Friday, October 7, 2011

tragedy, tragedy, and then some more

I spent a semester in CPE where I studied and worked at a local hospital.  I kept a loosely organized journal of unimpressive poems, and a recording of my emotions.  What follows is from this journal with some details and names changed to protect patient identities.
Day 2
My first full day on duty in the hospital serving as a chaplain. Today I owe all the thanks to Kim Smith. I sat down to have dinner with her at 5:00pm, but I did not get a chance to finish my meal until 9:10pm. I did not get to go to sleep until 5:30am.

It started with a death of a 94 year old woman who was still fighting for her independence. She left this world the way she wanted, doing what she wanted. She was having a pace maker replaced when she passed. I walked into the procedure room, prayed for the doctors and asked God to bless the deceased all with the careful guidance of Kim. I offered prayer, a word of encouragement for the doctors and nurses, than I began searching for her family.

Her son with his wife came in after the police tracked him down. He was not surprised by the news of his mother and fights to hold it together. I show him his mother’s body and we have a moment of silence. I help them with paper work, and send them home. Kim also goes home.

My pager goes off again. A young man has a massive heart attack. I meet the family when they arrive and they are all too familiar with the routine as their family has had several heart attacks. I lead them to the waiting room surprised by their flippant candor. I sit with them only briefly because my pager goes off again.

A man had a massive hemorrhage in his brain. He is older and so is his girlfriend/roommate. She hands me the insurance card, I copied it and I lead her over to the waiting room. The situation goes from bad to worse. The man’s sister arrives; I lead her to where I already took his roommate. Both women seem really close to the man. As we are talking they announce a code blue over the intercom, it is still for a moment, then I get another page.

I find out the man with the hemorrhage was the one that has coded and I am asked to stay with the family. I wait with them until I get another page. A man is being rushed to the ER because he had been hit by a train.

I excuse myself from the two ladies and promise I will return. As I rush to the ER I know that I am no where ready for this, but I hardly have time to even think. The wheel the man in and there is blood everywhere. I have never passed out before, but I feel as though I could. The man is a John Doe, until I find a Mexican residency card on him. The man is surprisingly somewhat conscious but speaks no English. The doctors continue to work on him. With not sufficient information, and nothing for me to do, I go back to the two women waiting for their sister and roommate.

After sometime the women are able to go see the man, though he is unconscious. I intend to go in with them but I get the sixth page of the night. I tell them that I will be back. The man who was hit by a train has family that just arrived. The police found them by the tracks no too far from where the man was hit. No one speaks any English and there seems to be no Spanish translator around. The police officer speaks little Spanish and tells the doctor and me that this is the man’s family. The doctor tells the officer that we cannot know that unless they have some kind of picture I.D. The officer tells the doctor that they were with the mad, and the ad got drunk and upset and took off down the railroad tracks, and assures the doctor this is his family. However, the doctor makes a sarcastic remark that there are probably hundreds of drunk Mexicans wondering around that night and there is no way he will be convinced it is his family without a picture. The officer gets offended at this and the doctor and officer are now standing chest to chest shouting syllables more than words. I and a nurse get between them, and I tell the officer that the doctor is a jerk (even though I don’t know him) but if he can take the family back home to get a picture and bring them back this will all be settled.

The family returns with a picture. By the time they arrive their son/brother is out of surgery and now in intensive care. Both his legs were amputated.

I return to the women and find out they both already went home to get some rest. It was a long night. I am exhausted. I did not have any time to think about what to do or to evaluate my decisions, the night was so hectic I was merely responding, praying, and listening. I was nervous about how I would handle pain, and God has baptized me into fire. Even now I don’t have the mind to reflect on what happen, I just want to get in bed with my wife and sleep because I do this all again.

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