Pacing outside of Good Samaritian's ER, I wait for the transport van to arrive with Mom, it's starting to rain, which is apropos for my mood. Her white blood cell count is almost undetectable, blood pressure dangerously low, and she's anemic. I blame the chemo but dehydration might also be a culprit. Her oncologist decided she needed to be admitted to the hospital for closer observation and some fluids. The transport driver pulls her out of the van, I have just enough time to say "I'm here" (you're not alone), before they wheel her through the red portal, boldly labeled - No public entry. I'm instructed to check in with the receptionist.
If you've ever been to an emergency room, than you know it's a unique experience, and yet the same wherever you go. I walk into a dilapidated room full of grey plastic chairs, three vending machines, and one television loudly broadcasting the food channel. The first thing I notice is the moaning, than the blood stained clothing, and finally the blue barf bags that I visually try to avoid. I'm confronted with vacant or frightened expressions everywhere I turn. The intake nurse is swamped.
I lean in to get noticed and she says, "Can I help you?" (with a strident tone I might add)
I think it is obvious but I say, "Yes, my mom was just brought in, can I wait with her?"
"No, sit down, we'll call you went she gets assigned a room."
I'm carting around three large bags, filled with medications, tennis shoes, pajamas, extra socks, toiletries, medical cards, a computer bag, and a purse of my own. I set them in the chair next to me and browse my twitter account on my iPhone. I know I'm in for a long wait. The pale young woman across from me is nauseous, she's carrying around one of those barf bags, and she can not complete a sentence without saying "fuck." Her mother is completely unfazed. I consider moving to the other side of the facility but there are no vacant chairs. There is a man with a bloody bandage on his foot, a woman who is holding her head, and a teenager with a horrible cough. I wish I had a mask.
An older man with chest pains, a child with what appears to be a deep laceration on his arm, and a woman with stroke symptoms are all quickly whisked into the system. The rest of us wait with our worries and our ailments.
Forty-five minutes pass when I notice a lull at the front desk. I approach the woman tentatively, "Can I go see my mom now?"
"Room 18, through the doors, on your right." (I think I would still be sitting here if I didn't ask)
They usher me through an alarmed door, I feel as if I've been accepted into an exclusive club, but no, it's just another waiting pen. In emergency they put people into three categories: going to die regardless of treatment, might die if not immediately treated, treatable but not urgent. I'm not sure what category mom was dumped in but I imagine it was the last group. I find her jammed in a small cubby, one plastic chair next to the gurney, she's hooked up to to an IV, and several monitors. I dump the bags on the floor and sit down.
"Great necessities call out great virtues," Abigail Adams
Thank God I grabbed my computer. While mom sleeps, I browse my social media accounts, when I literally stumbled upon Seth Godin's recent blog. It was just too serendipitous to ignore. Seth argues that we can triage our opportunities. For example, I was recently invited to write a guest post for a popular blog, attend a writer's conference in Michigan, and take an on-line scripture course for professional development. So if I triaged these opportunities I would say the guest blog is going to survive, the writer's conference is out of the question (my mom is in ER and my daughter is about to deliver twins), and the on-line course will need to be postponed until the summer. Done. I didn't go to my customary 'no' because I was able to reduce some of the anxiety by triaging the opportunities.
Opportunity triage by Seth Godin More opportunities come knocking than we know what to do with.They often come enshrouded with hassle, perceived risk and the need to overcome inertia. It's easier to just say no. And so no becomes the default, a habit, it's easier than discernment. Do you and your organization have a method to sort the opportunities out?In emergency rooms, they put people into three groups: Gonna die no matter what, going to be okay if we help them eventually, and needs help right this moment. By prioritizing where to focus, they serve the patients who can benefit the most. What happens if instead of ignoring opportunity, you triage it?
The more important question is can we triage our writing projects? I always have several drafts in the works. Some almost write themselves with just a little nip and tuck before publishing, others need to be deleted, and one or two might survive if I give them a lot of attention. Categorizing my works helps me to prioritize my focus. I can stop trying to mend the ones that will never work, spend more time with the ones that have potential, and a light edit for the rest. I spend five minutes browsing through my drafts deleting and categorizing. I feel so accomplished, I cast an eye on mom's blood pressure, and I can see she is stabilized.
Five hours later they move us from emergency to a permanent room on the fifth floor. It's almost eight o'clock at night. I have three drafts ready to publish, the rest I deleted, and mom is on solid ground.
I'd love to engage with you in the comments! What are you waiting for?