A visit to the ER was not my idea of an end to a perfect weekend.
That should give you an inkling of why I haven’t posted a blog in two weeks. Yes, I had an ER experience. I joked that I was doing research for my next novel, but let me warn my writer friends—that’s a tough way to get acquainted with a character.
We had spent the weekend attending the graduation ceremonies and parties for my daughter who received her Master’s degree from the University of Illinois. I lay in bed that morning, thankful we had made it through the weekend unscathed. My husband’s bad back didn’t cause him much trouble. We both had enough energy to do everything we wanted in spite of recovering from upper respiratory illnesses. My aunts and older daughter arrived safely from out of state. The logistics of parking on a crowded campus, meals, and lodging all went smoothly.
We made it through.
I stepped outside the hotel with a final load before we headed for breakfast and home, and promptly rolled my ankle on a strip of broken pavement. I couldn’t catch my balance. I pitched forward on my face which left me with a chipped ankle bone, a 2 cm. gash over my right eye, and a bashed and bruised hand along with multiple gouges and bruises down the right side of my body. It was an eerie feeling to hear a siren in the distance, coming ever closer, knowing it was for me.
As I lay face down on the pavement, I prayed God would help me use this opportunity to be a witness to the people I would encounter in the next few hours. But oh, I hurt! Whoever said head wounds can bleed profusely got that right. I’ll spare you from the gory details. To my consternation, I never mentioned Jesus or my faith to anyone. I was too focused on just getting through.
Early on I had to let the EMT’s know I was visually impaired and that fact got repeated down the line. Everyone was absolutely super. Several times I bit my lip to keep from expressing impatience at the long Emergency Room wait. Other times, I forced my mouth open to say thank you to the medical staff. I determined I was not going to complain or cry out, that I could get through the stitching of my head with only the topical application of Lidocaine they gave me. I repeated Bible verses to myself while the doctor stitched me up but I didn’t tell her that. Instead I refocused by rattling on about a story I had read in a David McCullough book about President John Adams’ daughter, Abigail. I was being, well, normal Karen.
As a nurse reviewed discharge orders, she told me they were prescribing pain medication. “Don’t drive while you are on it,” she said. My inner circle of friends know that I often joke about my inability to drive. I have given grief to medical personnel in the past about this quirky fact. The time polished smart remark came quickly to my lips but I stopped myself. Old joke, Karen, have a heart. Give your family and this sweet nurse a break.
My mouth twitched and I was losing concentration. She sensed it because she started to stumble over her words. I looked at my husband and he grinned. He knew what I was thinking. My face lost the battle.
“Is something wrong?” the nurse asked.
“I’m trying to be nice to you and not make your life miserable,” I said.
“What’s the matter?”
“Well you see, I’m legally blind.”
Evidently, she hadn’t got the memo. She gasped, “Oh I’m so sorry.” I can just imagine what she was thinking. Our society has created such an environment of political correctness that professionals have become afraid they might offend someone who is disabled. I the one who has threatened to walk into the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and ask for the driver’s manual in large print. I haven’t because, um, some people may not take too kindly to that warped sense of humor. So this nurse probably thought she had stepped on a sensitive issue and the land mine was about to blow
Oh dear. Please, please, it’s ok!
I rushed on. “I was thinking of asking you if I could drive when I’m not on the pain pills.”
Then she got it. She laughed. And laughed. And laughed. “I bet you pull that on people a lot. I bet you have fun with that.”
“Uh huh.” My husband and daughter intoned in synch. I just grinned.
“You’re ornery,” she accused. “Can I keep you here and let you talk to my other patients?”
I can only begin to imagine what dedicated ER staff put up with as they deal with hurting and scared people, especially people who don’t have the hope and faith in Jesus that I’m privileged to possess. That was one nurse that needed a good laugh, that needed a patient who could keep a positive attitude in spite of the multiple injuries.
Later, when I told this story to a friend, I fretted. “I’m afraid the staff only saw a gutsy woman and not the strength of Jesus.”
“Oh I think they saw the strength of Jesus,” she said. “That’s what motivates you, right?”
Absolutely. His strength, his presence is what gives me hope. That hope gives me peace. That peace makes me relaxed enough to joke about driving even when I hurt from stem to stern.
I don’t expect that my sweet nurse connected the dots and thought, “That lady must be a Christian,” but I do believe God used me to be an encouraging bright spot in her day. The greatest ministry I had that Monday morning was to make an ER nurse laugh. My fall may have not been my idea of an ending to a perfect weekend, but perhaps God used it to make it a good beginning for a week in the life of one ER nurse. And that’s a good thing.