I cried at work today. And that hardly ever happens. It had been a while, but I wasn’t longing to do it again. I won’t tell you about the last time I cried because it’s too sad. My colleagues and I cried for good reason today because a precious child died in room 10. And I’m having some difficulty finding a place for my emotions. So I write.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 39 – No 05 – May 2020
It is fortuitous that last night I watched a video on Netflix of a talk given by Brené Brown. So moved by this talk I was that I shared my feelings about it with some of my nurse colleagues at the start of my day. Brené talked about vulnerability and courage. The two are inseparable. She defines vulnerability as taking a risk in an endeavor with uncertain outcome, limited control, and emotional exposure. We do that every day in our work. She says that no courageous act is undertaken without the prerequisite of vulnerability.
Our work can be vexing and arduous, but most days it doesn’t seem so when we are doing it. I think the courage lives in that moment when you drive into the lot, clip your faded ID badge to your scrub shirt, grab your lunch bag, and open the car door. You walk toward the ambulance bay and wonder what will happen. Will a scrawny, tattered girl be dumped at the front door, forgetting to breath from an opiate overdose? Will I tell an old man his wife of 50 years died from a heart attack? Will someone try to bite or kick me? Or will I hold the hand of a young mother as she cradles her dead child?
My colleagues and I cried for good reason today because a precious child died in room 10. And I’m having some difficulty finding a place for my emotions. So I write.
A few years back, I wrote a bunch of essays for ACEP News (the predecessor of this publication). The title of the column was “In the Arena.” I chose this because of a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in 1910:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Brené talked about this same speech. It has held meaning for many over generations, and it does for you as well. Today, while sad and emotionally taxing, was valiant. Despite our best efforts, some people will not be resuscitated. As we ceased our efforts, this child of God entered Elysian Fields with the sun on her face, surrounded by peace like the scent of gardenias. We did a most difficult job, and the satisfaction comes in doing it well as a team and helping a family begin to accept the unacceptable.
And that’s enough for me to open the car door tomorrow and wonder, what will happen today?
I wish you strength, wisdom, tender hands, a caring heart, and the will to be vulnerable.
David Baehren, MD, FACEP
Emergency physician and author