You know the feeling. You get comfortable in life until something pulls you out of your routine. You’re forced to stop, watch and listen. This happened last Good Friday when my 22 year-old son Paul ended up in the emergency room.
Thankfully, it wasn’t serious, but the ER couldn’t be avoided. Paul sliced his thumb on broken glass…real bad. The wound was deep and gushing. In only five minutes of ice and compression, it became obvious he needed professional help. My husband Randy and I wrapped it up as best we could and took him to a nearby walk-in clinic.
The doctor there took one look, gave Paul’s thumb a temporary bandage, and sent us to the emergency room.
We rushed to the E.R. and after checking in, sat in the waiting area. By now it was 8:00 p.m. I had the sinking feeling this would take several hours. Randy had a bar gig with his band and had to leave soon. I had planned to have a “House of Cards” marathon, but knew this wasn’t to be.
So I did what I usually do in these situations. I started people watching.
Across the room, an older Hispanic man took deep, wavering breaths, eyes closed. He held his chest and I wondered if he was having a heart attack. A man sat beside him, thin with a well-trimmed mustache. His eyes look worried as he murmured words of comfort to his friend.
At the reception desk, a heavy, middle-aged woman with a long-gray braid told the nurses in a thick accent she was having a panic attack. She didn’t know what to do. She was asked to sit down. Someone would see her shortly.
I couldn’t stop watching the woman, her face wreathed in worry. She stared straight ahead, caught in her own drama as if watching a scary movie. She took short breaths in and out. I wondered why she was alone.
A wiry African-American man tried to soothe his crying young son who had broken his wrist. A nurse asked if he wanted to come with his boy to get his x-ray or wait there. The father jumped up. “I’ll come,” he said without hesitation.
Meanwhile, a pastor came over the intercom, giving Good Friday prayers. And although I’m not a very religious person I listened to his words. I looked around and couldn’t help think how we’re all united in our love and fear. To some extent, we’re all broken. We’re all scared and lonely. We all need help.
Paul’s name was called. Things seemed to be under control and not too serious so I told Randy to get to his gig. We were brought back to the examining room. I swallowed my terror of hospitals and medical procedures.
It seemed a quiet night in the ER, thank God. I can’t imagine the other shifts full of trauma, shootings, and car crash victims. My respect and awe of doctors and nurses is never-ending.
Lillian, a cheerful African American woman came in for paperwork. She was dressed in a black pantsuit with a large painted egg pin on her lapel. She stood at the computer and talked about Easter. “My husband’s cooking turkey and I can’t wait,” she said with bright, happy eyes.
Handsome nurse Richie arrived to give Paul a tetanus shot. He looked like the singer Ricky Martin and as he prepared the injection, told me about his 19 month-old son. “He’s amazing, so fast,” he said, shaking his head. In the wistful way he talked about his child, I could tell he wished he were home.
Physician’s Aide Michelle entered, all curly brown hair and efficiency. “This is going to pinch,” she said to Paul while giving the Novocain shot in his thumb, making the area go numb. I watched my son flinch but he stayed brave. After, Michelle deftly gave Paul stitches. We were told they would stay in for ten days. Paul couldn’t shower for 24 hours. The wound had to be re-dressed daily. I was thankful for such good medical care.
We drove home and I realized that although this night wasn’t how I expected to spend Good Friday, in a strange way, it wasn’t wasted. I was pulled from my comfort zone to a world I rarely see. I was forced to sit and watch and listen.
I couldn’t help wonder what happened to the woman having the panic attack. Did the man survive who was clutching his chest? What happened to that little boy?
I’ll never know.
But all our lives intersected for one brief moment while we sat in the ER, listening to prayers over the intercom.
Have you had something take you out of your comfort zone, making you stop, look and listen? Comments are always welcome. Thank you for reading and sharing.