Memorial Day in the Emergency Room


The sounds of the emergency department are becoming pretty familiar to me even though most of them I don’t know what they are. There’s the throaty persistent buzzing that in my mind says means “this IV drip isn’t flowing properly.” That’s a phone. That’s the histrionic young first-time mother with the feverish infant. There’s the faint sound of John Wayne defining American masculinity for at least three generations on the static-veiled television hovering over our heads. Uh-oh, there’s the “kid gets pencil removed from eye” scream. These are sounds I wouldn’t miss if I didn’t have to hear them for a while. Unless I worked in an ED, that is. I’m convinced I’d be great at it. I get pretty calm in a crisis. Maybe that’s because if just feels so normal to me.

Yep, we’re back in the hospital tonight– although I don’t think they’re going to keep her here. I was on my way to see Mom at the physical rehabilitation facility when they called me and told me to change course and head to the hospital. (I was on the phone to the fifth veteran to call me today. I’m grateful they think of me when they need someone to call.)

I met Mom at the ambulance bay and I could see that the paramedic who’d had to stick her en route had missed a couple of times. Mom’s hard to stick in good lighting on solid ground. There was a fair amount of blood. She had her face covered with one hand that was clutching a washcloth. The other hand held one of those new-fangled “airsick” bags. I hate to see my mother suffer. I hate to see my mother suffer. And she was suffering. The first thing she said to me is, “I’m so sorry.” We’ve already had this talk but I guess in her pain she forgot. The only thing that can make having to watch my mother go through all this is to have her apologizing to me for it. My life has taken an unexpected detour over the past year and a half so I could be there for my parents– and it has been very hard– but I don’t regret it and I’m just glad God has given me the skills to take care of people who need it. The tattoo on my left arm says, “Nothing human disgusts me unless it’s unkind.” (a quote from Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iquana ) And it’s true. I can be elbow deep in blood, vomit, and shit and I’m okay with it as long as I feel like I’m helping someone. The one thing in this life I cannot abide is cruelty– especially if it’s me being cruel– and trust me, I’ve had my moments.

They wouldn’t let me go through the doors at the ambulance bay. That is the last time that happens. From now on, I’m staying with her no matter what unless she’s going in to surgery. They told me to go sit in the waiting room until they could “ask her a couple of questions and put her in a room” and the waiting room was were I was sitting a half hour later until I got on the phone and started calling people I know who work at the hospital to get me back there. Five minutes later I was with my mom who had been alone in a dark room crying and moaning. She was praying loudly and saying the “Jeff, I’m so tired” kind of things that scare the shit out of a mamma’s boy. She said that she– well, I reckon I’ll keep what she said private but suffice it to say I’m just not ready to let go of my mom yet. She’s been giving the physical rehab all she’s got and I really want her to get better so she can enjoy her grandkids for a few more years. Of course all this is not up to me.

For the past few years, I always imagined Adam and I would be there for each other for the passing of our parents. That somehow made me feel more at ease about having to face such things as this. It’s really hard going through this alone– I mean, I’m not really alone but–.  No matter how bad things were in my marriage, knowing that at least I– well, I didn’t quite feel like I was alone against the world, that I had that other person in my corner, you know? In truth I sort of was alone. He was never very good at “being there” through this kind of shit anyway. Okay, pity party over. Thanks for indulging me a minute. It’s been a rough day.

I had to show my ass a little bit in the emergency department to get mom the attention she needed. Apparently they were just going to let her suffer a while longer. When you have a 6’5″ 265 lb, crying Marine saying, “You are going to help my mother now,” it’s amazing how quickly shit starts happening. That was about three hours ago and now (thank God) she’s asleep. They’ll transport her by ambulance back to the physical rehab place and I’ll call the neurologist in the morning for a follow-up. There’s no place for me to sleep in her room up there so I’ll go back home and just tell them to call me if anything changes. I sure hope she sleeps through the night and wakes up better. And I’ll look forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.


Okay, I’m in bed and about to do a little exercise before going to sleep. Hopefully it will put me right to sleep and I’ll stay asleep until morning. Last night at 03:00 I woke up convinced I was hearing someone knock on the front door. I sprang up Marine Corps style and did an underwear patrol through the front yard. Now it seems silly but it made sense at the time. I could deal with an uneventful night tonight.

I’d originally intended to do a Memorial Day blog today. I’ll just close by saying that I am heartbroken at the loss of all those lives and I’m determined to make it mean something so that they will not have died in vain. May they rest in eternal peace.

See y’all tomorrow.

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