One of the things I've loved the most about what I've gotten to do after launching my campaign for the House of Delegates here in the 58th District of central Virginia is listen to people- their stories, their motivations, their trials and tribulations. You find every stereotype imaginable, and then as you get to actually talking to folks- a novel idea, I know- you watch those stereotypes get thrown right out the window.
I already knew that was true, of course- I'm an ER Nurse, and if you want to watch stereotypes be inverted, the ER is a great place to see it.
For instance, the only person I've ever had tell me they weren't going to pay their bill was a beefy gentleman in his mid-thirties, who sauntered into my ER, blood-red "Make America Great Again" hat atop his head, planted his hands on my triage desk, and said "HEY. You need to get me to see a doctor right now, I ain't gonna wait."
Triage nurses are a unique breed of nurse; we're expected to have both unerring judgement, and an unflappable attitude. We're supposed to be able to spot that patient with a subarachnoid hemorrhage with a single glance; not raise an eyebrow when we're told it was a complete accident how that thing got lodged in there (it's always an accident); and sit impassively as abuse and venom is hurled at us by patients who've been waiting to be seen.
So it was this time. My MAGA-hatted friend had been drug to the ER by his significant other, who had convinced him to take his blood pressure somehow, and discovered it was about 200/100- which our vital signs monitor confirmed.
However, when informed that we were currently full in the back, and he would have to wait for a few minutes to get a bed, he went off on me.
"****ing Obamacare!" he snarled, an accusation I hear leveled fairly often when people hear they have to wait, "this is bull****. Ain't this an emergency room? Why should I have to wait?"
Why, indeed. Well, sir, because we're crammed to the gills. There's a psychiatric patient that's been boarding in our ER for ten days because, contrary to the self-congratulatory letter I got from my representative, the "Bed of Last Resort" law doesn't actually work like it’s supposed to. So now, we have to task a nurse one-to-one with a patient they have no formal training to take care of, twenty-four hours a day- meaning that nurse can't see any other patients.
There's a gentleman who came in for several months of diffuse, non-acute abdominal pain, and is currently being given a death sentence after finding out via his CT scan it's actually pancreatic cancer.
There's a working mom in with her three kids to "get them all checked out," which is a completely inappropriate use of the emergency department, sure, but she's been working two jobs and makes just enough that she's not eligible for Medicaid, since the General Assembly refused to expand it. So where else do you expect her to go?
We're short two nurses because one called out sick, and the other left nursing altogether, proving the dark axiom of "nurses don't quit- they just burn out." Which means everyone else gets a bigger load, and are lucky if we have time to even sit down, much less take a break or pee.
Of course, I say exactly none of that aloud, and neither do I let any of those emotions play across my face. I just nod understandingly at the patient, and say, "I'm sorry, sir, I don't like making anyone wait- but I can promise we'll get you back as quick as we can."
"Just so you know," he sneered back at me before he stalked off to the waiting room, "I ain't payin' you nothin’ for none of this. You can make Obama pay for it!"
Which wasn’t an idle threat, of course. See, in the ER, we're governed by a law called EMTALA. EMTALA says a lot of things, but the most pertinent is that we're not allowed to screen people by their ability to pay- we have to see them and, at the very least, stabilize their condition. It's been the law of the land since that noted socialist commie Ronald Reagan signed it into law in 1985.
We certainly don't mind this law, it's a million times better than pre-EMTALA alternative. But it's one reason most of us in the ER welcomed the "individual mandate" of Obamacare; or, as we always called it, the "No Free Rider" law. And I gotta say, watching "the party of personal responsibility" agitate vociferously against a law that required everyone to have at least a little skin in the game always darkly amused me.
Especially in instances like this.
But ER nurses take care of everyone- regardless of their background, regardless of their circumstances. We don't discriminate by race, religion, color, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or even if you hurl abuse at us- if you've come to us for help, we'll take care of you. In my ER, we’re proud to operate as the ultimate “safe space”, where the people in our community know they can come without being judged, regardless of the reason. We’ll take the stress, the overworked burden, all onto ourselves- and do everything in our power to get you feeling better, and back home where you belong.
And that's precisely the attitude I want to bring to the General Assembly building in Richmond next January, on behalf of the men and women of the 58th District. I want to give the folks in my district someone in Richmond who works as hard as they do. Someone who'll represent everyone, not just the folks who agree with me, or voted for me. Someone who'll work and fight for them, not refuse every chance to do meaningful work, as long as it means they’ll win re-election.
But I can’t do it without your help. I’ve got an uphill battle all the way to November, especially since my money only comes from individual donors, not lobbyists or corporate interests- but if you can chip in $10 today, I can take this fight all the way to November- and on to Richmond.