It’s almost one a.m. and I am sitting at the computer at the kitchen table, sipping on decaf coffee and feeling guilty for eating something I shouldn’t have. It’s quiet. Very quiet. For twelve-ish hours I have been on sensory overload…monitors beeping, people talking, the phones ringing, the clank of charts being put into the metal rack and the thud of them being placed in the wooden racks. The quiet feels good right now.
I am truly amazed by what and who God has put in my path in one shift in the ER. I pray every time I come to work and I get almost to the door,”God, let me be your hands and your feet, and let my heart guide them.” I hope I was a faithful servant today.
As an artist, and I hope that isn’t too lofty of a title to give myself, I am aware of my senses– smells, colors, sounds, textures. As I sit here in the quietness, I think about all of the stimulation my senses received today. I would be lying to say that all of the sensory input in the ER is pleasant-quite the contrary. Not many people start their day with the smell of urine and feces that needs to be cleaned off the obese woman from the nursing home. She has come in today because the two inch deep bed sore on her back from not being turned is bleeding. It smells disgusting in the room. And she knows it too. She is relieved to find that she is met with kindness here and recognizes that her care isn’t easy. She tells me that she loves me. And in that moment I believe her.
“Let me be your hands…”
Visually, the ER has quite a bit to look at. Some days it reminds me of the fair–everyone comes out. Why, it’s a family event! And while we don’t offer cotton candy or a funnel cake , we apparently have the most irresistible chips and pop, because EVERYBODY seems to need a snack after you walk through those sliding glass doors, especially if you have abdominal pain. And just like the fair, you see all walks of life. There is the feisty 80 something year old that is sharp as a tack and smells of some wonderful perfume. A pregnant girl waddling down the hall. A forty year old man panicked and in pain because his heart is beating 160beats per minute.
But I have to tell you, the majority of the patients I “see” are the ones that most people (and nurses) would rather not have to deal with–our psychiatric patients. I have been nicknamed the “psych whisperer” at work because it is my favorite group of patients and I handle them well. I am fascinated by some of them–like the man who is schizophrenic, smiling ear to ear in a goofy way, insisting that he be called Bondservant Holyman. He is homeless, roaming the countryside and frankly, blissfully happy in his little world. I offer him a lunch tray, a pair of hospital slippers and a pack of wet wipes to “freshen up,” which he politely declines. Life seems pretty simple and matter of fact to Mr Bondservant Holyman. He is discharged and all that he leaves behind is a pair of dirty blue hospital slippers, from some previous ER visit.
I also pity some of them-so tortured in their own minds. How can I ever begin to help a man who is covered himself head to toe in a blanket, like a shrouded mummy, refusing to eat the food his sister brings him because he is convinced that the cooler has a bomb in it ? Or the woman who can’t turn the voices in her head off that are telling her to kill herself? How do I serve the least of these?
Tonight of all of my senses, my sense of hearing was the most worked. I sat in front of my computer, much like now, hearing the sounds of crying. So much crying tonight and all of it at once. There is the family wailing in grief because their 24 year old overdosed and died,the four year old crying in pain as he gets an IV after a dog bit off his upper lip off, the mother sobbing because her newborn quit breathing and she has already lost one child to SIDS… Crying, crying crying. I see how people go crazy during times of war.
But alas, the clock finally reaches that magical 11:15pm and I get to turn in my phone, no more call lights.
Was I your faithful servant, God? Did I show compassion? Did I use my mind and use the skills I have learned? I hope so. I thank You for the opportunity to give, to ease someone’s burden.
For now. I am enjoying the quiet.