Show Compassion For What You Cannot See

Cold and flu season has hit my house in full force and it means that I’ve had sick kids for a week with little end in sight. I’m exhausted, but not just physically, the worries of this week have me feeling emotionally drained.

Yesterday I took my daughter to the ER. It was the busiest I’d ever seen it, filled with sleep deprived parents and crying babies and poor little worn out kids. You could feel the anxiety in the air, as each parent stared nervously at their child. It was heavy.

As I waited for my daughter to be triaged, I felt her forehead hot with fever. I watched her nose appear to flare slightly with each breath. I gazed at her eyes, so heavy after days without a good nights rest. I wanted somebody to make my baby better and take away her pain.

As the waiting area filled a nurse began to take down our information and symptoms. One look at her and it was obvious that she was not only overwhelmed, but annoyed. “What are their symptoms?”, she would ask as parents would relay their concerns. I felt her frustration grow as parents would give their list of symptoms. Then she came to me. “Why are you here?”, she asked with a sharp tone. I hurriedly tried to plead my daughters case. I was worried, I’ve seen my babies go downhill before so fast, but as I shared my daughters symptoms I could sense the attitude, I think I even caught an eye roll. 

After triage it became clear, my daughter was sick, but probably not as sick as I thought. Her fever was high and her heart rate was elevated, but despite my fears, her breathing was okay. Our nurse was kind and told me to come back in an hour to have her fever checked again. She sensed my concern and she trusted it. I appreciated her kindness.

As the minutes dragged on it became clear that our wait would be long. My daughter was becoming increasingly irritated as she kept trying to get comfortable with no success. I decided to have her temperature checked one more time, and make a choice from there whether to stay or go home. 

Unfortunately we ended up with the cranky nurse.

She gave me attitude in droves and became snappy as I asked her if she thought I could treat my daughter at home. I politely told her we would go home, and left.

I was NOT impressed. In fact I was angry. Not just for me, but for all the other parents who were trying to take care of their kids, but were met with a sharp tone and not so subtle eye rolls.

When I got in the car, I began venting to my husband. “So it turns out I was being a little paranoid!”, I said, “She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t know what I’ve been through! She doesn’t know that so many times a simple cold turned into an ambulance call, or being admitted for days! I worry every time they get sick! I worry because I’ve seen what can happen.” At first he sided with me, but then he said, “She doesn’t know what you’ve been through, but you don’t know what kind of a day she’s had.”

I’m not gonna lie, even as I type this I’m still a little frustrated, but he made me think.

She didn’t know. She didn’t know that last year my sons low grade fever turned into a full blown seizure that seemed to go on forever in slow motion. She didn’t know that the year before that my sons fever triggered a rare anaphylactic reaction to his virus. She couldn’t possibly know that years before, I rushed my daughter into the ER with a high fever and fast breathing and she spent the next 12 days fighting for her life.

Yesterday I was being a little paranoid, its true, but it’s because I’ve had to be, but she didn’t know that.

Truth be told, I don’t know either. 

I don’t know why that nurse had an attitude. I don’t know her story. Maybe she’d dealt with one too many rude parents or coworkers. Maybe she wasn’t feeling so good herself or she was going through some stuff at home. 

I don’t know and I never will, but it made me think about compassion and how much we all need it. 

I know I needed it yesterday, I know I need it most days, but that nurse probably needed it too. Especially on a tough day with a packed emergency room. 

It’s not easy. I still want to be annoyed with her for how she treated us, but the truth is, I need to learn to show more compassion in situations like this. To let things slide instead of getting angry and choose to give people the benefit of the doubt.  

I know I’ve had days when I’ve been snappy and rude, and I’m grateful that people haven’t written me off for it. We all have our moments where its all too much and we don’t cope well. 

Society teaches us to confront attitude, to stand up for our rights, to speak to a manager and say our piece, and sometimes it may be needed, but more often than not, we need to let it go. We need to recognize that there is often so much more going on below the surface. We need to make a choice to greet attitude with compassion, because we all have our moments, and sometimes we just need a little grace for all the things you cannot possibly know or see.