There he sat on the ambulance stretcher, a sweet faced, obviously scared, little boy. Bandages covered his arms and head, the painful consequence of an unopened glass door and an in-house game of football. A kid who didn't deserve this, a kid who's biggest concern should be what's for supper and when can he get a break from the rainy weather that put his game inside and not on the yard. This sweet face is now a jumble of emotions, fear and pain washing over him as he struggles to keep a "brave face" for the firemen and paramedics taking care of him before we arrive in our fancy flying machine, everyone efficiently performing their tasks, all trying to keep our composure and provide manly advice of, "Be a brave boy for your daddy," and, "Remember, your dad said be strong." Tough advice for a kid of any age to try and hold close, especially when your arms are shredded and it just plain Hurts. Tough advice to try and keep, especially when coming from your childhood Heroes.
My partner and I quickly worked to get a handle of the situation and explain to the boy what we were going to do on our way to the hospital. It's rare we get to fly a child who is conscious and completely aware of what's going on, so we take a little longer getting everything just right for him for our quick trip to the hospital. We explain how long it's going to take and that we really don't have to do anything more for him since the ground crew quite carefully bandaged his wounds and started treatment before we landed. I can' tell if there's any excitement in his eyes or not; helicopter rides are sometimes anxiety provoking in and of themselves, much less when you are Hurting and Scared, as was the case for him.
As we flew to the hospital, his eyes stayed straight forward and not taking in the scenery below as we covered the suburban landscape to the hospital. His questions were more about his Dad and when he could see him again than his own condition. "Soon, buddy, your dad is on the way to the hospital and will be there are fast as he can," I assured him. His composure breaks, his sweet little face becoming awash in tears as he looks at me and says, "I'm lonely without my Dad." In that moment I see my own son, who I hope never has to endure any Pain, much less the tearing of flesh and vessel this little one has on a rainy afternoon or the fear of being taken away in a magic flying machine feeling alone in the world. And then, as quickly as they came, the tears stopped and he set his shoulders, determined to have a brave face for his Daddy when he saw him next, in that uncertain way little boys have when they are Trying To Be Brave.