The last 24 hours have given me the opportunity to see too much of the inside of a hospital. From the news to TV dramas to dramatic scenes in our writing we see lots of examples of the dirtier sides of such places, but few examples of when things go right.
Hospitals are by definition places of pain and anxiety. It is easy to see how both visitors and staff can be pushed to the breaking point inside such a pressure cooker. Blowups do make for great tension in our stories, but miss out on so many other impacts for our readers.
Yesterday a young lady came to the ER well past the point of panic over her extreme pain. Enter the care worker whose job it was to get her settled. Not once did she raise her voice or issue direct commands. With a calm reasonableness I would have had trouble achieving, much less maintaining, she talked this lady past sobs of pain and bouts of hyperventilation to the point they could begin the process of accessing her condition and dealing with the underlying problem.
Breakfast for the elderly man in the bed beside my wife’s and the care worker begins the process of making sure he eats. He takes a bite of his eggs but cannot swallow. She does her best to get him through this, then patiently convinces him to spit it out and try a bite of something else. He never does swallow any of the semi-solid items on his tray and she never once crosses the line into coercion and force. I recognise that the need for maintain proper nutrition may force a change in this routine, but it’s hard to imagine this care worker going too far when it comes time to making sure this man eats.
Sure, in isolation these vignettes may have little impact (I have no way of guessing what state of mind you’ll be in when you read this), but placed at the right spot in your work?. There will be times when such a moment may be exactly what our plot calls for. Don’t be afraid to use it where it fits.