Magic Words from the E.R.
Last month, about a week before Thanksgiving, I woke up with a terrible stomachache. It was like being punched in the belly. Right up there with childbirth. By 9am, I was on the phone with my doctor. By 10, I was in the emergency room. And by 9 o’clock that night, I was in the operating room having my appendix removed!
Those 12-hours in the E.R. spotlighted the brutal reality of life and how fragile our health can be. Like the elderly man who said to the intake person, “I know I should've come in a month ago, with this sore on my right foot and now I can’t walk on it.” Or the mother carrying her toddler and running in screaming, “I need a doctor. I need a doctor. My son’s finger is almost cut off.” Or the woman who said, “I think I’m having a heart attack. I have this pain up my left arm.”
The intake person said, “OK. Got it. How did you get here?”
“I took the bus.”
She took the bus to the E.R. with heart attack symptoms!
Over those 12-hours, I counted at least 19 people who took care of me. And all the other patients who needed help. And with each medical person I met, the first thing I felt compelled to say was, “Thank you for being a nurse. Thank you for being a doctor, especially in the time of Covid.”
“Thank you, DeVonte,” who wheeled me from the recovery room to my hospital bed - at 3am! Such demanding work.
And do you know what everyone’s reaction was to a simple Thank you?
“Oh, you’re welcome.”
“You’re very welcome.”
“Of course. We’re going to help you feel better.”
Sarah, who’s about my oldest daughter's age said, “I’ll take care of you like you’re one of my own.” Like a grown-up would say to a child. Her care and that of everyone else, touched me deeply.
Here’s the lesson.
It takes zero confidence to say, "Thank you." No practice. No rehearsal.
A few days later, I called the clinic with a question for my surgeon. At the end of our conversation I said, “Doctor, before we hang up, I want you to know that I felt very cared for by all of the medical people I met on Thursday. And I saw the way you all treated everyone who came to the E.R. Each of us was treated exactly the same…with care and professionalism and respect. I know you all are exhausted, especially in the time of Covid. Please tell your co-workers that what they do really matters. You all are making a difference. Thank you very much.”
There was this long pause.
Then she said, with a weary voice, “Don’t make me cry. Sometimes we wonder if we are making a difference. I’ll tell the team. Thanks.”
Here’s a takeaway, we haven’t had control over a lot in our lives in 2020 and 2021. But we do have control over what we say to people and how we treat them. It doesn’t take confidence to say, “Thank you.”
Here’s to peace & good health in 2022.