I’ve never met a person that actually knows how to play Dominos.
I’m talking about the REAL “match-the-dots-up” style Dominos – the original purpose for which the inventors intended.
I know there’s some type of scoring system, which means there’s got to be a legitimate strategy involved, and I’m pretty sure the rules are printed directly on the box.
So why is it, then, that I’ll probably be struck by lightning before I’ll ever meet someone who knows how to actually play?
The answer, is simple.
No matter what the rules say, we all know that the true fun lies in arranging those little rectangles up just right and then watching them fall over in perfect synchronous harmony.
Take any five-year-old off the street (but maybe only do this metaphorically, cause that’s sort of weird) and ask them how to play Dominos and that’s exactly what they’ll show you.
It’s a hypnosis of sorts, watching those little pieces topple. One after the other. An elegant cycle of Cause and Effect and Cause.
But the true beauty lies in knowing that if just one of those blocks has been slightly misplaced, the chain is broken. The entire entertaining process comes to a screeching halt and the fun… is over.
There’s a special name for this phenomenon in the airline industry, referring to all the tiny ill-foreseen events preceding a plane crash.
Cascading Failures, it’s called.
If I had an Indian Name, Cascading Failures would probably be it.
I can hear it now:
“Cascading Failures… get over here and finish your supper!”
“Did you clean your room yet, Cascading Failures?”
All jokes aside, I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing the Domino effect firsthand in my own life as of late.
It was a series of unfortunate events that lead, ultimately, to my disappearance.
My very own set of cascading failures.
And this, my friends, is the story of that very first Domino.
September 6, 2019
An Undisclosed Hospital
Tiny beads of sweat draw a slow and agonizing line down my back. They pause briefly as they reach the little peaks of my vertebrae, crawling up the miniature bony slopes determinedly, only to hurdle down towards the valleys in between before repeating the entire process over again.
I fight the urge to awkwardly reach backwards and smother them as I dart around the CT room like a deranged bumblebee, preparing hurriedly for the next scan.
A glimmer of stainless steel in my peripheral vision announces the entrance of another patient, and I barely have time to bark out a quick ‘hello’ before the worker pushing the wheelchair disappears like an apparition.
I don’t blame him, of course. He’s already informed me that it’s his first day on the job, and he couldn’t have picked a worse shift to act as his introduction to the medical field. Poor kid has been running back and forth all night.
Not that I have much time to grace him with my sympathies. I’ve also been inundated with back-to-back patients all night.
Despite the annoying back-sweat and complete lack of time for eating, drinking, or peeing, I’m actually quite enjoying myself. I’ve trained at a Trauma 1 center in downtown Detroit as a student, and had always thrived in fast-paced environments as a server before that. Busy days make for quick days and for that I am eternally grateful.
The end of the shift tonight will mark the near-end of my second week at this site. I’ve already told my dad and mom that I’m quite enjoying this travel assignment. I’ve already voiced my interest at extending here, should the offer be made. I’ve never had a travel site NOT ask if I’d like to extend my contract beyond 13 weeks. Not once in 5 years.
Of course there had been that incident earlier this week, in which a nurse had been choked by a patient in one of our CT rooms – with her own stethoscope.
And then oddly, that very same day, I had been moving a patient onto our CT table when he suddenly cocked his arm back and struck me sharply in the pelvis with his fist. The sudden and brash violence had stunned me into silence.
It hadn’t been until several hours later that I had thought to mention it, and when I finally did, it was more or less regarded as a ‘necessary evil’ that went hand-in-hand with working in our industry. I mean, I get it. It happens, you know?
Yet while all that had given me pause, the good had continued to outweigh the bad here. Honestly.
For now, I stand on the other side of the CT table and extend my arms out coaxingly to the young girl on the other side of it. She easily transfers from the wheelchair, as I launch into autopilot and explain the CT process.
I ramble on as she stares at me with dazed eyes, giving no sign whatsoever of having comprehended a word of my monologue.
As a precaution, I fold the large seatbelt-like velcro straps over her tiny body and secure them round her waist. She flinches, slightly, at the contact. I think nothing of it.
I speed-walk to the control room and shut the door, plop into the flimsy computer chair and roll myself towards the monitor. with practiced ease, I perform my quick set of preliminary pictures that I’ll be using to set the parameters for the scan.
But just as I prepare to hit the button and initiate the exam, something on the CT table stirs. Having caught the motion in my peripheral vision, I quickly hit the “abort” button and squint through the lead-impregnated glass at my patient.
I leap out of my chair so quickly it goes rolling across the carpet and with a loud thud, and crashes into the counter on the opposing side.
As I tear the door open and run into the room, I am immediately relieved to find that my patient is not having a seizure, as I had originally thought.
But the relief doesn’t last.
While she may not be showing seizure-like symptoms, the violent, involuntary shaking I’d just witnessed from the control room had not been imagined. My patient’s chest is heaving wildly and she is trembling so wretchedly that I fear she may vibrate right off the table and fall directly to the floor.
I rush over to her. Pull her to a sitting position and place my hands on hers.
‘Are you alright, ________?‘ I ask.
‘_______, talk to me. What’s going on? Tell me how I can help. I want to help you, okay? But I can’t do that if you won’t tell me what’s wrong.‘
Her eyes are wide with panic.
Lips trembling. Breathing shallow.
The blood is draining from her face and the hyperventilation seems to be worsening.
And then, I realize it. Curse myself.
How could I not know?
I get these weekly.
It’s a panic attack.
A full-blown, terrifying, and yet all-too-familiar panic attack.
As the realization dawns on me, a look of recognition crosses my face.
‘Okay,’ I say. ‘You don’t have to tell me. I get these too. I know. I know. You just have to breathe through it. It’s scary. So scary. But it goes away after a while. Lets breathe together, okay? You and I, right now.‘
We inhale. We exhale.
We inhale. We exhale.
And slowly, ever-so-slowly, I watch as the blood returns to her face.
Her breathing slows. The trembling peters out.
‘See?‘ I say, ‘You did that on your own. Look at how good you’re doing. I’m so proud of you.’
A hint of a smile. Of trust.
From two rooms over, where my coworkers are performing a scan on another patient:
‘DON’T YOU MOTHERFUCKING TOUCH ME!! FUCK YOU!! FUCK YOU I’LL KILL YOU RIGHT NOW YOU MOTHERFUCKERS I’LL SHOOT YOU IN THE GODDAMN FACE!!!!!‘
My patient and I jump in unison and I watch in horror as she reverts back to the state I’d just spent several minutes coaxing her out of.
Worse, actually. The hyperventilation returns and this time, it’s showing no signs of stopping… of slowing.
Just then, both my coworkers voices ring out in unison.
“Julie! Julie, we need you! Get. In. Here. NOW!!“
I flinch and start off in the direction of the voices. Stop briefly to touch my patient’s hand.
‘I gotta go for a second. I’ll be right back, you hear me? Breathe. Just Breathe.‘
As I run backwards out of the room, she stares after me, trying desperately to catch her breath.
It’s easily one of the worst moments of my professional career. Watching that trust crumble away. Watching helplessly.
Yet as I tear through the CT control room and catch a glimpse into the second exam room, an even more horrifying event is taking place.
My male coworker is struggling with a large and overwhelmingly strong, combative patient, to keep him from tumbling to the floor, and he’s dodging blows from every which way to do it.
The crazed patient’s angry screams are reverberating off the walls of the tiny room, and the sheer violence of it all is almost paralyzing.
This patient, is hell-bent on killing my coworker.
Of that, I am sure.
shit shit shit shit shit shit.
I run into the room.
And directly into hell.
To be continued….