Well, I sort of alluded to this a few posts back but some fuckery Nurse K has been showered in lately got me thinking about it a little more in depth. You can get the full recap here, but the highlights would be 1)Nurse K posts about an shutting down some verbally abusive chick who is obviously drug seeking in a hilarious manner 2)Hijinks ensue when some spiritual healing jackwagon tries to lecture her for not having compassion for the poor drug seekers omegerd.
Fill a number of things into the drug seeking blank and you have the life of anyone who has blog about being involved in any type of medicine ever. One lovely reader a couple of months ago felt the need to go back into my archives and comment on any posts where I talked about making mistakes to call me a "dumb whore", including one in which I was distraught about an abused child who I had cared for later dying, because I dared admit that I did not always think about the implications of laughing at the poor spelling and grammar on our check in forms. MMkay. Declined to publish all those, but you stay classy now anyway anonymous lady/dude/troll.
Anyway, as I've also talked about before, we may seem to the outside world like we don't care about a lot of shit. I just want to clarify that it's not so much that as it is that it is absolutely imperative to our sanity and survival in this field that we are selective about what we care about. I can't for sure speak for anyone else, but I can at least say for myself that I started blogging to work out a lot of tough feelings I was having about what I do. But no one wants to read all that shit, because it's depressing, so occasionally I throw in things that happened that I found funny at the time. Sometimes the funny and the frustrating and the sad shit overlap, because you know what? When I really think about what I actually do every day, I see a ton of really, really sad shit.
I think the perception of the sad nature of the ER for a lot of people is basically "people die and that's a bummer". Dude. That's just the tip of the iceberg. We see much, much worse. We see victims of rape and violence, sometimes children, who are completely vulnerable and suffering for absolutely no tangible reason. We see broken, frail, neglected elderly people covered in sores and wasting away forced to live in pain every day because their families who have forgotten them for years won't let them escape it until their heart fails after weeks on a ventilator. We see people unable to clean themselves or talk after a stroke who are perfectly aware of the world around them, trapped inside their own bodies, watching their families carry on without them. People wasting away from cancer in horrific pain. Formerly happy, healthy individuals who now live in a completely different world than the rest of us because of mental illness.
Beyond the surface, there are so many more sad stories. I talked to the sweetest elderly man recently who was telling me about how he lost his house after a prolonged illness- his only option was living in a nursing home which didn't allow pets, so he lost his dog, which was the only thing he cared about. Seriously. ALL he wanted was just to see his dog, and he was incredibly depressed because of how much he missed her. We bonded as I was talking to him about my dogs, and I was full on snotty-nosed bawling by the end of the conversation. So many things will break your heart if you let them.
Nursing is awesome but at the same time, it's also one giant parade of getting bitch slapped with sadness. Depending on your personality, I think we live in a world where it's pretty easy to completely drown in the sorrows of others if you let yourself. There are nights where I sit up alone and think about how much suffering there is and how little I can actually do about it and weep at the pointlessness of what I'm doing in the world.
Point is, if we looked deeper at a lot of the situations we poke fun at, we would find, yes, even more sadness. Is drug addiction awful and tragic? Absolutely. Is the general level of education among the people I see in fact a huge downer and a symptom of a bigger problem that is overwhelming to even think about? Hell yes. Are the zany things our homeless patients do probably a sign of a much greater problem which without a doubt, is worthy of tears on it's own? Certainly. It's not that we don't know these terrible things lie under the surface. It's that we aren't digging under the surface because one person can only feel so much sadness in one day without going absolutely bat shit crazy.
Some people say that people like us, who laugh at some of the things we laugh at, are a disgrace to the field and we should do something else. People that think compassion is not a limited commodity and that you don't have to save it up. I'm telling you that's bullshit. If you only want people with bottomless compassion to take care of you, stay at home and pray for healing instead of going to the hospital, because I'm pretty sure the only person with limitless compassion who walked the earth was Jesus. Right or wrong, I'm saving mine up for the people who seem to need it the most. I'm perfectly willing to admit I'm not always right on who fits that criteria. But I'm also pretty confident it's not the girl calling me a bitch while asking for Percocet either.