The crashing and boinking sounds coming from behind the curtain to my immediate left grated on my headache. As if the 3x5 fluorescent light shining directly over me wasn’t enough to make my migraine feel worse, I had video games in my ear. “heya ! How ya doin ?” I hear a nurse say as she walks into the section next to me. “Playing my game” the boy replied, a little loud and abruptly, making clear in his voice that while he certainly was mentally with it, something developmentally must be off. “Where’d my parents go” he asked. “Oh, they went to talk to the Doctor,” the nurse responded, very cheerfully. “I came in to keep you company while they’re gone. What game are you playing ? What’s your score ?” “Uh-oh” the boy said very matter-of-fact, knowing at the ripe old age of ten that a private talk was never a good talk. “Oh, I just think there were a few grown-up things to discuss !” She said, chipper enough to have walked straight off the set of Barney and Friends. I hear feet shuffle in and see her scrubs emerge and head down the hall back to work.
“What’d the doctor say” the boy asks his parents. “Well pal, this wasn’t a specialist, so she’s waiting for the specialist to confirm, but according to what she thinks, it sounds like you’re having another surgery,” his mom replies, very matter of fact, not a hint of pity or sadness in her tone. The boy replied in some sort of grumble, I can’t even remember what he said exactly, even though it was only last night. “Oh come on,” his father says as if he’s just complained about doing his math homework or taking a bath. “At least this means they’ll fix the problem, and besides—you’ve been through this before. At least you know what to expect--how bad can it be ?” “Yeah,” his mom chimes in, “Plus you get another one of those fetching haircuts—should I go home and get the scissors tonight so we can do it ourselves?” They all laugh, and begin their plans for how to ensure a good bed upstairs in the pediatric wing.
“Man,” the father says. “I can’t wait till they get a pediatric ER, can you imagine how much better this will be?” “Yeah,” his wife replies. But by the time they're finished it, he’ll be an adult.”
This, more than any of the cries of pain or pleas for morphine I heard yesterday, stuck in a very cramped NYU ER, reminded me how minute my problems are. I was reminded how many families have been forced to make a lifestyle of trips to the ER. And that the best of them, like my friends I only saw for a split second, but listened to for an hour, have their chins up and know no notion of self pity. They could put us all to shame for our daily laundry list of complaints, but maybe will make us all second guess them tomorrow.