A quick, intense summer thunderstorm sends us scattering for cover. It is nice having the trailer set up at these festivals, we can take cover from all sorts of hazards; thunderstorms, dusty winds, the sun, noisy crowds, screaming kids....We watch the rain and lightening from the shelter, glad for the brief respite from the heat. The humidity just intensifies though, it's brutal.
A festival employee tears up on a gator as the rain slows and the sun begins to peek through the clouds. "A man is bleeding over in the food tents, c'mon!!" Why is it that people freak out over blood so easily? I guess I really have learned something this summer, people freaking out just seems to make me more calm. I hop on the back of the cart as John and Roy hop in the front. We follow the frantic employee through the crowd, which parts only slightly faster then January molasses. As we pull up to the tent, I quickly hop off - right into a patch of mud. Great start. I dodge the other mud puddles and make it to the patient with only minor soakers. It is an older man sitting on his walker, a wad of paper towels being pressed to his lower leg. Blood is running down his leg into his sock, and the paper-towel holder looks up at me with relief, his eyes begging me to take over. I love that feeling, people looking to me for help.
I introduce myself and my partners and kneel in front of him to take a look. There are a few gouges on his leg, but nothing that should be causing this much bleeding. Further questions reveal that he takes Coumadin, a blood thinner. Bingo. John hands me sterile gauze and I replace the dirty, blood-soaked paper towels. Holding pressure with one hand, I attempt to wrap roller gauze around his sizable leg with the other, smearing my uniform shirt and arms with mud and blood in the process. Lovely. The man makes a snarky comment about my struggles, but I choose not to hear it, I don't really care what he said. John also sees me struggling and bends down to help, together we create a nice, neat white bandage in no time at all.
I rise and begin to take his vitals, the guys usually make me do it. I don't mind, I figure the more bp's I take, the better I'll get, especially in noisy or otherwise adverse conditions. I have trouble finding his brachial pulse, his arm is rather large and extraordinarily flabby. As I wrap the cuff around his arm, he looks up at me with a sneer, "What, have you never done this before? Figures I get stuck with the girl who can't do anything." I look him directly in the eyes and smile politely. "I have done this many times, sir, I know what I am doing." He sneers again and I grit my teeth. There is no need for his attitude, but I am a professional and I will not let him get to me. I pump up the cuff and listen closely, slowly releasing the air. I note the pressure and release the cuff the rest of the way, he starts growling even before I remove the stethoscope from my ears. "That hurt, you didn't do it right. You never have done this before, have you? Silly girl. If you were a nurse you'd be like the one who had to poke me twenty times to get the needle in. Don't know what you're doing, I can tell." I say nothing, just turn and put the cuff away. His words hurt me more then I let on, more then they should.
I take the sterile water and gauze from John and kneel at his feet once again. I gently loosen and remove his blood-soaked shoe and begin to wipe away the blood. I am humbled beyond belief, washing the dirty feet of a crusty old man who has come close to reducing me to tears. I thank God for the love He has filled my heart with, I now see this man as God does. He is lost, bitter and hurt, his heart hardened by the life he has lived. I blink back tears again, but tears for the man in front of me this time, not tears for my injured pride. I begin to replace his shoe, but I have trouble pulling the back of it over his heel, so he yanks it away angrily. "Can't do anything right, silly girl." He mutters as he jams it back onto his foot. I wipe the last traces of blood from his leg, then take his hands and clean them off as well. Looking directly into his eyes as he stands to leave, I wish him well. He grunts and limps off.
I look down at myself. My boots are covered in mud, my socks are soaked, and there is a mixture of blood and mud smeared across both forearms, as well as across the front of my white uniform shirt. Something has changed inside me though. It is hard to explain, difficult to understand. I feel a sense of peace in my heart, I feel like I can love everyone, no matter how they treat me or what they say to me. I have been humbled, and it has brought a joy that I never would have expected.