The Pondering Grapefruit
a blog of moments
The hospital where I work rarely receives trauma patients, as it sits in a rather pasty area of town. However, a few days ago I saw my first trauma patient. He had been stabbed multiple times a couple weeks ago and was hospitalized for 9 days. This time he came in because he couldn't breath. He was a very young, handsome man, who looked like he could still be in college. He came in with his girlfriend, his sister, his mother, and his father, all who sat quietly by his bedside for all 8 hours that he was in the emergency room. They looked at him with such tender concern.
That night, I was working with a particularly rude doctor who cared very little for his patients. Earlier, when we saw a pregnant woman who was bleeding from her vagina and having abdominal cramping, he explained to her that she was having a miscarriage by saying, "You are passing the products of conception... so yeah that means your baby is coming out." The woman started crying and he just left the room without any sympathy for her emotional experience.
When it came time to see this young man, the doctor again showed his same apathy. He barely asked any questions about the patient's symptoms, while typically a case that severe--it showed up as pink in the system, which means moderately dangerous--one would do a very thorough interview. On the physical exam, he sloppily touched the patient. It was just for show. It amazed me the contrast between this doctor's mannerisms and the seriousness of the patient's family.
When we walked out of the room, I closed the door behind me and noticed that the patient, who had been quiet this whole time--he couldn't talk much because of his condition-- was wearing fuzzy plaid slippers on his feet. How and when those slippers were put on, I don't know. But in that instant I could see his girlfriend putting them on for him because his feet were cold. The slippers screamed against the dehumanizing backdrop of tubes and monitors and pale blue gloves and gowns. I could imagine the patient as a healthy young man, walking around the kitchen at night in his slippers, making jokes with his family, cool and casually, and flashing a stellar smile from his handsome face. It was an artifact of life outside the hospital that had crept in.
That was not the first time that a patient's shoes made a strong impression on me. Once, we saw a woman who came in with her husband and son. As we examined her, I noticed that the father and son were both reading books. Not your typical beach read, New York Times Bestselling bogus, but older, dusty covered hardbacks that looked like they came from a well-curated used book store. Like father like son, and I wondered if the mom read too. Probably. I looked down and noticed that they were wearing the same type of shoes--fisherman sandals.
Later on, after we had left the room and were in the main care team area, I saw the three of them walking down the hall. The father and son were helping the woman go to the bathroom. I looked down again and noticed that all three of them were wearing matching fisherman sandals. This made me giggle because it was so cute. I could imagine them preparing to leave to drive to the hospital, all slipping on their shoes as they walked out of the house. And perhaps those shoes were all stacked in the same shoe rack just beside the garage door, like ours is at home.
Seeing all these shoes, it makes me realize that we are not just treating patients, but their loves ones too. On the patient's chart, I may write "47 year old female presents to ED for evaluation of ...." or "25 year old male presents to ED for evaluation of..." but in reality we are treating mothers, sons, wives, boyfriends, and sisters. Even those who claim to not have any family, or who are homeless, share threads with other people.
Once, we saw a man come in for thoughts of hurting himself. He was homeless, and every week he goes to one ER or another, sometimes to avoid arrest by the police, sometimes to just have a place to stay and be safe. He had a great sense of humor and told funny stories that made the nurses laugh. And according to one nurse, the man had collected enough hospital socks that he had one of every color. That story, too made me smile. Even this man had made connections and relations with the hospital staff. One is never truly alone, and you could tell by his socks.
About this Blog
I have no idea how to describe what my writing is about. I just write. I post when I can, which can be weekly or monthly depending on where the universe is taking me. As for the Grapefruit, my Vietnamese nickname, Buoi, means grapefruit.