For many years, more than ten, in fact, I have been sharing my health experiences online. Yes, I am that older woman who goes online and talks about her struggles with sacroiliitis, among other things as the list grows. The sacroiliac is the large joint on each side of your behind that connects to your hips and holds up the body when one sits. I have introduced all of my faithful readers to every term in the dictionary for one’s derriere, buttock, rear end, tushie and po po, just to name a few. When you have this particular problem, you have to develop a sense of humor and develop it quickly. One day I dropped in to say hello to two of the doctors’ I had worked with as a director of nursing. The elder of the two asked me what the prognosis was for my condition. I answered, “I’m not sure but I think one day I’ll be walking down the street and my ass will fall off.”
Well, folks, it’s still here. Many years previously I wrote articles for and about those of us who suffer chronic pain and illness. Psychologists, medical doctors and counselors hand out advice like samples at Costco while many of us share over the “back fence” with our neighbors and friends. We chat, we whine, we listen and sometimes, we learn. Since God has allowed this kind of life to befall me, and actually fell me at times, I have often been thankful I had the education and experience of being a nurse. Did being an RN help my pain? No, but it did help me, thousands of times over these many years, to keep my perspective as did my previous college education in the liberal arts. Blood, guts, misery, art and poetry make for an interesting life; at least for me.
Nursing memories and experiences taught me much about the human condition. One major profundity I came away with was the indisputable fact we do not suffer alone. Heartache, pain, disappointment and loss fall upon all who live and breathe in this crazy world of ours. We always behave as though we are the first to experience these blows, but surely, deep in our hearts we know we are not alone. When we are hurting, we don’t care about someone else’s pain. We are engrossed and overwhelmed with our own and that is how it truly has to be for survival. The problems arise when we don’t get help or pull out of that episode long enough or soon enough to move on. Many of us carry pain with us for years but there are ways to live with it. Haven’t I been “preaching” that for years?
One of the most amazing coping mechanisms of all time is empathy, caring and understanding for others. There is no better place to learn empathy than working in a hospital. This can most quickly be absorbed and in greater variety in an emergency room. Please let me share a bit of prose about true experiences I have had on numerous days and nights in an ER setting.
THE EMERGENCY ROOM
Chaos and boredom,
both live here,
accompanied by the depressed,
the hysterics as well as the chronically ill.
The adrenaline of human life
seeps into the air,
while bloods spills onto its floors.
A young skateboarder, waiting for his parents,
lies on a gurney, crying due to a broken leg
from colliding with a minivan.
A young mother of a toddler
weeps as her feverish and screaming child
is sponged off by an aging nurse,
with a raging headache.
An elderly, white-haired octogenarian
sweats so profusely,
the cardiac leads begin to slide off his chest,
as he contemplates the possibility of death.
His tiny, gray haired wife of sixty years
is piteously clutching his hand.
In one of the curtained off cubicles
a homeless woman clutches an ice pack
to her bruised and bleeding face,
As she weeps quietly.
Her river of tears the only clean spot
On a filthy, world weary countenance.
A young ER physician is obsessing
about his new Nike’s a drunk has just
vomited on, as he wonders
how he will make it through a 24-hour shift.
Hostility erupts when a drunken father
While holding on to his wounded daughter’s hand
Screams to all within range it is not his fault.
He is unharmed, the top of the little girl’s skull is crushed.
The highway patrolman said
the still inebriated man had run a red light
and hit a semi-tractor trailer rig.
A young nurse is struggling to get a medical history
from a young man who doesn’t speak English
and is afraid he will be deported because he is illegal.
On one particularly tragic night
a young gang member is brought in on a gurney,
dying, from a gunshot wound inflicted by his own brother.
About an hour after the dying man arrives,
their mother is brought in having a heart attack
because she has been told about her sons. The ER
was filled with policemen that night,
attempting to keep peace
where there is none, but should be.
The boredom of headaches,
drug addicts and the lonely seeking attention
is often broken by heartache.
One can learn a lot in an emergency room. The whole of human life comes and goes in there, day and night. We are not alone in what we suffer. Pain comes in many forms reminding us we are not unique, we are not cursed, we are not alone in our suffering. We are simply part of the human condition. In your heart, you know.