowing as the echoing voice called him.
Strangely enough, Eric had found himself unable to let go of wondering why an EMT would interrupt her care of him to make a phone call. Man, of all the things for me to obsess over.
“You’re in recovery. Technically we have to list your condition as critical, this soon after surgery, but I’m authorized to tell you that the surgery and your responses couldn’t have gone better. The team is very optimistic that you will be downgraded to stable and out of Intensive Care in record time.”
“Great. That’s great.” As glad as Eric was to hear that he was in great shape from a post-surgical standpoint, he felt beat up and beat down and just plain beat. He slipped away again.
When he awoke, his mom sat by his bedside. “Hi, sweetie,” she said, touching his hand very gently. “Dad just went to get some coffee.”
“How long?” Eric’s words stuck in the rasp of his paper-dry throat. His mother quickly got him a cup with a bendy straw.
“Sip it slow, sweetie. Just rinse a little and swallow a little.”
“The surgeon said you’ve slept for twelve hours,” his mother said with a weary smile. “They said that’s good. Even the bloodwork didn’t wake you.”
“When did you get here?”
His dad came back into the room with two cups. “Four hours ago.” He apparently read the longing look in Eric’s eyes. No, sir,” his dad said, grinning. “They’re telling us no stimulants, no nothing that they don’t put in the IV for some time.”
“I’ve heard of mainlining coffee.” Eric pouted. “Sorry to drag you guys all the way across the country.”
“Son, hearing that you finally got a transplant match was worth traveling around the world.” Eric’s father handed a cup to his wife and sat down on the other side of the bed from her. “They told us this match came up very unexpectedly. Someone actually called in to confirm that this was your perfect donor? How does that even happen?”
Eric didn’t answer, because something reminded him of a certain phone call.
“Are you okay, sweetie?” Eric’s mother started fidgeting with his covers.
“As okay as I can be with somebody else’s heart inside me. This is the part when I start wondering who it was, and how he or she died. Will who and what that person was change who and what I am?”
“You watch too many sci fi shows,” his dad grumbled. It’s a heart, not a soul. Who that person was has no effect on you.”
“Is there any way to find out anything about the EMTs who brought me in?” Eric asked after a longer silence.
“The EMTs? Why would you want to know about them?”
“Well … just one of them, really.”
Next time Eric awoke, Erin stood beside his bed. She smiled down at him. “My fingers are itching to take your vitals. How are you?”
“Good,” Eric said. “It was your husband, right? He just died? Right when I had to have the heart, or else?”
Erin made a gulping, hiccupping noise and quickly turned away. Eric couldn’t do anything but wait until she turned back around, red-eyed and sniffling into her sleeve. “Yes.”
“Well, I know one thing he was right about.”
“That whole warm heart thing. That has got to be the ultimate warm heart. That phone call you made? You were checking on my match-worthiness?”
“Sort of. When you mentioned that you were a rare type, I remembered how they had to make special arrangements any time my husband needed care, so I wanted to make sure they were completely prepared to take care of you.”
“That’s the best part of the job, remember? When it’s that easy to make people feel better.”