Monday, March 28, 2011

My Shining Knight on a Dismal Day

Last week my husband and I found ourselves in the Emergency Room with our eight-month-old sweetheart trying to figure out the cause of his twelve-day-long fever.

If you're a parent (or any sane individual) the ER is one of the last places you ever want to be. But on our pediatrician's urging, we were there and ready to get some answers about our son's mysterious illness.

I'll tell you up front that our trip to the ER turned into a nine-hour-long ordeal, at the end of which we learned a lot of things Elias did NOT have, and were left with the less-than-comforting diagnosis of an unnamed virus or bacterial infection. (Praises to God that his fever is now gone and he seems okay!)

But that's not really why I'm writing.

I'm writing to tell you that in a strange way, the ridiculously long wait and heart-wrenching experience of watching my baby get stuck by needles, a catheter, and antibiotic injection was somehow worth the agony because through it, I saw a different side of the man I married...

I saw the Knight in Shining Armor.

While cooped up in the dingy, disease-infested waiting room for the first four and a half hours of our stay, we witnessed two blatant acts of indecency by hospital workers. Their appalling inaction spurred my husband to take action.

The first incident occurred when a hospital orderly passed a few feet in front of a woman wheezing for breath. She waved her hand to solicit his help. He turned and clearly looked right at her...but kept on walking. Chris and I looked at each other. Shocked. The worker exited the front door and quickly returned with a wheelchair for another nearby patient.

The next thing I know, my husband was gone from the seat next to me and was standing in front of the worker. Chris confronted the man and asked why he didn't stop to help the woman. Why he saw her pleading wave and walked right by.

The man's response: "It's not my job."

Chris went on to explain that helping people is his job. In the meantime, the poor woman was still gesturing for help, at which point Chris turned to the crew of staff members huddled behind the reception desk gawking at the scene, and asked them if anyone was going to help her.

"I think she needs some water," Chris offered.
"She can't have any water," was the receptionist's reply.

Just then, the distressed patient finally found her voice and yelled out that all she needed was a vomit bag.

Again, no one moved.

"Is anybody going to help her?!" Chris exclaimed.
"Yes, sir, we have it taken care of," shot a cool voice with an icy look from behind the counter.

Sure they did.

Later in the night, a staff member emerged from the treating area and called another name. A small, elderly woman stood and began to gather a half dozen grocery bags piled at her feet. The staffer passed the patient and said to follow her. The hospital worker saw the large load the patient was trying to carry but didn't offer to help. In fact, she didn't even pause. She looked and continued her brisk pace.

Again, Chris and I exchanged a look of dismay.

(Earlier we had overheard the EMT who assisted this patient inside relay to the check-in staff that the woman had been in car accident and had a large laceration on her head...information that would have been clearly stated on the chart in the I'm-too-busy-to-take-time-to-care staffer's hands.)

This time Chris didn't say a word.

He just rushed to the shaken woman's aid and took the grocery sacks out of her frail little hands. Together they tried to catch up with the worker, but trailed her the whole way. In broken English, the injured patient thanked my husband a dozen times or more. The hospital employee said nothing.

The events that night both defeated and restored my faith in humanity.

It still makes me sick to my stomach thinking about how those ER workers (who are supposed to be in the business of helping hurting people) had become so calloused to their jobs that they had lost common courtesy, decency, and respect for their fellow man.

Yet my heart swelled with pride for the most courteous, decent, and respectful man I married.

He wasn't trying to be a hero. He was just doing the right thing.

And on that dismal day, his light shone bright.