Drawn to the violence of change.

I know you may find this shocking, but I didn’t start out my life wanting to work with dead bodies.  Let’s face it; no one in the medical field really wants to work in the morgue.  I guess you can say it was by accident that I wound up here.  But that’s a story for another day.

Medical folk are supposed to be compassionate people.  However, sometimes along our journeys in this world, we forget about it.  We forget that the people we are diagnosis-ing, treating, or wheeling out in a body bag are people like ourselves.  We fall into a nasty habit of seeing patients as their diagnosis.  We see 90-year-old male, end stage CA with mets to the brain and HX of CHF.  We don’t see the world war two vet who stormed Normandy.  The one who met the love of his life in school at age 14?  We don’t see the man who raised three boys and three girls on the salary of a postman.  We don’t see that he has 13 grandchildren and a brand new baby grand daughter.  We see the diagnosis.  We shut off emotion of feeling so that we can help everyone we find.

And I hate it.

I hate this fact that the places I work have become cold so cold that we forget why we got into our work to begin with!

Today Josh and I went to get a body from un-named overcrowded and evil hospital.  It’s the kind of hospitals that you see in movies where people die because they don’t care.  It’s overcrowded to the point where people in ER who can’t get admitted to said hospital are on gurneys in the hallways.   Oh yes, it’s a place where compassion is little and cold runs rampant.

While walking though the hospital ED to get our pick up, an arm reached out and grabbed me.  It was a little old lady.  She called me Karen.  I started to tell her that I wasn’t Karen but she held onto my hand and told me how happy she was.  She was end stage.  It was obvious from the nails, breathing, hair, and coloring.

Josh doubled back and asked me if I was coming.  I looked at the old lady.  I said I was going to stay.  Right there.  In the hallway. With her.

“Rachel, we really need to go and get the package.”

The little old lady had closed her eyes.  “Josh,” I asked, “when did you get so cold?  When did you stop caring?  You go get the package.  It’s not like you’ve never done it before.”

“Snowflake, you care too much sometimes,” said Josh as he walked away to go get the package.

The moral of this story is that the little old lady died while I was there holding her hand.  I never found out who Karen was.  And yes, I cried.  Because I have compassion for people.

In the car, josh paid me a compliment.  Thanks to my photographic memory, here it is, word for word…

“You know what snowflake?  You remind me why it’s so hard to be in this job.  You can’t quit this job because we need you to remind us why we need to be human even though we don’t feel it with emotions.  We need you and Ricky to remind us about life instead of all this death.  Don’t quit.”


3 Responses to “Drawn to the violence of change.”

  1. mom2amara Says:

    Dahling, you know in tv news, we’re the same way. We get hardened and cold and turn off our emotions. But I think that’s a coping mechanism for many. But Josh is right — don’t let go of who you are because of a job. Your compassion is admirable.

  2. Rachel Says:

    Lovely and sad. Need more people like you in this world…

  3. Sharon Says:

    Oh no! Just what I needed. Another must-read blog. Sigh…. Very touching entry. Hardened, cold and emotionless? I know all about that. I work for lawyers.

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