In my professional life I am a Nurse/Case Manager in an Emergency Room at a small "rural" hospital. In my personal life I love to create my vision of art which includes digital and traditional scrapbooking, painting, art journaling, collage, quilting, spinning my own yarns, and when I win the lotto I will get another loom and begin weaving again. I am a visual person who loves to work with my hands.
I received a call telling me that I needed to come to the ER immediately because we had a 13 year old who was intubated. On my way I imagined all of the possible things I would need to do for the family and for the ER staff. Would we need to transfer her? Is she so sick that we would have to fly her by helicopter? How is the family holding up? My mind was working quickly based on my experience in these situations. But what I found when I got there was much different.
I saw the ambulance crew who told me that they were responsible for calling me down. They had brought in an older woman who was very sick. She had known she was sick for a couple of weeks but would not allow her granddaughter/caretaker to make her a Doctors appointment or come to the ER. Because in the patients opinion, she didn't want to die in the hospital. The granddaughter called 911 after her grandmothers' behavior became strange and she couldn't say "No!"
The grandmother was intubated and on a ventilator. The granddaughter/caretaker was 13, scared, and alone. I spent the next few hours with her, becoming an interpreter of sorts between the medical-ese of the ER and making sure she understood what was going on.
She told me that it was her choice to live with grandma, the rest of the family lived 70 or more miles away. She told me that this was the only mother shes' ever really known. "Chloe"(not her real name) had called her mother to come to the hospital, but mom had "missed the bus" and was still at home. When I spoke with mom over the phone, she had no urgency to come to the hospital to be with her daughter. Then the admitting Dr. and I explained the gravity of the situation. We let "Chloe" have a moment with her mom and walked away for privacy. I came back a few minutes later to find Chloe with her phone to her chest and I could hear the muffled screams and wailing coming from the phone. I looked at her and said "Mom?" Chloe nodded her head and I asked for the phone. And then I launched.
I told Chloes' mother that she needed to pull herself together, that Chloe hadn't shed one tear and has had to brave the ER and all that we have had to do for the patient with courage and clarity; I expected her to do the same. I also said that Chloe needed to have family with her in the hospital and unless mom could pull herself together Chloe had no one to be there for her. I told her that she needed to pull herself together so she can arrange a ride to the hospital to see the patient and perhaps say good-bye. And then I hung up the phone.
I did apologize to Chloe for hanging up on her mother, but that after seeing how Chloe was handling the situation, I had no time for her mothers dramatics; I expected her mother to be just as brave.
While I was talking with Chloe, I watched her flip through the pictures on her phone. I was expecting the "boy-I-like" pictures, or "hanging-out-with-my best-friends" stuff, but instead she had Japanese anime. I will admit, I am a bit of an anime nerd, so I recognized some of the images. The first one I recognized was "Black Butler" (that's the picture above) and her face lit up. We now had something in common. I learned that Chloe was teaching herself to draw anime, and that she loved watching it when she could. I found a piece of paper and pen and I asked her to draw for me.
I then came up with an idea and excused myself.
When I came back, I had my "Art bag". It contains the basics for art journaling and drawing and I take with with me almost everywhere. As it was nearing the end of my shift, I didn't want to leave her without something to do until other family arrived. So I left some artist papers, pencil, white eraser, a Micron pen for outlining and some ATC (artist trading card) blanks. I explained what they were and challenged her to make me an ATC for trading requesting one of her anime characters, and that I would trade her when I came back in the morning. She seemed unsure, but agreed. I hoped my plan to help her to mind focus on something enjoyable instead of the reality of a situation she could not change while she waited for family members who wouldn't be with her anytime soon.
There was no sign of the hoped for ATC. The staff didn't know anything and Chloe didn't speak with them as she did with me. An hour or so later I was standing next to a computer stand that the staff uses. It had been near Chloe and I the night before. On the stand was everything I had given her the night before with a short note to anyone who found it to make sure I got it back. I began to tear up. I had really wanted her to keep everything and hoped to swap ATC's with her.
In this world, most of us are lost. We have families but no real bonds. We all want the Norman Rockwell families, but only if it doesn't interfere with our lives too much. But this 13 year old girl took on a responsibility with love and I don't see much in my job. I learned that art can bring us together. Creativity is able to make a quiet place in our souls in the midst of chaos.
I think of all of the things that happened to bring Chloe and I together. Love of anime and art broke down her stoic defenses, allowing us to talk more openly and with trust.
I think about her, hoping she's happy, hoping to get a piece of mail at work with an anime drawing and a note. I hope she didn't feel alone and knows that I had her best interest at heart.
I think she's going to be a fantastic artist someday.
Grandma would be proud.