It is a cold winter night on October the eighth. The time is around 7pm as I sit back with my blank notebook, in an uncomfortable, plastic chair that is placed in the middle of a crowded room among a few dozen others. This cold and depressing place is in fact, Hemet Hospital’s Emergency Room waiting area. I drove about ten minutes to get here in absolutely no rush and without an emergency; unlike all who are waiting impatiently. To be honest, I drove here with a smile of anticipation since I am finally going to get my paper done. It is pretty weird to make an excitement out of a crowd of people in a time of dread. As I am writing this, I question in my mind reasons why I am feeling this way. As I start to feel empathy for all who surround me, more people crowd in with frowning faces.
The man sitting across from me looks to be a professional since he is in a fancy, pressed business suit with shiny, diamond studded cuff-links. It is starting to get very dark outside and he is still wearing his stylish Versace sunglasses. His balled up handkerchief is in his right hand and every few minutes that hand moves up to the corner of his eye, followed by a patting motion. Perhaps there is someone behind those thick, white walls that is the reason behind all of those sorrowful tears. He must be worried about a loved one; maybe that of his Father, Mother, beloved Friend, or Sister. He is alone which means that he might not live near his family or that possibly a few have already gone inside. I can feel a sense of his impatience as I notice the swift back and forth motion of his right foot. He cannot help but hope to hear good news from anyone who could possibly relay it to him. He slowly gets up out of his chair and drags his feet all the way out the door until he can light up his cigarette. He takes a long, harsh drag of nicotine to calm his nerves and starts to pace along the curb of the parking lot. He takes his cell phone out of his left jacket pocket and places it against his right ear. He looks down at the pavement and once again, pats down his eyes. I really hope that his situation does not end in tragedy. He seems to have everything all figured out in life just by looking at the way he dresses. I would not be surprised if he had a really nice house up in the hills with a lovely family. I watch him as he stands out there, cold from the inside out, not knowing what else to do but wait.
As I look to my left, there is a black girl about nine years of age. She is waiting amongst what looks to be her Mother and her three little brothers. She is the one that many people here in the waiting room have already noticed. She had been sobbing uncontrollably while rocking back and forth in a wheelchair since the time I walked in. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy! Please help me! It hurts so bad! I can’t wait any longer so please!” she shouted. I could not believe that she had yet to be given medical attention. I am starting to think of what the case could be since she is gritting her teeth and rubbing her stomach so rapidly. I start to look at her brothers while they jump on and off the chairs and roll on the floor. Either this scenario has happened before and they have gotten desensitized to it, or they do not even know how serious this problem could really get. It is almost as if they carry the same reaction as their mother, who waits in an upright posture while gazing up at the television screen. Suddenly she glances over to a nurse who comes to wheel the girl and escort the family through the private metal doors. Several people ask the nurse, “What is the problem with the staffing system?” She replies by saying, “All we can do is help each patient, one at a time. We will do all that we can to be with you as soon as possible.” Right as she passes me, a gray haired man stands up and shouts, “My wife is having a heart attack! We need help right now!” The nurse continues to wheel the girl away, but now at a faster pace. Waiting in this room is making me feel tense. I could not imagine having stress like this on top of worry and panic, like most of the others here. I am almost ready to make my way outside to accompany the businessman, but the freezing weather is keeping me in. My eyes get heavy as I gaze up at the clock that reads, 7:16. I have only been sitting here for a mere fifteen minutes and already want to leave. There is a big clock above the bathrooms in which many eyes are glued to. Everything seems to run at a snail’s pace here in the waiting area.
