My Secret by Norah McClintock
I once saved someone from drowning, but he doesn’t know it.
I spent three summers working as a nurses’ aide in a hospital when I was in university. I got the job not because I wanted a career in health care but because my aunt was a friend of the director of nursing, who offered me the job. I ended up working on men’s wards – large rooms with a dozen or more patients in them. Most were seriously ill with neurological diseases and catastrophic injuries. Most of stayed a long time. Some of the patients who were there when I arrived in the spring were still there when I went back to classes in the fall.
One day I was assigned to supervise a patient while he took a bath. I was nineteen at the time. The patient, whom I’ll call Robert (not his real name) was seventeen. A boy. Normally, one of the two male orderlies would have supervised him. But they were both busy. All I had to do, I was told, was stand outside the door to the small bathroom and talk to Robert while he bathed. The theory: as long as he was talking, he was fine.
I talked. He answered. I talked. He answered. I talked.
He didn’t answer.
I called his name.
He didn’t answer.
I opened the door. He was face-down in the bathtub. He was having a seizure.
One thing I remembered from my orientation was: Never panic. Especially never panic the patients.
Just then, an elderly patient rolled by in his wheelchair.
“Um, Mr. Tellier (not his real name), could you please get a nurse for me?” I asked.
He rolled away. I knelt next to the bathtub, my arms around a soapy, slippery Robert, and pulled with all my might to get his head out of the water. He slithered from my grip. I pulled again. I couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not. I was trembling all over, terrified that he would die.
Finally a nurse appeared. She grabbed Robert and we got him upright. More people crowded the tiny room–another nurse, the two orderlies. I was nudged aside and watched as Robert was lifted out of the tub. He was alive but still in the grips of a seizure. He was going to be okay. I went on my break and burst into tears. All I could think was: He almost died, and it was my fault.
By the time I came back, Robert was okay. He didn’t remember what had happened. He never did when he had a seizure. I never said anything to him about it. No one else did, either.
Norah McClintock’s fascinating mysteries are hard to put down. She is a five-time winner of the Crime Writers of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best Juvenile Crime Novel. Although Norah is a freelance editor, she still manages to write at least one novel a year. Norah grew up in Montreal, Quebec, and now lives with her family in Toronto, Ontario. Visit www.norahmcclintock.com for more information.