On the Accuracy of First Impressions

On Thursday Ray and I got called on a gurney round trip for Mrs. O at her nursing home. When we got there the nurse said that she’d given Mrs. O two Vicodin fairly recently but that she was still complaining of a lot of pain. I went in to say hi and saw a very tiny, frail old lady laying on her side in her bed. Her legs were wrapped in something that looked like saran wrap and she had a urinary catheter as well as a wound vacuum attached and running. I introduced myself and was surprised to find that she had a very clear voice when she said hello in return. The staff still had to get a brief on her, so Ray and I waited out in the hallway.

While they were getting her ready Mrs. O began to cry out in a really loud voice. “Oh Lord!”, “It hurts”, and just high pitched, shrill screaming. This lasted for about 10 minutes. We heard one of the nurses going through the Lord’s Prayer with her as Mrs. O prayed. Ray remarked that it was probably fake screaming. I admit, it did sound somewhat forced, but it was hard to be sure. The impression was reinforced when Mrs. O cried out every time we touched her, moved her and finally, every time our van hit a small bump in the road on the way to Seton Heights. Along the way Mrs. O continued to pray. “Our Father… Who art in Heaven” rhythmically and repeatedly. She also threw in some ‘Oh Lord, touch our hearts!’ and ‘Lord have mercy!’ and ‘Thank you Jesuss when we hit bumpy sections of road.

We arrived at the hospital and took her to the 8th floor – Wound Care. Her daughter was late and needed to sign some papers before the staff could treat her, so we waited around and gave Mrs. O water as she laid in the gurney. When she was still she calmed down quite a bit, only periodically praying softly to herself.

The daugther arrived and we helped get Mrs. O into the room. At first the doctor thought he could treat her in the gurney but after a bit he called us back in to help move her to a bed. It turns out she also had wounds on her back. That was why she was screaming every time her body shifted even the slightest bit. They had removed the wrappings on her legs and I could finally see why she had been screaming and praying so much. She had some pretty bad looking sores and wounds on her legs, but the worst (that I could see) were her feet. Her right toes had all been amputated and probably about 1/5 of her left foot, her entire heel, was gone. The wound was open and red, and I could see the white ends of bone. It was probably the worst wound I’ve seen in person.

We didn’t end up taking Mrs. O home, we got called to another patient. But along the way to the hospital I remember thinking, whether she’s faking it or not (she wasn’t, obviously) it’s incredible that she prays in her pain. And that every time the pain intensified, her cries intensified as well. She prayed harder the worse it got.


I was getting lunch at Wingstop. A group walked in, coming from a funeral at the cemetery across the way. The dad was a stocky guy in a suit, crew cut, Louis Vuitton glasses and a really really loud mouth. “I’M STARVING. WE JUST CAME FROM A FUNERAL AND MAN IF YOU’D BEEN THERE AS LONG AS I HAD YOU’D BE STARVING TOO!” At the cashier, at his friend, at everyone and anyone within a block with working eardrums.

He was seriously annoying. One of those guys whose presence fills up a whole room, in a bad way. His friend got her order and she asked if he wanted to sit and have a dinner roll, “NO I’M WAITING HERE FOR MY FOOD. BREAD’S NOT GONNA DO IT.” He finally sat when he got his food and settled down a bit.

THEN, he got up and went outside. He was saying hi to some bikers. “Great” I thought, “now this loud guy is gonna bring in his loud friends.” A group of four bikers came in, leather vests and all. They were all stocky and bearded and sorta hard looking, like most bikers are. They each had a name patch and a position patch (i.e. “Road Manager”, “Captain”, etc…) sewn into their vest.  The Captain was doing most of the talking. When he turned around the first thing I noticed was the middle of the large patch that identified their biker gang. It was a picture of a bleeding hand and above it read “JESUS SAVES”. They were the ‘Riders out of Darkness’. They were loud too. But not in the same way, I think. Whereas the first guy was just obnoxious, the Captain and his friends seemed pretty warm. I kept overhearing him say “I love you man.” as he hugged Loud Guy. They talked about how they had to get back up to Pittsburgh for church the next day. They talked about the funeral (they’d all been to the same one) and their churches, wives and pastors, etc…

It was strange.


~ by justinhong on October 8, 2011.

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