Last night, while the US watched the first presidential debate involving a woman as presidential candidate for a main party, I found myself at the NYU Langone ER with a young woman who needed to be checked out for heart issues. Blessedly, she was dismissed in a few hours, but what an education in humanity we got in our time there.
The ER of any hospital is a place of suffering for those who come to it, and of stress for all those who are there. In the midst of the chaos of lives that needed to be saved and others that were going out as certainly as the sun sets, we saw the humanity of all those we met. I was struck by Steven, the nurse who told us that he used to be a teacher, and who thanked us for understanding that there were different levels of emergencies and that they were doing their best. “We know, ” I said. His kindness shined in every encounter. He cared, and it showed to those of us who cared to observe. Gratitude welled in me for his desire to give us his best in the midst of the usual ER chaos. He succeeded, as did the doctor and the PA, who saw a young scared woman in their patient.
Of all the staff we met, only one shouted at me. She did so the only time in the evening when I was at the nursing station to ask for something–I had been standing a while, and nobody had dared make eye contact with me, though I know I was not invisible. After a while, unwilling to shout, I stepped over into the blue zone, not aware that I had gone over an invisible border that separated me from them. I realize that the professionals cannot be crowded, not the way the patients are in the hallway, where they cannot have one foot over the stretcher for fear of being yelled at (it is that fear that is more real than the danger of getting hit by something as it passes). I thought about that nurse when I returned home: she was rushing off to save someone, no doubt. And yet, in that moment, she lost her calm and her dignity–and she forgot why she was there, her mission of taking care of people. Nobody screaming really is in the right, nor will they accomplish any healing in a place where it is very much needed in body and soul–I wish we all remembered that. That encounter could have easily colored my experience, if I had not had the awareness that she probably was at the end of her rope–and if not for the doctor and Steven, who had done their best to show us respect and kindness.
Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, remember that screaming at others is not the answer. Fight that instinct, maintain your dignity and show your humanity. And stretch yourself to wonder what is the others’ point of view, where are they coming from. My gratitude goes to those at the NYU Langone ER last night who did just that. As for the nurse who did not…I hope she has a better day today. Because we can all start afresh and not repeat the same mistakes over and over.
Love trumps hate. Always. And our dignity matters.
Life is Amazing! Live well.
Want to know more about me? Find out at