Photo: Creative Commons
The coffee is brewing when my pager goes off.
One glance and I run, steaming mug forgotten.
Bursting into the trauma bay, it only takes two seconds to realize what needs to be done and the patient is cursing, flailing his legs, arching his back, more cursing.
I seize a leg, pin it tight against the gurney, glance at the monitor and I’m more confused than ever because his heart is in perfect rhythm, oxygen levels are good, blood pressure is…
“It happened when I gave him Valium,” my coworker stated, her eyes desperate, darting. “We think he’s having a reaction. He pulled his IV out.” She nods down at her chest and I realize now, it’s covered in blood.
“We need two 20 gauges. Need a CT with contrast,” the doctor says, “can you get access over there, Duane?”
There are marks all up and down his arms and I can’t find a single vein that hasn’t been used and I get it, I think, why this man came into the ER because I’ve seen this before, how drug users will start IVs on themselves, push street drugs into their veins, desperate to get high.
He grabs at me, screams obscenities in my face, begs for someone to just kill him so he doesn’t have to feel anymore.
The doctor pins his flailing arm tight and I stick him with the needle and it’s a lucky stick because I see the red flash of blood but I grin because I like to win and this feels like winning.
“Push morphine, 4 mg,” the doctor says. She turns her focus to the patient and he can’t tell her where it hurts, only screams, and his eyes are rolling back into his head and he says he’s going to sleep, going to just sleep because he’s just oh, so tired, but he keeps kicking, trying to crawl out of the gurney.
“I can’t get the other IV in, Duane,” my coworker tells me so we switch places and I look for an untapped vein. Once again, the doctor pins his arm while I poke him and she’s asking more questions to the patient, desperate to understand what’s causing this chaos.
“Was it in your chest?” she asks and he nods yes. “Was it a ripping or tearing sensation?” Again, he nods in affirmation, tries to kick his tearful wife trying to hold his legs down at the edge of the bed.
“I’m suspecting a dissecting aortic aneurism,” she states calmly and immediately, my hands shake and the IV I’m starting just isn’t working but I bite my lip and try again.
My coworker pulls the crash cart close.
And the wind howls as someone runs through the ambulance bay and I shiver and in that hour, one room over, they press lifeless, dimpled fingers into clay so the heartbroken mother doesn’t have to go home with empty arms, although the clay memorial will never, ever replace her cooing, cuddly baby boy.
My hands shake and I don’t care anymore, who can get IVs in or which nurse is doing a better job than the other because life and death are hanging in the balance today, everywhere, and we just need this man to live, need our coworkers to lean on.
So we start encouraging each other, tell each other they’re doing a good job and the physician whispers, “Jesus…” when the man with dissecting aortic aneurism’s blood pressure goes sky high again and I don’t know if she’s praying or if she’s cursing but both are ironically appropriate.
All the helicopters are out and they won’t be here for 33 more minutes and we all know, if he moves wrong, and the blood pressure continues to rise, the aorta will burst and he’ll be dead in 30 seconds and we can’t today, can’t handle to watch a man die.
Nail-biting minutes turn into nearly an hour and finally, we hear the roar of the helicopter and we rush him out and the wind is so cold and tears streak down my face but we watch him lift up, fly out of site and we are exhausted.
Walking back inside, the dynamics between us have changed. The physician’s name badge flips in the breeze and she becomes a friend, a coworker wraps her arm around me, thanks me for helping her, and I dig into the freezer and we eat ice-cream together and it feels like communion after we’ve lived through darkness.
Licking the bowls clean, they poke fun at me that I like cake batter and sprinkles when I’m 24 years old, but all I’m thinking about is how nothing matters when life and death are on the line and shouldn’t this be how we are in our churches?
Shouldn’t spiritual life and death eternal change how we interact with each other because does it really matter who is more religious, on more committees, who’s children are better behaved? Does it really matter who’s battling depression, who volunteers more hours, who reads their Bible religiously every morning for an hour?
Shouldn’t we just be helping each other where we can, how we can?
Watching those around us here on earth takes our eyes away from looking up, heavenward, and we lose that quiet, peaceful confirmation that God loves us, just the way we are… because comparison drains today of God’s grace and His will for our lives.
So today, I let go of comparison, of all the manipulating thoughts of wanting to be like so-and-so and this opens me up to becoming exactly what God wants me to be: just me. And I pray that He will help me grow in my ability to serve Him, to serve others, to not be expectant of my life looking like a replica of those around me.
And the lies I’ve lived seep from within, twisting and angry, they die a sickening death in the shadow of the cross where freedom reigns, oh yes, yes it does, and there’s a new found glory in my days, in my every breath, in the very purpose of why I’m alive.
So today, friend, unload your burdens here, in the comments because we are here, not to compare, but to uphold, to pray with you, that whatever you’re facing, whatever the lies you’ve tried to live are… you can simply let go.
And together, we can all look heavenward.
Duane writes about life and what it means to live fully aware of God in every moment, what it means to live loved, and to love in return. He lives in Iowa with a beautiful Southern Gal and a horrendously naughty dog named Mr. Watson. He currently writes on his personal blog Scribing the Journey, and here, you’ll find him scribbling all about this wild, grace-filled journey we’re all on.
Join us in the comments and for further discussion at Redemptions Beauty Book Club on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown as we let go of certainty and comparison this week to cultivate intuition, faith, and creativity. This is day 17 of 31 Days of Letting Go in the Deep End. Find out more here and join us for daily posts delivered to your inbox by adding your email address to Subscribe in the sidebar. It only takes a few seconds and it’s painless, I promise.