Although there were several patient interactions I had throughout the summer, there was one specific interaction that stood out to me. I had the honor of meeting a patient, who I will refer to as John, one day during my morning shift in the Emergency Ward. As I approached John and began asking if he needed anything, the conversation took off just like it had with several other patients. However, after we began talking about how John ended up in Bellevue Hospital that day, I could have never imagined what I was about to hear. John was sleeping in front of a church when he was robbed. A man came over, slashed John’s forehead and fingers, and drained any belongings that John had on him. Although John was in an immense amount of pain, he conveyed how he was actually grateful for this hardship; this gave him the opportunity to escape his unforgiving and harsh environment, even if it was just for a few days.
Thinking that the conversation had gotten a little too dark for me, John light-heartedly changed the topic and asked me what my role in the hospital was. As I explained Project Healthcare and why I was volunteering, John smiled and explained how he hopes to get an internship one day too. He explains that he graduated from high school when he was 18, but that was also when he started getting into trouble and was therefore unable to attend college. However, John hopes to ultimately attend college one day and study criminal justice so he could combat all of the struggles that he faced in his everyday life. When I asked John more about college, he says right now the possibility is not feasible due to financial concerns. However, he always sits in on college lectures when he has the opportunity, as he loves to learn and be in that safe and educational environment.
John also elaborates on his plans once he gets discharged from the hospital. Currently, he is in search of a job. When I ask where he is looking to work, John says he would be more than willing to work anywhere, but his record scares employers off and makes finding a job extremely difficult. John spent 40 days in jail due to a third-degree assault. When I asked about how John got into this situation, he only conveys how he is working on his anger management issues and that he hopes to next time just walk away if a similar situation presents itself.
John was a 23-year-old man, yet he taught me more in the short 45 minutes we talked that I feel I could ever learn in a classroom setting, through literature or even through my family and friends. Despite the fact that John has a record and is currently homeless, he is so motivated to get his life back on track and ultimately break this cycle of violence and poverty. There are so many individuals throughout New York City and the world who are struggling with terrors I can’t even begin to imagine. Although I will never truly be able to understand what these people face everyday, and nor do I want to pretend to, I do know that I want to devote my life to serve this population and truly support these individuals in any way that I can. I may be saying this with a naïve perception, but I promise to do my best to keep all of the emotions that I felt while talking to John alive, and use that to remind me of my future goal. The anger, passion, and inspiration I felt in that moment, and the helplessness that I felt soon after when I realized there wasn’t much I could do to help John is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I will use this helplessness as my driving force in whatever I do, and have it serve as a reminder of why I am pursing this field. Being John’s friend in those 45 minutes may have given John nothing more than a little bit of distraction in the boring Emergency Ward, but this interaction has given me everything.