Children remind us what it means to be real.
A bad fall
Today I and my husband had the unfortunate experience of taking my son to emergency following a nasty fall on the football field. End result he had a broken collarbone. Being a Sunday, the process of diagnosing and treating him took about 6 hours. So I had a lot of time to observe life in the pediatric emergency room at our local hospital.
We were one of 9 patients being looked after this afternoon. On staff were nurses and other staff helping. There were two doctors that I could observe. I had seen them before on other visits to emergency. This place is familiar to a lot of parents of young children.
A day in the life of pediatric emergency
What I saw today reminded me that we don't appreciate life as much as we can. A few observations...
Triage exists for a reason
The triage system is in place to prioritise patients over others so that the most life threatening case gets seen to first. This means that cases that could have been handled at the GP but because it was a weekend were in emergency had long times to wait. To be in an emergency experience you can either fight the system and make yourself worse or you can accept the situation and trust you will be looked after properly.
Impatience serves no one
I noticed the impatience of some people who had to wait longer because of their lower order of priority. It was clearly obvious when we entered the space and joined the group that they were not pleased. One mother decided she was finished and took her son out of the room. She would not wait any further than the four hours she already waited. In my view there is a fine balance between gently reminding the doctor you are still there and ignoring the needs of others.
Work can wait
Another couple were in negotiation mode on the phone (even though not allowed) figuring out their daycare arrangements. I thought it sad the annoyance in the tone of her voice that she had to deal with this problem. How would she get her toddler to be able to attend daycare in a cast? It made you wonder whether there was another temporary solution to handle the short term of the initial healing process.
Where top of the list is not a coveted place
Another child kept being referred to by the main doctor as really sick. Every time someone else wanted attention he kept reminded them that this child was really sick. I felt for these parents. To be in emergency and then to be ranked at the top of the triage list is not an accomplishment you wish to have in your experience.
The stoic one
And then there was my son. He was woozy, leaning to the side in a wheelchair, uncomfortable, in a lot of pain, sad that he could not play football or soccer the rest of the season. Yet he sat there stoically, putting up with what he had to go through. He patiently waited. He calmly responded to requests from the nurses or doctor when needed. He did not complain once! You knew however he was not in a good state by the tone of his voice, the irritability of his mood, the wincing and grimacing every time he moved and the glumness of his responses.
An example for others?
According to my husband, who went with him to get him fitted for a sling to support his arm he was even used as an example. A girl who thought her thumb was broken but instead turned out to be sprained was next to him in the physiotherapy. She was crying and resisting the wrapping of her wrist and hand. Then the mother said "You need to be a little bit stronger. Look at the boy over there. He's not crying and he has a broken collarbone."
Courageous with the real pain - the emotional
So you might think my message is to be tough. Well it is not.
It is to also allow yourself to be vulnerable. In your own way, in your own time.
Tonight as I said good night to my son as he lay propped up in bed unable to move I asked him if he had cried at all today. He said "Yes". So I asked him when. He said "just now". It was as he finally stopped himself, lay still and was just that still by himself that he let the enormity and shock of the experience finally be with him. He had what I know is the real response, the one that needs to take place so he can let go of the hurt and pain.
In the experience of all he went through today, the distractions that we all came up with afterwords, he did not stop to allow the emotional pain to be felt until by himself.
Then when he did it came up. I think the really brave and courageous act of all in today's experience was not being tough during the long wait in emergency. Instead I think it was tonight when he lay down by himself, with just his thoughts and experiences of the day. This was his time to go through the stage he needed to.
Emotional release is good
So my question to you...when do you let yourself experience all emotions, not just the ones that we tell you to have in public. Think about it.
If you do put on the brave face in public how do you give yourself permission to release the other side of the emotion?
I am saying that to be human is to experience the whole range of emotions so that they do not stay stuck inside of you. So let it out of you and let it go. This is what it means to be real and not pretend. If you hold it in then it just comes out in other ways.
So let go of the emotions that you need to experience. You can make more room for the joy to come back in.
Let's go there...
PS I would also like to note in this post how appreciative we are for the professional, caring and supportive treatment we received from all staff at the hospital. I am in awe of their ability to handle children in such situations.