Last night was one of the slowest I can remember in the ER, but the last case I got this morning was one that there’s no way I could ever have anticipated, and one that’ll stick with me for a long time.

A small girl was brought into the emergency room strapped to a NY fire department stretcher, but she was talking up a storm, seemingly as happy as can be. The paramedics dropped her off with the triage nurse and then motioned me over to one of the empty bays to tell me the story. It turns out that they (along with the police) responded to calls for help from an apartment in the neighborhood, and when they got there, they found the four year-old little girl, soaking wet from head to toe. Then, in one of the beds in the apartment, they found her twin sister, dead from an apparent drowning, the water still overflowing from the tub in the adjacent bathroom. Their mother was delusionally ranting over her body, saying that the deceased twin had had evil spirits in her that she had to purge, and spraying some kind of aerosol bottle in her mouth in order “to give her air.” At that point, the police took the mother to the adult psychiatric ER, and the paramedics brought the surviving twin into me.

My job was to check out the girl for signs that she had been harmed in any way; she had not, but we still had to hold onto her until the various agencies could sort out where to place her. The paramedics never left her side for the time that I was there, even going so far as to have one of the police officers find the exact lollipop that she was asking for. When my shift was over, I went over to tell her that I was leaving and she gave me a huge hug and a kiss on the neck, and raging through my mind were thoughts about how hard her life will be from today onward.