It was a drawing of some grass, a couple of trees with a hammock strung between them, a nearby river with a kayak and man holding a paddle over his head. Cute. But across the top was written, "A nice place for my favorite PaPa in the world." Sigh, it's rare, but sometimes my job gets to me. This guy will most likely live so that's not so bad. I remember seeing pictures like this so many times over people's beds when I was nearly certain they would not survive and then it is tough. "Get well soon, Daddy, I love you." There is too much tragedy in the world. It threatens sometimes to fill it up, and I fear I might drown in it.
I pass the waiting room as I walk to my unit, and looking in there I think, "How long will it be till I, or someone I love, has to sit in that room?" Life and death are opposites aren't they? I can't tell because they seem mixed together so often, they occupy the same space. The space between them is often as thin as a curtain: on this side of the curtain is a crying family around a body, on this side is a unit full of people still alive, some of them laughing.
Mostly, I feel nothing. This worried me at first, but now I am thankful for it. Because if I felt everything, I couldn't do it anymore.
We place corks in tubes that protrude from a body that is no longer hooked to life support machines. We hold them on their sides and slip the bag under them. It is bright blue and appears to be made of the same material as the tarp in the back of my truck, something I don't share with my family. We tag the toe and zip the bag closed over limbs that are already beginning to stiffen sometimes. We hoist the bag over onto the morgue cart, usually you can feel/hear the head bump the steel tray on the way over. We cover the cart with a frame and heavy vinyl cover that makes it look like a big green or yellow vinyl block on wheels. I think anyone who sees two nurses pushing this thing probably knows it's a body. Down to the morgue and we slide the tray into the guides so that it slides into the cooler like a drawer. We document the time of delivery and call the funeral home the family has chosen. Usually we wake someone up who takes the night calls in their home. We give the details.
Funeral Home Guy: "Did you know her?"
Me: "Only as a patient."
FHG: "She was something, she was a real card, a lot of people around here liked her."
Me: "She was a good patient and nice lady before she got too sick to respond."
FHG: "Well, thanks for the business."
Then, I go back to the unit and look at that empty bed that someone just died on. Usually in a matter of minutes I am putting linen on it for the arrival of someone else. A single-car accident, drunk driver hit a tree; a man fell off his roof while cleaning the gutters; a woman walking with a friend and a baby stroller hit by a car, the baby and friend dead at the scene; a 16 year old girl t-boned at an intersection by a drunk, not her fault; a 16 year old boy who crashed a stolen car running from the cops; a 70 year old man hit by a van while helping someone change a tire; a 39 year old man who lost his intestines to an industrial machine; a gang member with a gun shot wound to his face; a 34 year old woman with a crack pipe hidden in her vagina whose uncle pushed her out of his moving car; a 38 year old woman who fell trying to climb out of a tree because she was drunk and locked herself on the balcony; a 71 year old man whose tractor rolled over on him for the third time; an elderly lady who was walking in a park with a friend when a dead tree fell on her; a 21 year old logger whose uncle felled a tree that accidently damaged his spine and made him paraplegic; an amateur stock car driver who wrecked at the track; a 23 year old professional bull rider who got stomped by a bull... No, that bed won't stay empty long.
There is too much tragedy in this world and I have a front row seat.