A few more minutes pass as I gain enough motivation to start writing again. Within this time, I am spotting out my next character that is just now walking through the opening doors. He is with a few other guys that all look to be around the same age; I would guess about 20 or so and they all look identical with their shaved heads and vibrant red T-shirts. The reason why I am honing in on him is because his dark, tattooed arm is bleeding profusely. You would never know that the deep red cloth he keeps up against his arm was once white in color. He is breathing inward while I hear the saliva being sucked through his gritting teeth. His jaw muscles are constantly being contracted as he stares around with his wide eyes. His friends start to laugh while one moves his hand in a rolling motion, followed by a crashing noise that is made by his mouth. The injured young man could not help but laugh and raise his voice when describing his visual after biting the dust. I have seen many groups of guys that fit this description here in the Hemet and San Jacinto Valley. They ride in those big, lifted trucks that are usually seen speeding and recklessly cutting corners while loaded with dirt bikes. When they get to the female clerk who is sitting behind the thick glass, they all quiet down. “I just got in an accident while riding my dirt bike. My arm is cut pretty bad and it might be fractured” says the boy as he now starts to laugh. The clerk inches toward the long, bendable microphone and with a monotone voice, asks him a few questions that I am unable to decode through all the commotion in the room. Shortly after the formally asked questions, one of the friends aggressively pounds on the wall while yelling, “This is bullshit! This is a serious situation and you want us to wait?” “Can I PLEASE help the next person in line?” demands the clerk. The guys stomp out the door and continue to yell as they climb into their trucks. They chose to park at the red curb instead of in a designated parking space. The young man might not get sleep tonight and if he ignores the time sensitive situation, he could possibly end up disabling his arm for the rest of his life. I am really starting to notice what time can do to people; the impatience is flowing through this place like it is some form of plague.
As I flip back the page of my black, spiral notebook, I notice the businessman confidently walking in with his shoulders back. It is now 7:38 which means he had enough time to let a few feelings out and gain a little energy. He walks to the window, purposely ignoring those in line and asks the clerk, “Is she ready to be seen yet?” A few deep breaths later, the double doors open and he quickly vanishes. The beds must be very full for a Thursday night but I really wonder why they do not have room for the old man’s wife in this time sensitive situation. “She has already taken three nitro’s and the pain is getting worse” says the man to all who will listen. He is doing everything in his power to comfort her by gracefully rubbing her back and praying with her. I glance down at her hands that are now grasping his. Their fingers are tightly intertwined as I stare at their golden wedding rings. I imagine that they have been married for longer than I have been alive. Within the rush of all the love and romance, they look as if they had never prepared for a situation like this. They are in their golden years and look healthy enough to make it through many more moments together. Their hope persists as I am writing these words. I look over to the man sitting next to them. He is middle-aged and happens to be wearing one of those yellow face masks that you see before walking in. He slowly gets up and walks a straight line towards the window. I had seen him before at a Rotary meeting a few months back and I noticed he had been paying much attention to the cycle of people going through the doors, just like I have. He taps on the glass hoping to get a reaction from the clerk. A few minutes pass as I watch the others in line back away. He looks very sick, but instead of demanding assistance like many others, he is calmly letting the clerk know that the old woman is in critical condition. As several people quickly turn their heads, I turn mine in the same direction, to an open door near the bathroom area. A few nurses calmly walk out; one pushing a wheelchair equipped with an oxygen tank. They quickly place the plastic, oval piece around her nose and mouth while fastening it to her head. The husband’s mouth is opened wide as his eyes begin to do the same. He looks up to the bright halogen lights above him as he lifts his arms and says, “Thank you, GOD!” I could sense that many people (including myself) felt the same. We all knew that it was wrong for them to not get direct medical attention. Even those who had been waiting long before they walked in the door were grateful. For just one minute, the tension was lifted off the room and replaced with hope.
I am sitting here in a room full of so many different people who each have their own personal life. For some reason or another, all of us are here together sharing the same air. Something different happened to each one that would distinguish this night from many ordinary days, which most take for granted. My observation shows me that there is a great deal of selfishness and impatience in this world that blocks us from what life has in store. If only one could just take the time to observe everything that surrounds us here on earth, they would find that its beauty and abundant resources are full of learning experiences and inspiration. The man that went to the nurse, although he was in his own pain, to help out the elderly couple sure opened my eyes and made me realize that I could help others, too. And then watching the careless and impatient boys whom had not yet considered the consequences of their friend’s injury made me question, what if one day he wanted to play catch with his son but was not able to extend his arm? Even the nurses surprised me when they did not take the time to assess each situation and promptly react to those in need. It causes me to wonder why there wasn’t a working system of triage in the newly remodeled ER. Their insensitive reaction while in control of life and death decisions was astounding to me. If everyone could just come together and have sympathy for one another, the stress and tension of the world could soon become a peaceful place full of respect and honor for one another.
I take one more peripheral view of the room and stop to look at the ticking clock. It is now the end of the hour. Many of the waiting children are now peacefully sleeping along the laps of their mothers and fathers. I will soon step out of this room with an even greater feeling of relief and gratefulness to be alive. I will breathe in the cold air and make a commitment to find many more ways to inspire those around me, and begin a chain reaction through friends, family and others to start a continuous cycle of compassion and empathy towards others that greatly impacts society.