Monday, November 06, 2006

Reflections of an ER Nurse, Part One.

Want to know what is really, truly sad? Stop for a moment and consider the extreme lengths to which people will go just to temporarily alter their perception of reality- even if for only a few minutes. Consider all of the human wreckage that results from this vain pursuit. That's a real frigging waste of such a priceless creation.

How can one look at the utter devastation that people wreak upon themselves just for a temporary escape from reality and not be affected? Dude, I love my craft. I love the interaction. I love the victories. I love being part of the successful effort to snatch a human being from the jaws of death and all of that altruistic stuff. But I hate seeing people who used to be moms, dads, mailmen, truck drivers, teachers, wives, husbands, scholars, and even nurses, come though the doors of my ER pale and drawn, toothless, scabbed over, crusted with filth, crawling with lice, fleas and ticks, smelling of stale urine and feces, pockmarked with old infections and rat bites, and stripped of any intrinsic beauty they may have had.

And with a few extremely rare exceptions, they don't come looking for answers or deliverance by the time it gets that bad. They just come looking for whatever they can get to just keep them going. All because they saw no other means to rise above some critical point in their worlds. Or sometimes because it all seemed like a lark at first. Whatever the reason, nobody ever decides willingly to throw away a healthy body, a brilliant career, or a marriage so they can go sleep in filth and die utterly alone.

Sometimes I want to shake them, shout at them, whatever- try to get them to see. But they have the right to autonomy, even if it destroys them. Sometimes I want to hug them but I can't, because I'll get infested and I have to protect my other patients. Man, I hate that. It makes me furious sometimes. It makes me cry sometimes. And it affects me always.

Sometimes I think I should try to protect myself from being affected, but how can I demonstrate compassion and yet not care? It is impossible, and so it is impossible to not be affected. But by the grace of God I don't drink it off, I don't toke it off, I don't shoot it off, I don't freebase it off, I don't get ulcers over it. I let myself feel whatever I feel about it and I talk about it with my Savior, with my wife, with my peers, and with myself.

And because of the faith that sustains me and the love that supports me, I can still go in as idealistic, eager and excited about being a nurse as the day I got my license. In that regard, I am the most blessed man in the entire world.