So, for the last 3 days at 8:00am, I’ve turned on my pager and stepped into a world that forgets public holidays.
Ward 7 south west – orthopaedics and trauma. Royal Melbourne Hospital.
I’ve been doing the silly season gig for 10 years now. Hospital goalposts have changed somewhat since I started. Handovers have shifted from the old ladies with their joint replacements to the 20 somethings with their shattered lives.
Ice is a big factor in too many stories now.
When I started we had 1 bariatric bed for the whole of the nine floors. Today, I had 4 morbidly obese people on my ward. At over 180kg, yesterday four of us couldn’t lift one of these guys. Despite what the Herald-Sun may say, it’s not just a question of input vs output.
Mental health is a big factor in too many stories now.
I’ve been peed on, crapped on, cried to, praised to. Yesterday there were maggots. Today I was verbally assaulted. Yet every silly season, I front up again.
So intrigued in the human condition stories now.
On Boxing Day, I was handed over a 28 year old woman. She had been in a car accident. Wedged in behind the driver’s seat on the floor, her blood pumping ice and cask wine. No job. No fixed address.
One of the nurses sadly commented, “Who doesn’t wear a seatbelt, let alone doesn’t sit in a seat these days?”
Those that have too many factors in their stories now.
As I softly touched her arm to wake her from her analgesic dreams, I saw a pained and frightened girl behind the bruises around her eyes. She was well mannered, directed and had a determination in her voice that made me somehow like her instantly. Despite her shock at where she was at, she held herself from within and did everything I asked. Without a moan even though it hurt. Without a complaint even though she didn’t want to.
We spoke about friends. We spoke about kids. She taught me about strength. I taught her about Saturn.
Through our time together over these last 3 days, she moved away from where she was. She began to realise exactly where she was at. And then today she asked us for some help.
Think metta kindness, svadhyaya (self study) and savasana.
I remember being sixteen and 7 of us squashing into my friend’s dad’s car. I sat wedged against the door like this girl in the hospital bed. I remember times when I was as high as a kite. I remember times when I was as low as rock bottom. I remember the risks, the spills, the drama and the ride of lives long gone and of the year we just had. Of times the help just came. Of times the help never arrived.
And of the many times I could have just asked for a hand – but I was just to frightened to do so.
As we step from this year and move into the next, take some time to look back at where you were. Take some time to realise where you are. Your life has it’s own story. With so many characters, twists and turns. You don’t necessarily always need to be playing the lead. You don’t necessarily need to hide in the wings.
And you don’t need to live your story alone.
Sometimes we have to see what we don’t want – to know what we do want. Sometimes we need to see who we aren’t – to know who we are.
My 5 year old hugged me tight before I left to turn my pager on this morning. He asked me, “Why do you have to go there all the time?”
So I can keep coming home.