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January 20, 2017

hospital election healing

This post is inspired by my sister Cristina and faerie brother Dallas who both recently wrote from their heart and touched me.

I work in a large metropolitan hospital in downtown Seattle, home to 3.6 million people. On a daily basis I work with people from the Philippines, South Korea, and Eritrea. Patients run the gamut from wealthy Facebook executives imported from India and Tennessee to gay elderlies living in tents under bridges, African refugee families, Alaskan rednecks, Trump supporters, Hillary die-hards, and Bernie dreamers.

We all bleed the same blood, get appendicitis, have cardiac problems, and come down with cancer. We find ourselves in a vulnerable spot and go to the hospital for help to save our lives. We leave our comfortable mono-cultures and find ourselves delightfully in an incredible array of chaos that suddenly doesn't seem so frightening. The doctor with dreads is incredibly supportive. The Trump supporter protects and is warmly affectionate with the Muslim family. Gay, conservative, religious, feminist, shaven dyke nurse, veteran.... it all doesn't seem to matter as we set that aside to take care of the medical problem.

I have felt a lot of fear after this election. It has seemed like a nightmare. I removed Facebook and most of my numerous social media from my phone so that I wouldn't have to see Trump's name and face everywhere invading my space. I hate CNN for spending all of their coverage this way post-election. I can't watch the news. At home there is a semblance of peace, but then I come to work and many of the television screens in patient rooms are pouring out political coverage which seems like venom to me. It is an exercise in self-management.
Seeing people of different political persuasions work together effectively heals me. 
My co-workers, even in liberal Seattle, comprise a mixture of political beliefs. Three of my most-esteemed colleagues voted for Trump. I can't understand it. I, along with other feminists, lgbt's, and minorities have struggled to not perceive as enemies these co-workers. There is a heightened alertness, watching for civility and equal treatment of diverse patients. This goes both ways.

And here's where the healing comes. For me. Two of these (Trump-voting) co-workers would give their shirt off their back for me or any of our patients. Seeing people of different political persuasions work together effectively heals me. They melt me with their compassionate work-ethic and actions. On the one hand they say the stupidest things. True shit frequently comes out of their mouth. On the other hand they work tirelessly day after year in the devoted service of our diverse patients. One of these nurses, an immigrant with a thick accent, always greets me with a huge smile and welcome playful banter. I feel the camaraderie of my South American cultural upbringing. I would feel totally safe with my closest loved ones as patients under his competent and thorough care. Another of these guys jumps to grab people water and goes way beyond his job description in making all of the staff's essential tasks smoother. He is a life-saver, at times literally.

One of these (Trump) guys said to me early on: "Percy, you gays will one day pay for your lifestyle." It boiled me, and we frequently butt heads on his patriarchal, misogynistic, churchy moralistic stances. Fast-forward a few years... this same guy (who still says stupid shit) one day when he overheard me say I had been in a tight spot financially, and still would be for a couple of months, privately came to me and put his arm on my shoulder, "Percy, I have a couple thousand dollars that I would like to lend you or give you until you're back in a good place. I want to do this." I thanked him and declined. But it melted me inside and I think I captured a glimpse of his heart towards me, despite what occasionally comes out of his mouth. I now felt safe around him personally. I genuinely like him, and his work ethic and compassionate care are models to me.

Every day I get to see opposing views co-exist and work together. Strict Muslims and staunch atheists serve each other with heart. Gay nurses, like myself, dress the wounds of Christian religionists. We all shed tears when a co-worker is slain. In the break room we all marvel at the resilience of a 93 year-old who just received a terminal diagnosis and six months to live, saddened and moved. Those terms: Democrats and Republicans blared over the t.v. screens mercilessly seem to matter less.

This literalist global citizen sets aside the literal meaning of some of the sharp words he hears from his co-workers and particularly-Alaskan patients. I see their actions. The way they run to grab pain medicines and alleviate. How a sharp post-surgery muscle pain interrupts a rightist political rant and after the medical relief, the gratitude and humility. Our hospital floors are a daily parade of colorful international humanity.

For a moment I think that all will be good in the world. I have hope. And I am healed. 

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