Franklin D. Roosevelt
Many of you who know me personally know how passionate I am about children – their health, welfare and education especially. And, if you’ve paid attention to my bio you’ve maybe noticed that I work as a Paramedic in a Children’s ER. In my line of work I have been conditioned to separate and distance myself from the inherent chaos that this position brings. I have taught myself to not create personal attachments to my patients beyond the short time that they are in the ER. I see sick babies, some of them die, some of them are hurt, some of them have been abused by the hands of people they thought were taking care of them, and some hurt themselves because they can’t cope with the world any other way.
Occasionally a patient tugs strongly at my heart-strings and I cannot help but let my walls down. Tonight was one of those nights. A young man came in to the ED after ingesting a lot of pills in an attempt to harm himself and take his body out of this life. Part of my job is to sit – or babysit – for these patients. This is not only for their safety and the people around them, but also for their medical care – especially if they are in a critical state. In this case I form a different type of relationship with the child and caretakers that are present. I am present for deeper family interactions making it nearly impossible to not form a longer lasting relationship with them all. This case was no different.
A young, visibly depressed, withdrawn man entered quietly and compliently. Initially he had no desire to converse or make small talk nor did I force it. Taking care of his immediate requests to make him comfortable lead to only short two or three word responses. With stable vital signs, my job was only to keep him safe and comfortable. Then his family arrived. He refered to them as his parents – his mother and grandmother. Neither of them greeted my young patient. They came in, sat down quietly and did not engage in any sort of introduction to me or the patient or begin any type of conversation. During the few hours I sat with this young man his grandmother was the only one (other than the clinical staff) that entertained any sort of chatting, generally my patient was the one that was looking to receive the attention of his caretakers and not the other way around. His mother did not speak one word to him and stayed engaged in her tablet the entire time – unless it was to complain about how it was late and express her adamant desire about not staying any longer that necessary to the nurses and doctors. It became increasingly obvious that this young man was reaching out in a serious way and needed to be heard.
“Thank you for being so nice.” This is what my young patient said to me when I dropped him off in his new room for the night. His family was reluctant to even accompany us up to his room and threw quite the fit about having any involvement in this child’s care. They did not even say goodnight or goodbye to him – just walked away (not before leaving a very memorable impression on the floor staff). My young patient said that it was difficult to relax with “all that was going on with is family”. This was apparent by the physiological effects – measurable by his elevated vital signs and abdominal pain.
We all just want to be valued, and heard, and loved. This young man went to extremes to be seen. This was not his first attempt and unfortunately it’s likely not his last at such an intense level. I don’t believe he actually wanted to die, but he has no other means to communicate his need and desire to have a relationship with his family who seems to have given up on him. The pain in this young man’s heart was impossible to not feel.
Relationships teach us a lot about life, each other, ourselves and foster growth. People are put in our life for many reasons. Open your heart and listen to the people you truly care about, see them – really see them for who they are and what they are asking for in a relationship with you. Be honest about your needs and don’t be afraid to say “I love you” and “No” and “Yes, I can”. Realize that you are not alone, there is someone out there (and maybe more than one) that love you just as you are and hears everything you say and that you are that person to at least one other person as well.