I walked into today’s 7 am shift, 2 days after my last night shift, with a little circadian confusion, but only one patient waiting to be seen.  Score!  That’s a great way to get started.  However, my partner said that he had seen the patient’s child earlier, and now the mom had checked in with an insect bite.  He just didn’t have the heart, after a long night, to see her.  I understood.  By morning, we’re all out of steam.  And anyone who lives in South Carolina knows that the sheer number of visits for insect bites alone, along with imagined spider-bites, are enough to overwhelm any emergency health-care system.

But, I wanted to go get breakfast.  (It was eggs made to order day, for heaven’s sake!) So I dove in to see her.  Her baby, sitting on dad’s lap, still had the classic cough of croup for which they had brought her earlier.  My patient, on the bed, was slightly flushed but pleasant.  Had a heart-rate was 143.  Yikes!  A quick temperature recheck showed hers to be 100.  A glance under her arm revealed an abscess and cellulitis.

After some local anesthesia, the abscess opened nicely.  Lots of pus.  The sort of thing freaky doctors live for.  (For the uninitiated, pus is very rewarding, being one of the few examples of ‘instant gratifications’ we get in modern health-care!)  She was, it turns out, an elementary school teacher.  She was gracious, kind and tolerated the discomfort like a trooper!  (Well heck, she’d had a baby…this was small potatoes.)

She went home feeling better, and I stayed feeling wiser.  Later in the day I saw two patients from the jail.  Both with legitimate concerns.  Both nice guys, one with abdominal pain, one with chest pain.  Both of them returning smile for smile, handshake for handshake, grateful for reassurance and pain medicine.

We get angry too easily.  Our system runs rough-shod over good, compassionate doctors and leaves us weary and bitter, always expecting the worst…the worst disease, the worst accident, the worst people.  And we forget, sometimes, just how many people we see are good, kind and really sick.  We even forget how many people are bad, but really sick.

The Bible says ‘Take care to be kind to strangers, for in so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it!’  If you aren’t a believer, then take care to be kind to as many people as you can, for you could be as sick and hurt as they one day.

I’m not cracking on my partner.  I’ve been plenty weary and frustrated after a night-shift.  Maybe, I’m cracking on me, or on all of us.  We have to be careful with our anger.  Often, no one deserves it.  Not even us.

May God protect you, and may your path be crossed and re-crossed by many angels today.


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