Small Talk

Trauma in the waiting room at ER

I just wasn’t prepared for my recent visit to a local emergency room. Now relax. I was not the patient and he who was turned out to be fine. In fact, his condition turned out to be the least memorable part of the visit.
I don’t quite know how one does prepare for such a thing, but I would have thought I could just rely on my strong stomach and basic ability to tune out a lot of static. I was up to it 20 years ago when my toddler split open his forehead. I have managed to avoid it since then, and have, apparently, lost some of my tools. The hour spent there left me completely rattled.
The patient I was with was waiting for stitches but was doing fine, so I let my gaze wander the room. That may have been a mistake. I had to sit and watch various levels of suffering I couldn’t do one single, solitary thing about. It left me grinding my teeth. That habit of mothering simply does not shut off easily.
To my left was a 30-something man who sat there sobbing. He was crying with abandon, which is not something you often see a grown man do. It was absolutely unnerving. The nurse finally brought him hot water to soak the foot that had, I then learned, been hit by a stingray. That poor guy continued to sob for 40 minutes, maybe more. It took all my willpower not to put my arm around him and tell him everything would be OK, offer him a handful of aspirin or beg the nurse to give him some kind — any kind — of painkiller. Whew!
Then, just for comic relief, out came a family — mom, dad, two 8-year-old girls — loudly complaining that the nurses had told them they were going to have to leave if they couldn’t keep their children under control. After observing them for five minutes, one realized the children weren’t the problem. It was the extremely loud reprimands dished out to them by mom and dad every time the girls wiggled.
Next, a teenager in his football uniform stumbled in on his dad’s arm, as he held an ice pack over a wound on the back of his head. I had to restrain myself from jumping up, ready to catch the 200-pound child should he keel over. Yeah, that would have helped.
Then there were sweet, feverish babies who I wanted to hold and soothe. It was very difficult to sit still. I am ashamed to admit here that I finally bolted, with the excuse of finding sandwiches. I returned only to give my patient a ride home.
If you need a ride to the ER, don’t hesitate to call me. But if I go in with you, don’t be surprised if I end up at least giving everyone a hug.