By Linda Militello
My grandmother would occasionally warn me, “Don’t be so full of yourself.” She used those words to describe individuals who acted like they knew it all, pretending to hide their ignorance. I vowed not to become that person.
Lately, her warning haunts me as I read various revelatory scientific and medical findings, wise and humble opinion pieces, transcendent nonfiction and various theological teachings. I am surprised and honored to be published. I love hearing that my words “hit home” or were helpful.
Almost 50 years ago, I was training to be a registered nurse. I read that we should not question the why of death as much as the why of life. Despite the visible, annual reemergence of nature and subsequent death and decay, we often manage to forget that we are as fragilely finite as a plant without water, food and sunlight.
Every breath that we take is a miracle. I use the word miracle to describe the scientifically and emotionally unanswerable. Having children and watching my granddaughter come to life from the body of a daughter that nearly lost hers as a child were miracles.
I have seen many patients and friends miraculously outlive terminal disease and survive life-threatening injuries that were medically unexplainable.
Every day I learn something from experts to hopefully avoid pain or cope with the unavoidable. Unfortunately, all the knowledge and careful planning in the world can’t prevent freakish accidents or sudden deaths.
Recently I walked across the parking lot to my condo. A pickup truck blocked a safer passage that I should have walked, but the sleet was clouding my vision and I cut through an empty parking space where the black asphalt appeared merely wet. An unexpected fall fractured my arm, leaving my hand dislocated and dangling. I laid sobbing from the excruciating pain and frozen with fear that the car and driver would return to her space and drive over me.
After several minutes, a neighbor and two workers came to help. Our custodian, Mark, arrived, nearly falling on the treacherous ice in the attempt. The three men helped me stand and carefully walked me into the condo. Mark called 911 for an ambulance to take me to Erie County Medical Center.
Holly, the first EMT to arrive, professionally assessed my condition in a reassuring manner while she applied a supportive splint to prevent further displacement and provide possible pain relief.
The emergency unit was lined with patients in halls when I arrived and continuously during and after my bones were realigned. Nonetheless, within 15 minutes I was assessed and medicated. The knowledgeable, compassionate and efficient staff were exemplary practitioners.
I was reassured that other hospitals would have subsequently sent me to ECMC. Calmness curbed chaos. Cleanliness and adherence to infection control protocols impressed and relieved this very particular RN.
There are no totally acceptable answers for all the questions we have about illness, accidents or death. I strive to be as cautious and healthy as science advises. Black ice proved that even cautious pride can come before a fall. My grandmother’s teachings prevail.
Alone, I am clearly powerless and far from being full of myself.
Linda Militello, of Williamsville, is recovering from a fractured arm and dislocated hand.