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Thursday, February 1, 2007

What Are You Worried About?

By Steven P. Velasquez
Feb. 2007

Just what is it that you're worried about? What's ailing you? What's the major dilemma in your life that saps your energy, causes you agita, makes you lose sleep at night huh?

Girl problems? Money problems? Not living how or where you want to? House too small? Cost of living too great? The list goes on and on.

One of the principal reasons I have and will continue to work in pre-hospital emergency medicine is because of the unique lens it applies to the world around me. It's a corrective lens that helps me see much better, yet I didn't get this prescription from an optometrist.

I too suffer from many, if not all, of the problems listed above and more. I too can legitimately host an enormous pity party -- a gala if you will! But just as my tears begin to flow and I begin to spin my sad tale about yet another failure in my life, another force that has worked against my efforts, another reason for you all to feel for me -- BAAMMM!! a clear shot, right between the eyes! Just what the doctor ordered. A slice of reality and interestingly enough, it's not even a reality of my own! It often belongs to someone else.

Recently, I responded to yet another senior citizen's, excuse me 'adult community!' Certain parts of our coverage area are littered with them and with that come the hundreds of medical emergencies that require my type of care.

Sometimes they whine too much. Not all old people are cute and easy to be around. Some of them are down right nasty and take a lot of extra effort to deal or empathize with them.

This patient spoke with a heavy Polish accent. It's one o'clock in the morning and she has vague, non-specific complaints that may not present a life threat, but rather a threat of perception. It's an emergency to her, but a routine blah call to me that I'd rather cut loose. But due to her age, gender and prior medical history (not to mention my extreme aversion to counseling by our clinical dept.) earns our treatment and a ride to the hospital.

She's in her 80's and history has painted a long story upon the canvas of her face. I ask how long she's been in the U.S. and she replies "since the 1940's." I remove her bulky clothing and apply a tourniquet to her flabby bicep. A twist of her wrist and straightening of her elbow reveals something else history has painted; this time on the canvas of her forearm – tattooed numbers. Tattooed numbers that were placed there, once upon a nightmare, by Nazi soldiers while she resided, and not hardly by her own volition, in "the camps."

She shared some of her stories with me. She seemed happy that someone was actually interested in her pages of history. She informed me that her husband had a much harder time discussing anything because at the age of 16, this now octogenarian said farewell to his parents one last time. Neither parent survived their stay in "the camps."

One can read the books, watch the movies and have an idea (through the author or producer's eyes) of what this was like for these people. But to hear these stories first hand, to hear the shattered voices and the agony of their encounters, helps balance at least this health-care provider.

Now remind me, what was it you were worried about again?