The emergency department.
A haven for cardiac arrests and gunshot wounds and respiratory distress and overdoses and auto accidents and children’s sniffles and fever and coughs that won’t go away. The ED was easy access to many. And at times, it was an easy fix not to pay the bill upfront or to be anonymous with your problem.
As much as I loved emergency nursing, it was always the children that left me tormented. Buddy with his fractured hip that his parents said he was getting rowdy and fell off the bunk bed. In reality, he was thrown down the stairs by daddy, as his hip fractured.
Jasmine with her beautiful but disheveled hair and her tiny arms dotted with cigarette burns.
Trisha, malnourished with those large eyes black as coal and empty from lack of love. And lack of nutrition. Starving for love. And starving.
Little Susie, sexually assaulted at the age of eight by her momma’s boyfriend. Her souls snatched from her forever.
We kept social services busy. The parents had their situation all explained and planned out. Another accident. Not my fault. He deserved it. Punishment. She flirted with me. The children all had a typical trait. They did not talk. They had no eye contact with the nurse or doctor. They were sullen and withdrawn. And they broke my heart.
They wouldn’t speak, most likely out of fear. But their eyes told everything. The sorrow. The pain. The fear.
This was before the advent of large hospitals having a designated emergency department for pediatrics. We had to be well versed from baby to geriatrics. You can mend the body parts with stents and dialysis and ventilators and medications and surgeries. But you can’t mend the soul of an innocent child who lost his or her voice through abuse. Through neglect.
The social workers and police were our strength and the children’s protection. The parents would scream and shout, “That’s my child! Give him back to me!” as the child would be taken into protective foster custody.
The anguish of a child wanting and needing love from the only person they knew. Their mom. Their dad. Even with incredible abuse, the young children still craved that simple love from a parent. Simple love that they would never have. And a life sentence of pain and anguish and heartache.
My nightmares would not end. I’d wake up in a sweat and a repeated dream of a small child’s hand reaching out to me but never able to grasp his tiny fingers.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com