Saturday, February 5, 2011

The ER in February

Maggie woke up with a sore throat and minor cough. Having been raised by an RN and a military officer, it has taken some effort to take little symptoms like this seriously. But a bad infection at any point during chemo can lead us down a very different path. So we check her temp and call the oncology-hematology clinic. They tell us to keep an eye on her with hourly temps.

Fast forward to 5PM. Kate calls to say Maggie has developed a fever and the doctor on call wants to see her in the ER. I ask Kate to tell this fever to develop only during normal business hours.

During the 1-1/2 hour drive to Norfolk, Maggie is very talkative. She tells me everything about everything. And before each thing she first asks me if I know what. And you know what? It didn't bother me, because I'd rather come up with 529 ways to cheerfully say, "No, what, honey?" than drive in silence with a mopey kid.

The ER was packed with sick kids. As they admitted us, I looked at the monitor filled with first names, ages and symptoms. Everyone had a fever. Everyone was sick enough to scare their parents into an 8PM trip to the ER. Some of the kids were wearing procedure masks. Some were just coughing. No one looked rested or comfortable. They were being patient, because they needed help and had nowhere else to go.

When you have Leukemia a lot hinges on blood work. The upshot of this visit was that Maggie's numbers looked solid. She was sick, but with some IV antibiotics, had the resources to fight it off. While she waited for these to finish, she watched Lion King for the first time. When she said she'd never seen it, the nurse threw me a dismayed look, as if I'd failed to teach her to eat with a fork.

We were discharged during the scene when the view pans across the devastated Pride Rock after years of poor management by the lazy uncle Scar and his greedy hyena minions. Pride Rock is a wasteland of spoil and deprivation. We exited through the waiting area of the ER, back the way we came. Not much seemed changed in the three hours we'd been inside.

I was ready to draw a comparison between that sad scene in Lion King and the waiting room. I was ready to see devastation, waste and depression. But what I saw was a full staff cheerfully and energetically taking care of lots of sick kids, one at a time. They even had time to say to Mags, "Feel better, honey!"

The waiting area looked the same because the supply of sick kids and worried parents never really dwindles. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes it floods. Sometimes we are a part of this tide. Other times, if we are attentive, we stay mindful of suffering and do what we can to ease it.

My prayer today: Heavenly Father, protect and sustain those who sharpen their skills and awareness to ease the suffering of others. 


Mary said...

simply lovely! from a standpoint of being a christian that has been praying for your daughter and being an ER nurse myself... what a beautiful post James!

Michele said...

That was beautifully written Gus! I think PICU and ER nurses, doctors, and staff are angels among us! May God Bless them as they take care of our children!

Mary said...

Fr. Michael teaches that the first step in our relationship with God is gratitude. It comes so naturally to you. Thanks for reflecting the light.