- a state of mental unease; worry or embarrassment.
- lack of physical comfort.
This past week has been a whirlwind, to say the least. First, the Moxies went to see Dance Nation, a coming-of-age play that made me so uncomfortable in some parts due to unique themes, seemingly gratuitous nudity, and just a format I wasn’t used to, that I wanted to crawl out of my own skin.
Discomfort.And then I went to the hospital for the first time in my life at 3 AM, given one of the largest needle sizes of IV’s because of my incredibly low blood pressure.
And the two days I spent there gave me a lot of time to think. As I was given several IV’s and shots, countless medications for something as simple as a stomachache, I thought again back to the Women of Venezuelan Chaos documentary our group went to see the previous week. The film portrayed one nurse who worked at a hospital where the patients had to bring their own needles, their own syringes, their own bed sheets. Meanwhile, I was asked several times if I would like another blanket, when the first IV needle failed another was quickly right at hand, and all of the nurses were incredibly apologetic about the fact that I had to wait so long to get a bed, eventually not being able to be admitted due to the fact that the hospital was overpacked.
A Different Discomfort.
I’m not going to lie, I was definitely frustrated to have to lie waiting for over 24 hours, and most likely spend far longer than necessary in a small cot in the ER with only a curtain to separate me from the room full of patients of all ages, from babies crying and the chaos that I knew must have been happening on the other side. But I wasn’t angry at all, and it was as if the nurses and doctors expected it of me…but what did I have to be angry about? There was nothing that could be done about it, the hospital was just too crowded, the need exceeded the space. Which got me thinking about the insufficiency of resources all over the world. We see how people in Venezuela are in dire need of care and help and supplies, which certainly far exceeds the need here, at least for the most part. But I don’t think we ever really think about how even here, in the U.S., the resources and space we have still aren’t often enough somehow.
And I’m not sure what the root of the problem is. I know several of the patients who came into the ER while I was there were poor or homeless based on conversations I overheard, so perhaps it all goes back to this? But how much more likely are the homeless to end up in the ER? Certainly they face higher risks simply due to the lack of shelter and other supplies, but would that solve the problem? Or is it just because we’re in New York City and everyone is packed into this tight space, so there’s no way everyone could be completely served? Which then makes me think back to a the Sweatshop Workers Tour of an old tenement house our group went on just a few days ago. A mindbogglingly large number of families shared this tiny space, likely facing similar obstacles to adequate healthcare due to a lack of resources, limited access, and discrimination. In one part of the tour that I distinctly remember, the guide spoke about how tuberculosis isn’t easy to recover from without medication and fresh air, which people living in the tenements certainly didn’t have.
I think a lot of the times so much is taken for granted, and I don’t necessarily feel guilty about it, but it does make you think. Ever since I was in middle school and knew I wanted to go into the medical field, I planned on working in poorer countries to provide better access to healthcare for people in need–but I never really thought about all the implications of this work. And there is such a need everywhere for better healthcare, better living conditions; honestly, I don’t know what is ethically or morally the right thing to do, and I have so many unanswered questions that I can’t form into a coherent thought. All I know is that while I was in the hospital, I went through so many mixed emotions while I overheard conversations next to me, complaints about long wait times, people incessantly asking when they would be given X drug, or taken to X new place and then outraged when the nurse told them she wasn’t sure. One person in particular stood out, constantly complaining about how she would be given much better care back home, talking about how she had to carefully watch over her expensive luggage, while right next door I overheard a conversation between a nurse and an elderly homeless man who needed help with getting insurance. And I don’t know, it just made me really confused and shaken–and Discomforted.
Confusion. I feel like ever since I started this program 4 weeks or so ago, I have just become more and more confused. I have started to question things I’ve never thought about before, and rather than finding answers, I just find more questions, which makes me uncomfortable. No, it’s discomfort. I used to be so uncomfortable with discomfort that I avoided it at all costs, rarely bringing up controversial topics or sharing my opinions because I wanted to avoid that awful, awful thing Conflict. Because it caused me discomfort. But the more I am Discomforted, the more I see the value in being so. Discomfort makes you think critically in ways that are impossible otherwise. And isn’t that what’s necessary for change, to come up with novel solutions, have productive discussions, put ideas into action? Not much can be accomplished without a certain level of some sort of discomfort. So I am going to take a deep breath, and welcome that old fear Discomfort.