31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Compassaion Eases Scary Situation

Single with Children: Compassion gives strength during crisis

Publication Date: 02/26/03

There are days when life skates magically along and falls into place and follows the rules in such a way that we don't realize how wonderful, how positively glorious the term "routine" really is.

It's sort of like forgetting to appreciate a sunny day because you never realize how amazing they are until you find yourself in the grip of a week of gray skies.

Yesterday started out as a routine kind of day. At 4:30 p.m., I received a call from my son. His voice was uncharacteristically raspy, and he sounded more than a little scared.

"Mom, I had an accident on my skateboard. Can you die from coughing up blood?"

If you're a mom or a dad, or even a grandparent, you probably are familiar with that unpleasant sensation when it feels as if all of the blood in your head has drained and your heart jump-starts to something approaching Mach 2. It's not something you want to experience but once you do, it's awfully hard to forget.

I was downtown attending to some business. In the blink of an eye, what had seemed important and worthy of my full attention and focus immediately became insignificant and meaningless. When someone who is precious to you is hurt or compromised, perspective changes.

The ER was "standing room only" because of the recent outbreak of viruses and flu bugs that are so common this time of year. However, a patient sporting any kind of blood usually has a ticket to the front of the line. We were placed at the registration desk and before we knew it, we were sitting in an exam room being settled in by two compassionate nurses taking a great deal of time, kindness and genuine concern with this precious son of mine.

They will never know how much I appreciated their gentleness and levity at a time when I was showing a positive face though inwardly shaking like the last leaf of autumn. I was grateful for those special angels around me who regaled me with tales of raising sons and their own experiences with multiple trips to the ER and how, quite happily, both they and their sons had managed to survive the experience. I think Justin and I both needed to hear their stories.

Before long the doctor appeared and, after taking an oral history, listened to my son's chest and breathing. He said things didn't sound too bad, but X-rays were definitely in order. Everyone who came in to care for my son did so with a level I could only feel the most gratitude for. No matter how many times they might have handled trauma and illness that day, they still seemed to possess copious amounts of understanding and tenderness. This was certainly not lost on Justin or myself. It was as important and healing as any medical procedure. Human kindness, especially in the high-tension atmosphere of an emergency room, is a fine and irreplaceable gift. It might not show up on the bill, and it doesn't require a prescription, but if it did, it would prove too valuable to ever be reduced to a dollar amount or an insurance code.

We were told that the bleeding would probably resolve itself in a day or so as my son's body rested and his natural healing abilities were allowed to take over. If anything out of the ordinary were to occur and his bleeding did not resolve, we were given strict orders to reappear so they could go in and cauterize the burst vessels. My son didn't particularly enjoy hearing about this option, but I always like to know there is a "Plan B," just in case.

We returned home, after a stop for a cheeseburger and fries at my son's request. It's always a good sign when fear is replaced by hunger. I settled him into my bed and proceeded to watch over him like I used to when he was a little boy dealing with bronchitis or the croup. It was a chance to take care of him in a way that he rarely allows now that he's a nearly grown-up teen-ager. I even got a little extra affection, and I enjoyed fussing over him and rearranging his pillows, making sure the TV remote was within his grasp and his glass of Dr Pepper was replenished.

Of course, I kept his Dad well within the communication loop, and I imagine he felt an incredible amount of anxiety, being so far away and depending on our updates, thanks to the magic of cellphones. Several calls were placed back and forth, and he assured our son that he was only a phone call away if he needed anything. Though we are no longer married, we are still very much invested in the parenting of our kids, and Justin and I both felt and appreciated his concern and support.

Several things lingered in my mind last night, after the high drama had dissipated, and I couldn't help but reflect on some of the events and how they impacted me in ways I had not anticipated.

Emergency rooms can be intimidating and frightening. There's no way you can walk in there among all of that high tech, formidable-looking equipment and not feel a little vulnerable. The human factor of the folks who work in such high-stress places must never be underestimated. It is the humanity of it all that makes it tolerable. All the nurses, technicians and doctors not only work to repair the body but also dole out the courage to let us know we can handle such situations. They help us be brave, especially when we think we aren't doing such a great job of holding everything together.

I've decided to send a thank-you note to the folks who made a scary experience easier than it could have been. It seems we're always quick to shoot off letters or e-mails when things go wrong, and I wanted to let a very special group of folks know that I not only noticed but also appreciated that they delivered a level of service that's probably beyond what is listed on their job descriptions. Showing kindness, making the way a little smoother for people who are in an especially fragile state, is something that should never be overlooked and is worthy of the few minutes it will take to let them know that their attitude and actions were most welcome.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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