What a strange day. It started with a peculiar old woman who insisted in beginning each sentence with my name. “So tell me Krista. Where did you study radiology?” “Krista, I really don’t want to change into a hospital gown for my xrays. Do I have to?” “Krista, can you explain to me why it is I need to change into a hospital gown?” “Krista, when you say hold your breath, do I need to take in a large breath or will a small one do?” I never thought the sound of my own name could be so irritating. Her parting question as I opened the door from the Emergency Rooom back to the lobby, “Krista. Can you tell me if that young man over there is dead?” What!? She gestured to one of Santa Cruz’s host of drugged out homeless people who was passed out on a gurney in the hallway with a pillow over his face, limbs askew. There was a teensy, naughty part of me that wanted to respond, “Why yes. Yes he is. We frequently leave dead people laying about in the hallways.” Instead I smiled and said, “Don’t you worry. He’s just resting.” and closed the door.
Next I had a patient who presented for his CT scan wearing a big red pair of boxing gloves. Honestly, anymore, I don’t even ask. But then he asked me to take his photo poised in a boxer’s stance infront of the scanner with a mean look on his face. I raised an eyebrow. “It’s for my Facebook page” he explained. “I intend to knock out this cancer.” Oh wow. I kind of felt like I’d been hit in the gut. As I performed his exam, his face was changing from a joking happy guy to dark, fearful and worried, and back to the joking guy again. I’ve never met someone who’s face so clearly expressed his fluctuating emotions like sunshine and storm clouds. He told me that if this scan came back clean, that his doctor told him they could consider him in the clear. I silently cheer for him from my corner. You go, man. Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
After work I attended a spin class that a friend teaches. He made an announcement as we were warming up that today’s class would be a memorial to one of our fellow spinners who had died unexpectedly on Monday. There was a murmur of dismay from the class. How terrible but I couldn’t place a face with the name. After class a woman approached me and asked if I had been friends with the fellow who had passed away. I said no that I couldn’t figure out who exactly it was. “Well you guys worked together at the hospital so I thought you might have known him…” Oh my gosh! That guy? I didn’t know him, really. He was just in the periphery of my awareness, but still. He was just at the cafeteria table last week, eating green beans, talking with his coworkers, wearing his striped work shirt, hair neatly combed. How can he be dead? He wasn’t old, overweight, or sick.
We all have to go at some point. It’s every bit as much of the cycle as being born. Yet how odd, that we have absolutely no say in the matter. If you are given some warning, you can fight like the boxer and perhaps prepare yourself, your family, your friends. Or you can be eating green beans one day and then poof! You’re gone. What a strange thing. I don’t know what to make of it. I work in a hospital and am near death from time to time. It’s expected. It normally doesn’t cross my “wall” and get into my psyche. To be able to do this kind of work you have to learn to inure yourself. But for some reason, today got my attention.
All I can say is this. Live now. Live well. Be good to yourself and others. What else can you do?