Sunday, August 12, 2007

Witnessing in the E.R.

I had an unpleasant yet interesting occurrence last night. I was nursing the baby to sleep, when she accidentally poked me in the eye. I immediately put her in her crib and checked out my eye. There was a half-inch long, bright red line in the white part – the sclera. I showed my husband and he said, “That’s not good, is it?” I called my mom, who is a Doctor of Nursing. She advised me to call the emergency room and speak to an ophthalmic specialist. I did, and they said to come on in. “We see this fairly often. It needs to be treated with an antibiotic right away.”

I went to my local Catholic hospital, where we have always had a wonderful experience. They took me immediately. “How old is your baby?” asked the triage nurse.

“One year.”

”We have an excellent pediatric unit – so if you ever need to bring her in you know where to go.”

Whenever people assume I just have the one baby, I am always quick to let them know otherwise. It would feel like a betrayal to the others not to do so!

“Thank you, I know. Two of my four children were born here.”

“Oh, wow!”

In person, I actually present as a rather quiet person - until you get to know me. Then I might never stop talking. I am a firm believer in teaching by example. There are no preachy bumper stickers on my car. I don’t go around quoting scriptures (although they may come through in my choice of words). As I discussed in my earlier posting, (“Are Those All Yours?”), I believe the way you present yourself has an indelible effect on how people perceive your “class” of people. In my case, people might be judging me as a Catholic, a mother with “lots” of kids, a breastfeeding mother, or a stay-at-home mom.

Whatever stereotype the staff of the emergency room might have had that night of a Catholic breastfeeding stay-at-home mother of four, their vision now must include the calm, polite, intelligent person who, after having her eye injured, put her child to bed, saw that the other children were in order, made the necessary inquisitory telephone calls, and proceeded to drive herself to the hospital.

The resident ophthalmologist first numbed my eye, then examined it with iridescent drops. The fluorescence showed a scratch to the sclera. Interestingly, the scratch was at 3:00 (imagining my eye as a clock), whereas the red spot was at 9:00. The red spot was a “bruise”, he said, caused by the scratch, which was invisible to the naked eye. If the scratch had been on the actual cornea, that would have been serious. He assure me that the sclera should repair itself within 24 hours. However, all scratches need to be treated with antibiotics to prevent infection to the eye.

He wanted to give me a tetanus shot. “Are there any contraindications with nursing?” I asked.

From his next question, it was apparent that he obviously had little or no knowledge of breastfeeding. “Do you nurse her every day?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“And how long do you intend to continue nursing?”

“Probably another year.”

”Oh. Well, I think maybe we’ll skip the tetanus shot just to be on the safe side.”

By my one little question, I accomplished two objectives.

(1) I escaped a rather unpleasant procedure (soreness, swelling, etc., following a deep shot to the shoulder region);

(2) I broadened the young doctor’s perception of nursing. (As I discussed in an earlier posting, many women neglect to let their doctors know they are breastfeeding, resulting in the profession’s stereotype that most women wean by one year.)

Incidentally, I left my library book in the room. I haven’t read enough of it to recommend it, but I absorbed the main points. The topic was the support and building of emotional bonds with your son. It might cost me a few dollars to replace it, but I hope the next person who picked it up was in need of reading on the subject.

Every day gives us countless opportunities to bear testimony to a Christian way of life. Even negative experiences can be turned to yield positives. The next time you are in a bad situation, ask yourself, “What can I do with this?”

Support your local Catholic hospital. Their very existence is essential to the ethics of health practice in American hospitals. My favorite Long Island hospital is St. Charles, Port Jefferson, New York.

Pictured above: FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE, English nurse and hospital reformer, 1820 to 1910

1 comment:

Joanna said...

Wow!! It is so incredible how uncomfortable or troubling situations can make their way to be actual blessings...ways that God can shine through us or our situation!