by Kellen Squire
I wish this diary title was hyperbole. I wish it was just one of the clickbaity headlines so prevalent these days (“This one weird trick can turn the Trump Winery’s District Blue!”), to drive traffic and make your quarterly goal.
It’s not. It’s a guaranteed prediction of the future if Trumpcare is passed. And it’s something I take to heart, because I’m going to have to watch people I love suffer and die if it becomes the law of the land.
I’m an emergency department nurse, so let me tell y’all something about my friends and I in emergency services- that’s EMS, Fire, law enforcement, the ER, etc. We’re some of the most stoic people you’ll ever find- we have to be. We don’t have a choice. We’re the last line of defense in our community’s social safety net. If people are reaching us, they’ve passed all the other ones- we’re literally holding the line against people falling into the void.
There’s a very dark axiom amongst nurses; dark, but 100% accurate, and true of other emergency services folks as well. We don’t quit; we just burn out.
It’s true. And it’s because we recognize the consequences of us quitting. None of us got into these jobs for the fat checks. We don’t do twelve, sixteen, even twenty-four hour shifts with hardly time to pee, much less eat, take a break, talk to your kid before bedtime, etc, just for kicks. We do it because we CARE, and because someone has to hold the line.
Do you know what’s going to happen if Congress kicks twenty-three million folks off of health insurance? Makes sure millions more are underinsured? Chortle heartily because, pffft, it doesn’t matter- these folks can just go to the ER is something’s wrong! See, everyone? Problem solved!
I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. When your mom slips and breaks her hip, she’s going to wait an hour on the ground for an ambulance to show up, because the local volunteer rescue squad has another empty building call, meaning, in a place like mine, the paid crew may have to range over an area of a couple hundred square miles. When she does get to the ER, if there’s any way she can sit in a wheelchair, they’ll take her to triage- or she’ll sit in a hall bed, or a triage bed, for a few hours waiting to be seen.
The triage nurse, overworked and inundated, will do their best to put an IV in her, grab one of the docs and beg them to give her some toradol at least. Or, knowing how long a wait it’s going to be, give her something like morphine or diluadid, which is the way most people get hooked on narcotics, even though Republican politicians like to infer it’s only junkies who have to deal with it (this is a story for another time).
When she’s finally seen, well, she’ll get pain meds, x-rayed, et cetera, but then she’ll get to board in the ER for awhile longer- if she doesn’t need surgery, then maybe for days, because the inpatient floors are all full, and the emergency department folks have to figure out a way to make it work.
Your mom suffers. You suffer. The EMTs and medics suffer, because when they get to your mom, they’ll know how long she was in pain for, and the fact they couldn’t respond sooner will burn them up inside. The triage nurse will listen to someone scream at them about having to wait to be seen (“I’ve had this back pain for three months, and I’ve been waiting for two hours to be seen! How did that lady get to go back before me?!? What kind of hellhole is this?!?”), desperately wanting to get your mom in the back. The ER nurse your mom will get is going to forego all of their breaks, is going to toss a greasy slice of pizza down their throat in twenty seconds, and ignore their bladder screaming at them until bursting, because their patients- your mom!- needs their help.
Nurses don’t quit, see; we just burn out. And EMTs. And police officers. And firefighters. We’re not going to ask for help for us. We’re going to keep shouldering these loads for the people who need our help. But there’s a point when hard work and perseverance in the face of incredible odds isn’t enough to hold the line. And if Trumpcare passes, then I promise all of you… we’ll get to see the consequences of that in stark detail.
Listen. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when these nurses crack, burn out. Have their home lives destroyed. Relationships ruined. I’ve seen firefighters try to commit suicide, rather than have to ask someone for help. I’ve seen people turn to drugs, become addicted to narcotics, just to take the edge off to get them through another day. It’s okay, see- they don’t have a problem, they’re just trying to make it to another day of helping people. A percocet here or there isn’t going to hurt, right?
This is what I realized in the wake of last November’s election. These were the stakes. I was going to watch a bloated, POS bill like Trumpcare get actually slammed down our throats, because we have a Congress and House of Delegates full of career politicians, who are completely out of touch with their constituents. Completely.
I don’t know why anyone would be surprised by that; they run in districts they often DREW THEMSELVES to ensure they never had to try to be elected, and consequently, never have to be held accountable for anything. Add surrounding themselves with a cabal of sycophants in an echo chamber they’ve created, and voila! Perfect recipe for disaster!
So I thought to myself… there’s no way. There was absolutely no way I was going to sit idly by, bellyache about this on Facebook, all while my brothers and sisters and I in emergency services took it on the chin. While I watched more good men and women get burned out, destroy their own lives to try and make up for a group of politicians who, since they didn’t have to personally worry about these issues, were just fine and dandy letting US take one for the team.
It’s why I decided to fight. It’s why I’m running for the Virginia state legislature, even though my district hasn’t been challenged in almost a decade. Even though I’m running against a close friend of the Trump family, in the district with the Trump winery in it. Even though I’m running against the guy with the biggest warchest in the entire Commonwealth, who is in charge of the entire Republican re-election effort this fall in Virginia.
Because I’ll be DAMNED if I’m going to watch my brothers and sisters suffer, burn out, and die- if I’m going to watch the patients that we serve every day suffer and die. I want to make this abundantly clear- I will not quit. I will not equivocate. As long as there is a single breath in my body, I will fight and scream and yell and holler, no matter the odds, because if we’re going to be forced to deal with the disaster of Trumpcare, then I’m going to make damn sure it’s NOT gonna be because nobody STOOD UP AND FOUGHT FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO SUFFER FROM IT.