Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always saw hospitals as a scary, evil place that takes away a person’s life. To me, once you entered, you’d never come back out. I thought of it as the grim reaper in the form of a building. The reason I believed this was because I would ask about one of my mom’s adult friends and she’d tell me that they went to the hospital but they won’t be coming back. Unexpectedly, my view on the hospital has since changed at the age of ten. It was a night that I heard a high pitched scream coming from my mom’s room. A few moments after this, I saw the flashing lights of blue and red.
I was oddly fixated on them like they were a new shiny toy. I watched as the paramedics whisked away my mom into the ambulance. My mom had surgery and was completely fine within a few days. After witnessing this myself, I figured hospitals weren’t so bad after all. That it would be a place I wouldn’t mind spending hours in and with each passing year since then, my love for hospitals and being in them has grown significantly but specifically one day spent there in general. As I walked into the weirdly shaped building, I took a moment to appreciate the familiar smell of cleanliness that I’ve gotten accustomed to.
To my right is the waiting room which is accompanied by anxiety-filled individuals impatiently waiting for their names to be called. There’s a baby crying and his mother trying to calm him down, a woman rambling off on her phone in her native language, a man holding his sick daughter in his arms. There are others pacing around with their arms fold, clearly annoyed because the wait in hospitals are minutes that feel like hours and hours that feel like an eternity. “Can I help you? ” was what snapped me back from my inspection of the people around me. “Yes, I’m here to volunteer in the emergency room,” I say.
The receptionist quickly pointed to the door behind her indicating that was where I had to go. I walked through the door and into the corridor where the light is so bright from the lights and white walls that I have to squint a little. In front of me is the emergency room. I have to make my way to the charge nurse’s desk. It’s busier than in the waiting room. It has that suffocating smell of sterility. There are nurses and doctors bustling from room to room. As I’m walking I look into each room. I see a patient either sitting or laying on the bed motionless. I hear rasping coughs accompanied by sneezing.
A woman is on her phone explaining to someone why she’s in the emergency room. Another woman is curled up crying possibly from all the pain she’s in. I finally arrived at the charge nurse’s desk to be rudely greeted by the charge nurse. She assigned me to a RN who I would be shadowing. At first I just sat there listening to all the beeping monitors, the chattering and laughing of a group of nurses and the sound of the wheels of the stretcher being rolled on the floor. As I sat there waiting for a new patient to arrive, I stared into one of the rooms. An unoccupied hospital room has sort of melancholy feeling to it.
It’s like a grand central station with people going in and out of it every second or hour of the day. It has seen so much people at their best but mostly their worst. From a drunken young man with a stomach disease constantly throwing up to a pregnant woman with an abnormally high fever and to a woman with an unexplainable rash. Yet, after all the people that have been in just one room, it’s still so lonely and empty. Suddenly, the alarm went off in the emergency room. This indicates that a trauma is coming in. The dispatcher began talking saying that a twelve year old girl with cardiac arrest was about to be brought in.
A couple of nurses and the emergency room physician all headed into the trauma room, including myself. In just a few minutes the double doors flew open with the little girl on stretcher. She laid there limp, pale, and unconscious. They quickly began working on her rotating from one person to the next performing CPR on her stopping after each cycle to administer epinephrine, to shock her and to check her pulse and heart rhythm. In the corner I noticed one of the EMTs that brought her in crying and with red marks along is bald held from scratching into it.
“Call time of death,” the doctor said. The room went quiet. It felt like the life had not only been gone from the little girl but also from the room. I was out of breath and I just stood there in utter shock. I exited the room and sat down at the nurse’s desk with tears dampening my eyes. As I sat there, the doctor came to me and told me that he was glad I was here to witness this and that it was one of the hardest things a doctor experiences which is losing a child with the second hardest being informing the child’s parents.
It was right there, in that very second, right after he said that; I fell in love with the hospital all over again. It was when I realised that I wanted the hospital be my home away from home. Because even though people die here, people are also cured here. It’s a place where wonderful miracles happen. I think of a hospital as a box filled with secrets and stories from millions and millions of people. It’s has seen so much heartbreaks and heartaches and beautiful joy. It has seen death but it has also seen life. It takes people away but it also brings some back.