A day at the Trauma Unit at Grady Hospital
Over the past year, I have gone to the Trauma Unity at Grady accompanying, once my brother, and twice, being with one of our monks. The second time was last Monday. A member of the community, Fr. Eduardo, had a very bad fall and was rushed by ambulance to Grady Hospital. I arrived about one hour after the ambulance took him from the Monastery grounds.
The Trauma unit at Grady is considered one of the best in the country. They deal with a very wide assortment of men, women, and children, every hour of every day. On my last trip, it was an eye opener at all that they do there. Our neighbor, in the next room, was a young man who came in with a gunshot wound. His family arrived and it was heart-wrenching to see what they were going through.
One man, his uncle, who was raising him was fit to be tied over concern for his nephew. He was angry, not at the hospital, but at his nephew for belonging to a gang and had to be restrained for a time so that he would not enter the room of the young man being cared for. I could see his love, which was expressed in a wrathful way. The Uncle hated what was happening to his nephew, he hated the gang influence, the guns, the violence, yet even in a wrathful mood, he was not rejecting his nephew, his wrath flowed from his love. The young man, even after being shot, seemed oblivious to the pain that he was causing his family. He looked to be about 14, so perhaps too young to be able to respond in a proper manner.
His mother was there as well as some aunts. The mother just sat there and was filled with sorrow over what happened, and after talking to the police, she got up and walked out. The look she gave as she left, the tears, sorrow, and longing, for her son was palpable to me. They were a close-knit family, besides themselves over the plight of this young man. It seemed this was not his first trip to the unit. At the same time, there was another young man across the room in another section who was shot in the neck. Not sure they were connected.
After the family left and the young man was taken either to surgery or to a room another incident happened that shook me up a bit.
Fr. Eduardo and I were in a room that the whole front was clear plastic I would guess. At first, I thought it was glass. This is how I found out it was not. There was, of course, a lot of noise in the unit, so I got up and closed the door which muted the noise well enough that I could easily read etc. As I was reading, I looked up and saw a young man being seated in a chair about five feet from my door. He seemed confused. One of the nurses was talking to him taking some notes when suddenly, he leaped up and ran full speed right into the plastic closed door. He bounced off and fell to the floor, and seemed to be unconscious for a short time. However, thankfully, he got up and they sat him down again. Then even though there were four people with him, he did it again. This time the speed was a bit less, but he bounced once again. After this, they took him somewhere else. I was very glad I had the door closed if not, he would have run right up against me and smashed me against the wall…..I guess they would have found a place for me there after that.
Soon after that, they brought in a man on a stretcher and left him by the nursing station, again, right outside my room. He just laid there, not moving, covered up to his shoulders with a sheet. I asked the nurse about him and she told me his name and said that he came in there at least twice a week. They knew him, and in a funny sort of way, treated him like family. He would get drunk, and fall down and hit his head or something that, and they would bring him in. Yes, a very colorful place, filled with humanity in all of its beauty, chaos, and tragedy.
One of the nurses taking care of Fr. Eduardo, when I asked her how long she worked there, informed me that she was there for seven years. The average stay is six months she said, it was too much for most who came to work there. You can either take the stress or you can’t. I would suppose that the nurses who were there for six months, still, it was good for their resume and no doubt it made them better nurses.
The staff was competent, calm and unruffled even by the man running up against the glass. One nurse even came in and said she was sorry about the incident. I did ask if he was trying to attack me. She smiled, and replied, “No, he was reacting to a reflection in the glass, he is confused and frightened and on drugs”. She said this in a very kind and compassionate manner. I got the impression that he was also someone who was there on a regular basis.
The hospital was full, with people with the flu, and rooms were given to them to avoid it spreading. So, we spent most of the night in the unit. They finally moved us up to a room that was turned into a ward. There were about 10 beds there and two nurses and a CNA working there. There was a partition between each bed. This was the first time, I was told, that they had to make waiting rooms into wards because of the overflow. Well within living memory I would think. It was like being in a time warp. Perhaps from the 1930’s, except for the all the machines around Fr. Eduardo’s bed.
It was a blessing that Fr. Eduardo did not have much pain. So all in all things went smoothly. He is home now, safe and we are glad to have him back. I also have a deep respect for Grady Hospital, its staff, and especially for the Trauma unit personnel. They are good people, seeking to lessen the appalling suffering in this world. True, much of it is self-inflicted; yet, I guess we all need care from time to time from others who care, even if we have brought it on ourselves. Others were there by the sudden turning of a dime, which can change everything from one blink to another, the majority there I believe, they all get the best care possible.
Grady deserves its high praise for their Trauma unit.