A few recent patients, on a few recent shifts, have really caused me to question my ability to love humanity.  Like the young drunk driver, with no license, on parole, whose actions resulted in a pelvic fracture and humerus fracture in his riders.  His only concern?  His headache.  (Negative CT scan, by the way.)  Or the relatively young patient whose migraines and assorted other ‘illnesses’ have led him to ride a little scooter everywhere…even though he isn’t even remotely paralyzed.   He always, always, always needs pain medication; despite the boat-loads he takes.  Or the angry, suicidal patient, not remotely psychotic, tearing the fixtures off the walls and threatening all of the staff because we weren’t doing enough, and weren’t doing it quickly enough.

But wait, how about the physicians?  The ones who are happy to leave me in the middle of dispositions because they don’t like the admission rules, or don’t want to do admissions at all, or want me to transfer what’s hard, and send home what isn’t?  Whose mantra is ‘I’m not comfortable with that,’ as if I’m comfortable with everything.  ‘Reattach that limb?  Sure…I work in an ER.’  What about all of the physicians who seem to have decided that medicine is simply annoying, what with all of the patients around.

What about the incessant stream of humanity desperately hoping for disability that they don’t deserve?  (Truly disabled persons should be offended by this rabble.)  As if we haven’t given them enough for free already, their unsubstantiated illnesses, coupled with Herculean determination, will ultimately result in disability check and Medicare coverage for life.  ‘Don’t matter…it’s all government money anyways.’

And what of the untold thousands, and hundreds of thousands, whose lives are a constant pursuit of narcotics and work excuses?  If indeed they turned their formidable resourcefulness to good, if they shunned deception and misrepresentation, if they woke one morning committed to using their talents, why, friends, we would have the cure for every known disease, trans-light-speed engines (built from old ’57 Chevy engine blocks and leftover Methamphetamine) and an end to hunger in our lifetime!

Medicine is hard.  The public is hard.

Faith and love and hope are hard.

And medicine (especially in an emergency department, but actually everywhere) is one of the most difficult, and fruitful, places to learn to receive and apply the love and truth of God.

What is compassion?  Is it loving the good?  Is it helping the deserving?  Is it kindness to friends?  Is it mercy to the strong?

No, compassion is love despite the evil or undeserving nature of the one receiving it.  Kindness is kindness to friends and family, but also to strangers and enemies.  Mercy is mercy to the weak, to the ones who cannot hurt us if we fail them; who cannot retaliate if we destroy them.

So, I walk a line.  I take care of the people who drive me batty, and work with some people who almost drive me to tirades of profanity.  I don’t deny the evil of the world, and I don’t deny the stupidity or abuse of some of those I meet, I know, I help, I treat.  I don’t subject myself to abuse, nor do I abuse the abusers.  I don’t give everyone all that they want, because what we want is not always best.
But I do it knowing, also, that I am a sinner.  That my faith is predicated on my own unworthiness.  That I am, in a very real sense, a cosmic drug abuser, a spiritual seeker of work excuses, one seeking eternal disability so that I can avoid doing…anything.

I am a worker in the Kingdom who doesn’t want to work.  I am a son of the King who is ‘uncomfortable’ with much that I am asked to do.

I am my patients, and they are me.  I ask for things I don’t need, things that are bad for me and God has the good sense not to prescribe them.  But when I need him, just as those crazies need me, He is there, and I am treated instantly and with absolute love.
Who are all these people asking me for Lortab and work excuses?  They’re me.  And Neither of us have much sense.

But the Creator, the lover of men’s souls, cares for both of us. And that’s a sound reason to go back to the ER tonight; and a sound reason to keep sorting through the madness.

He sorts through mine, after all.


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