Its 4am on a weekend night and I am in the ER with a minor problem but one that can’t wait till the week day. I am not in the waiting area anymore; I am in a room with a few other beds. A nurse comes by and apologizes that it will take awhile to be seen as they have some very critically sick people at the moment. She has a British accent. I can hear lots of machines beeping in other rooms and the staff is very busy.
One person is apparently being intubated (they have a blockage and can’t breathe on their own) and another is having cardiac problems. I heard a doctor telling someone to call for a respiratory therapist and I heard someone else mention the words “code red.” The woman in the bed next to me is old and the nurse is having trouble finding a vein to draw blood from. On top of that, the old woman is Russian, doesn’t speak English and doesn’t have anyone with her right now to translate. How frightening that must be.
One of the doctors just told a respiratory therapist what drugs they had administered to the intubated patient. I can hear them trying to resuscitate the cardiac patient. I don’t know any of these people but I feel sad. It seems like one or both of these people’s lives might be just about to end. I want to go through life not feeling connected to strangers, but apparently that’s part of being alive.
It made me wonder about what animals that live in groups feel as their group members get attacked and eaten regularly. Do they feel fear, worry and sadness their entire lives? Do they dream about these attacks? Do they just accept their group member’s death and move on immediately? Scientists and videographers watch animals and see their existence. We look at animals as being free and wonderfully beautiful, but we don’t know how they feel. Are humans the only beings that see beauty in nature?
Someone else just got wheeled in to the room. His breathing sounds impaired. The nurse goes to him and says she wants to listen to his lungs. She checks and tells him he is doing fine. A surgical resident comes in to talk to him. The patient is telling the resident that he had colon cancer a few years ago, just had surgery for a shoulder replacement about 10 days ago and now is having intestinal surgery for another problem that has arrived. The resident tells him that he is about to be brought to surgery. The doctor leaves.
For some reason, I don’t feel sorry for him. From what they are saying, he doesn’t take care of himself. I guess my connection to people depends on if their situation is caused by themselves or just bad luck. After a few minutes, he is taken to the surgery area.
Sometimes I look at doctors as being bio-mechanics. But our bodies are much more complicated than that. Our bodies can be hearty and strong and withstand all sorts of horrible, punishing events but a simple extra bit of stress or a bug can bring them crashing down like fragile objects.
Another person is soon wheeled in. She sounds very happy and positive. A doctor comes in soon and asks her a lot of questions. I hear him mention her lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder meaning the person’s body doesnt recognize its own parts and so then the immune system attacks its own body. This causes a huge number of health problems in every part of the unfortunate victim. This poor girl. A lot of young doctors are coming in asking her questions. She has a lot of health issues. They have been told by the attending physician to talk to her so they can learn. To them, lupus is like the Hamlet of diseases; it turns into everything. She tells one of them that she comes here regularly. I can’t believe how cheerful she sounds. I think she has taken the philosophy to enjoy what time she has.
The old lady is up and walking around. The nurse is bringing her to a bathroom. “Over here pumpkin,” she says to the Russian lady. Then she comes to me. I ask her if the critical patients made it through. She said, “Yes. Everyone survived,” and than asks, “How are you doing love?” I told her, “I’m fine. I love the way the Brits use that term “love.” I need more people in my life calling me love’.” She smiles.
A machine elsewhere starts beeping and she runs off.