Last week, I went to the ER for stitches after a nasty cut. I mentioned it HERE, if interested.
While in the ER, I was exceedingly careful, given that I had an open wound and the place was filled to the rafters with sick people, many coughing up a storm. These days, one must consider Covid and its variants, mustn’t one? So, I was masked up and parked in the very last row, barely within earshot of the workers screaming out the names of the next patient in line. Four hours, for crying out loud. (When I finally left, a little monitor said it would be a 5-hour wait for those new folks just coming in. OMG!)
So, I was back there against the wall when a person was brought over in a wheelchair by medical staff. She looked like a homeless drug addict coming down from a high, in sweats with paint stains, a crop-top too slight for the weather, matted hair, and a very pained look on her face, along with moans to go with it. She tried getting comfortable but couldn’t and ended up laying the blanket they gave her on the floor, where she curled in the fetal position. Security came by shortly after and told her she had to get back in the chair. Every movement – it was clear – was agony.
The medical staff came back out to her and ended up wheeling her to a wall with rails, where she could lift her feet, which were bare. I noticed she had pink toenails. And that GOT TO ME. At some level, she cared about how she looked! Now she was in so much pain it didn’t matter.
Ah yes, it took that little splash of toenail color to remind me she was HUMAN first.
After getting up to go to Triage, I lost my seat. I moved to another, next to a very talkative woman with an ear infection. In the middle of our chat, the woman next to her got up to register and when she came back, she dropped something. She looked down at it on the floor. My companion asked if she needed help and she gratefully acquiesced. She said it hurt so bad to bend over. Her back was killing her. She’d been here a couple of days before but was sent home and now she was back again. She was clean and appropriately dressed, with a cute winter coat.
These three women are those I remember from my four-hour wait. While each is important and has a name, I don’t remember names (and one I never got) and will call them Person 1 (pink toenails) Person 2 (chat bud) and Person 3 (back pain).
The next day, my husband says, “Hey, you know I’m doing a story about a woman who was probably in the ER when you were!”
I listened to the story of a woman (age 30ish) who went to the hospital for the second time in several days and was misdiagnosed and sent home. What was wrong with her? She actually had a staff infection.
I thought of my ex-mother-in-law, whose moans could be heard through the phone when we called her in the hospital. She had a staph infection. I’d never heard anything like that…
… until the woman in the wheelchair.
Was it her?
My husband went on to say it was back pain that brought her in. They gave her Tylenol.
Yikes, I thought and said out loud.
“Worse than that,” hubby said. “She died.”
“When?” I asked.
I thought of all those people in the ER. Was it Person I or Person 3? Each seems likely.
Or did I need to broaden my thinking? Was it someone else?
Somewhere in that sea of faces sat a woman who would be dead that evening.
There is more to her story, of course, though it isn’t the focus of the post today. However, I do NOT want to minimize her worth as a person or the love her family felt (and feels) for her. She will be missed.
What I would like to do is circle back around to Person 1 and Person 3… and even the angel (Person 2)… who reached out when she was needed.
I had biases with Person 1. Drugs. Streetlife.
I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THAT FOR SURE.
And then, I saw her toenails. She could have been my daughter. She was – at the least – a human being. A HURTING human being. Why did I have those *automatic* thoughts about her?
Person 3 looked clean and put-together. Appropriate. If she was the woman who died… none of that helped her. And it certainly added NOTHING to her worth as a human.
Every time I think I have my shit together, something like this happens.
I’m wondering if I cut my finger for a reason. THIS REASON. To learn!
God, soften my heart!
Continue to give me these reminders that PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE.
ALL deserve the best care and compassion that we can give.
End of story.
That I have to learn this lesson, again and again, is humiliating… even though I’m the only one (until now) who knew it.
I really thought I was better than this.
It’s also empowering! I DID realize it. I AM seeing the truth of it.
Onward, ever onward!