Oh, The Old Emergency Room


It doesn’t matter why, and everyone’s okay, but we had to go to the emergency room last night.

It was not pretty.

There was a man bent over himself, his face not visible at all. He was crouched over and sleeping. His shoes were nothing but rags.

A few feet away, through the looking glass that is the barrier between the first entryway and the second, a beautiful woman in her mid-twenties sat glassy-eyed on a chair. A man who looked like he could be her father sat next to her. She was wearing her clothes, but covered as well in a white cover-like sheet.

He was patting her upper shoulder, over and over and over, it was meant to be soothing.

But in that way that a woman can tell when another woman has been raped, I knew exactly what I was looking at.

And I turned to my husband and he nodded.

Back in the late 1980s I tried to be a rape crisis volunteer.

They sent me to the hospital to handle my first case, and I saw the victim in the hospital bed, and I turned green and ran very quickly out the door.

I am still ashamed of how babyish I was back then, how weak and unsupportive and selfish.

But the truth of the matter is, I couldn’t do it.

Last night I got a taste of what true suffering is. And again, in my cold and rational way, I perceived it, while another part of me felt desperate to simply cut and run.

A man was moaning at the nurses. It got louder and louder and finally turned into a scream, and at that part, everyone sat up.

“HELP ME!” screamed the man. “HELP ME! GET ME OUT OF HERE! SOMEBODY PLEASE! HELP ME!”

I am a bad person, I think, because at a certain point I stopped caring. All I wanted was to get the hell into bed and go back to sleep.

On the television they were showing CNN’s series, “The 80s.” An extended series of interviews about former President Ronald Reagan flickered across the screen.

“Ohhhhh,” I said with pleasure, and elbowed my husband to look. (He is less distractible.) “What a great president Reagan was.”

And even as I said it, I said to myself, I wonder how much of that era was true.

Leslie Stahl was there, up on the screen, and all the great journalists of the time, and she was telling how she broke a story about the budget, and David Stockman, and the numbers didn’t make sense.

“Ohhhhh,” I said, “How I loved the eighties.”

When everything still made sense.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” said President Reagan. “Grenada, we are making it safe for democracy.”

Who knows what propaganda we’ve been fed all these years. I don’t know what to believe anymore. I don’t know if CNN, or the Reagan speeches, or the other screen playing TMZ has any reality at all.

The nurses treated us pretty well, thank God. All the people in fact, were kind to us. Businesslike and yet compassionate. (There is something about that combination that moves me. I need to work harder to balance the two, rationality and humanity.)

One guy even offered to share his staff coffeepot, and bring us a cup of Starbucks to help us stay awake.

I wound up sleeping with my head leaned against the side of a chair at about 1:30 a.m.

And fortunately at some point, they decided all was well and sent us home.

We left and the man who had escaped the cold to sleep was still crouched over in the chair.

Other than that, the entryway to the hospital was empty, for just a few minutes of the wee morning hours.

I left there and I fairly danced with relief. “Oh God, thank you God,” I repeated over and over again. Realizing that we have no, absolutely no idea how close we are to disaster every freaking minute of the day.

Like children, we have no idea how much our Father’s mercy rains upon us daily.

It is something to think about, when we feel like everything is bad.

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Posted December 30, 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Photo credit: paulbr/Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).