(I wrote this a few years back and I like to reflect on it...)
For the last two weeks I've been fighting being sick. Last night when I got off the air, I knew I had to do something about it as it was getting hard to catch my breath after I coughed (have you ever felt like you had Rice Krispies in your lungs? I just pictured those little guys from the cereal box pouring milk). I didn't want to overreact (and seriously I had a pie to bake and dinner to prep), so I called the advice nurse and she said to go to the ER.
It's 1am. Lots of people but none of the anticipated Thanksgiving injuries that would likely come in later in the day(carve the turkey and your finger too or fights that break out between brothers after too much beer and football). An assortment of tired looking people trying to rest in sharp contrast to their small children who banded together to play a game of hide and seek under the chairs. One little boy was excitedly animated and commanded everyone's attention, explaining something to his Dad in Vietnamese about a car(?) ( I'm guessing from the sound effects). Another little girl was the star in her own concert. They were completely, happily, self-centeredly unaware of anything but their own worlds.
I spent a couple of hours watching the people, guessing why they might be here in the middle of the night and trying not to be frustrated by the time passing when finally (though I know it was actually quick in an ER) I was called in. I got to put on one of those lovely gowns, get my lungs x-rayed, and was told basically I'm at the start of pneumonia which can be fixed if I rest(I'm a MOM!!! I've got Thanksgiving dinner to fix!!! REST???) take some meds etc. I just need to stay a while to make sure I don't have a reaction to the one they just gave me.
As I wait, I glance over at the patients in the other two beds. The woman next to me has the same illness I have but she was in her 70's I think and needed to stay. She was sweet. "Oh you don't have to check me in" she says, "I can go home. Save the bed for someone who needs it". Then she fell asleep. The man a couple of beds over had been having some problem with a foot injury he just never had looked at and it had gotten bad. He was also older. I recognized his cough from the waiting room. He was disheveled(like most at this time of night), a bit reserved and didn't look around much but did offer a polite head nod when we both coughed at the same time. (we're all in this together now, right?)
The nurse came in to give him instructions. He was going to be discharged, needed to take a couple of meds and needed to stay off the foot for a bit.
"Do you have any questions?" asked the nurse.
"Yes" the man spoke quietly, "Do you think I could stay in the waiting room for a while, I mean maybe until just 5 am?"
The nurse asked him to clarify.
"Well, if I leave, I'll just be walking on this foot all night..." his voice trailed off.
The nurse was quick to say it was completely fine. The man then had one more question.
"Do you think if I stay, I could have a couple of crackers, just a couple?"
"Of course" the nurse said.
Wow, a slap of reality that I had NOTHING to complain about here tonight. Then the nurse came to me to give me my directions.
As I gathered my things I thought about how maybe I could at least give him some money before I left. I didn't know what I even had with me. I got dressed, signed papers, signed out with security(lots of things go on in hospitals at night) and was ushered out a completely different door then I originally came in. I came back in the other way but I didn't see the man again. Then I decided to go ahead and leave.
Was it still hard to drive around in my car looking for a pharmacy at that time of night for meds I HAD to have while coughing my brains out? Yes. Was I annoyed by (and admittedly a bit nervous about) the "street pharmacists" who got too damn close to me when I finally found one and was on my way in? Yes. Was my whole entire Thanksgiving schedule off now? Yes.
Was I walking around in the middle of the cold night on Thanksgiving with an injured foot, no place to rest and not even crackers to eat? No. Thankfully, no.
I've never been the type to measure the need for gratitude against whether I have more or less than someone else. There are shares of blessings and challenges in life for everyone. Last night though I think I went beyond gratitude for what I have and the lingering feeling is guilt. Guilt that I have what he doesn't. Now, I know that I don't know his story, how he got there, what choices he made but I feel like I should have done something to fix that imbalance.
Most of us don't get the chance to change the world in a big way but we are presented with smaller ways to make things better often. I think I failed the challenge/opportunity last night and I'm going to wrestle with this for a while.
I'm following Dr.'s orders(mostly) got Thanksgiving dinner on the table and a show on the air. I am grateful for those things...
The rest I will try and do better.