Putting it all in perspective

I get wrapped too tightly in my own life, my own ministry sometimes. It is good to hear stories such as these: (I follow this blog (6YearMed) through my RSS reader and rarely am disappointed with what is posted – it always caused me to think)

Working in the Emergency Room is a frustrating experience, in the sense that the large majority of what comes through the doors is a complete misuse of resources. I found myself jaded and more unhappy than I had been in ages. But healthy kids are fun. And it’s impossible for me to be mad at a 3-year-old. So even when I didn’t believe in what we were doing, I could at least believe in him.

Healthy, snotty 3-year-olds whining in the waiting room paints a blithe background for tragedy, when it does roll in the door. And after she has passed, I hand out stickers and Popsicles and truly thank God for their tiny, sticky, healthy hands.

EMS calls in, and the static over the line only adds to the presupposition of chaos on the other end. There has been a car accident–two adults and a child. The two adults were dead on arrival, but the child, a girl, unknown age, had a pulse. At least initially. Somewhere along the road, they had lost that, she was intubated (breathing tube) and they had been doing chest compressions for twenty minutes. When she rolls in the door, no one knows her name, or anything about her. She looks to be about six. Things move fast, but she lies still. Chipped, pink fingernail polish is scrubbed off. Ribs break, heart doesn’t beat. The Emergency Room attending asks for silence, as an ultrasound shows no cardiac activity and then asks, calmly, if anyone has any objections to stopping. It’s been a very long time, though it feels short. Lines and tubes are removed, her face is cleaned, and she is tucked into a sheet and taken to an exam room. We wait to find out her name, and who will claim her.

A mother steps out into the hallway and asks me how much longer it is going to be before I have her prescriptions ready. Like I have been doing paperwork or online shopping and neglecting them.

And as sad as we are that the little girl has died, there is some sort of strange comfort in knowing that her parents died too. That they don’t have to live without her. It’s a large tragedy, so we think, that somehow could be worse.

Until a disheveled, working mother shows up, after hearing of the accident. I don’t know who the adults were in the car, if one was the daddy or grandma. Maybe they were older siblings or babysitters. But one of the adults in that car was not the little girl’s mother, because there she was, standing at the counter, asking about her baby girl. “Was she in her car seat?” she asks, which I find so incredibly sad.

I am certain that the end of the world will sound like the deep, mournful cry of a mother who sees that her child has died.

And at the end of it all, she thanks the nurses and chaplain. She wipes her eyes and asks if she can donate some of the little girl’s things to the hospital. That morning, she woke up, had a healthy child and normal life, but now she will walk out of the hospital with nothing. How do you come back from that? I would be angry and hateful and broken.

I am the impatient woman tapping my foot, angry for sickness and delay. Oh, to instead be the devastated mother who says, “This is the worst day of my life, but still, I am grateful.”

That last line – is me as well. Thank you for the good reminder, Danielle.


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