Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Land of Opportunity

Happy 4th of July to everyone! For all of its bad reputation abroad, America is wonderful. Americans are wonderful. They live by a few fundamental truths and a relatively simplified way of thinking, having been brought up on a steady lack of need. But of course, there is no lack of desire in this covetous, materialistic society, but that is beyond the point. It is a country where the rich are thin and the poor are fat. It is a country where soup kitchens are in almost every city feeding the homeless, and where Emergency Departments everywhere must accept anyone, by law, and provide medical care.

But why do I choose today to spew mushy speeches about why America is great? I love its holidays. What's more, I love working on its holidays. People with mild/bs complaints also want to spend the beautiful day outside with their families. Any other day, they would roll into the emergency room, crumpled in fetal position looking miserable, but no, it's a holiday today. They will enjoy the day (and let me enjoy my mandatory holiday shift) by staying out, eating, drinking, laughing, like anybody else.

My holiday in the ER was filled with real emergencies- things that couldn't wait, things that threatened lives- things that we as the staff actually expect to do there. What's more, as an extra bonus, gone is the clutter of drug-seeking hopefuls, even our regulars decided, perhaps, to drink more responsibly with family or other homeless folk in the streets, celebrating the birth of this great nation. I'm glad they didn't show up on their normal visiting schedule.

My patients on that beautiful day were grateful, polite, even absurdly apologetic for being sick. No, that's what we're here for- you are what we are here for. Isn't it funny how the sickest patients are also the quietest and least assuming? They did not complain about wait times, they did not complain about the temperature, or the quality of the food, or the wait they had to endure before they could eat. They smiled at me and appreciated the little gestures I made to increase their comfort. I was taken aback by the thanks- I had grown too used to doing these things, then slinking away to avoid being verbally assaulted about pain medication or the location of their doctor. Two of my patients even asked me to visit them on my next day at work, if they were still there. By HIPAA, I can't look them up once they've left my department, but I was touched that they'd want to see me again. These are the patients I say good-bye to at the end of my shift- to wish them the best of luck from the bottom of my heart. They are not only good patients, but good people that should really stick around to keep this world a decent place.

So Americans have enjoyed their long weekend, but the peace will not last. The weekday after any holiday is usually horrendous. As I put on my emotional armor in preparation for work, I can only hope that luck will smile upon me and save me from drunk tank duty tonight!


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