Today in the US it is a national holiday to clebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. He is a fgure I admire enormously, but each time this day rolls around, it is not what I remember. Instead I remember the first national holiday back in 1982. Iwas working as a Candy Striper volunteering in the emergency room. For some reason, I was working on a monday, normally I worked on a Friday. Candy Stripers were only allowed to work in Emergency 4-6pm as it was normally quiet and all you had to do was make beds.
Not that night.
That night it was bedlam.
The worst case was a young girl who had been left home alone by her parents as they both worked. She was about 11. The girl and a friend polished off a quart of vodka. Her parents had found her collasped. If I close my eyes I can still see them sitting with her orange library card in their hands, trying to make sense of it as the doctors worked to save her life. 'She's a good kid,' her father said over and over.
One of the nurses who was a friend explained it was why she hated new holidays -- always, always there were problems.
That shift was probably the busiest I saw. Someone else had over dosed on drugs and I had to help clean the room up, a minor car crash with a drunken woman, and all the time, there was this child in surgery and her parents softly crying.