December 18 – Emergency Room Encounters

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

“Hi! My name is Pat and I am a volunteer here in the Emergency Room.”

This is my opening line as I enter the room of the most recent patient to arrive at the Carroll County Hospital’s ER. Thursday mornings will find me there to bring some small comfort to the patient’s and family members while waiting for the necessary medical procedure to occur.

My offerings consist of a warm blanket which is stored in the largest oven I have ever given witness to. I liken the warmth of the blanket to that of being encased safely in the womb before birth. For the procedure that many of the patient’s await, will in many cases, result in being given a new lease on life.

Family members are offered orange juice, apple juice or ginger ale to quench thirst for many of them have arrived in great haste. Their thirst is quenched, but also their need to have an attentive presence as they tell me the reasons why it became necessary for their loved one to be brought to the ER. Many of those stories are heart-rending.

One that I recall with clarity was that of a man who needed what I call a “listen to.” As he awaited his diagnosis he shared with me the horrors of a childhood that was fraught with abuse and neglect.

“See this scar on my neck?” he asked as he shared it had occurred during a tragic accident in earlier years. “I have had two kidney transplants and two liver transplants.”

The medical procedures were daunting to say the least. However, instead of the expected anger about this childhood of abuse and drug addiction his having a religious transformation brought him relief and comfort. That in his later years he found some reasons to be grateful that he was alive. I doubted seriously that I could have been so grateful.

As he was wheeled away for yet another medical procedure he implored me to return when the procedure was completed. He so very much needed someone to listen to his story which is what I do best as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.

Upon his return the M.D soon showed up and reluctantly shared with him that the diagnosis was that of cancer. I sat with him in silence until he dressed and returned home. No, I will never know the outcome of that encounter, but I have the assurance that my being present and listening to him brought much-needed comfort.

Patricia Roop Hollinger is a retired Pastoral Counselor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor after having served for twenty-three years in a mental health setting. She and her husband, who dated in their youth, married in 2010. They reside in a retirement community with their cat, Spunky. Pat enjoys reading and writing.


2 responses to “December 18 – Emergency Room Encounters

  1. Your skill as a listener is one of the greatest gifts of humanity. Sounds like you followed the best career path possible. Thank you for sharing. I know, as a teacher, you touched that man.

  2. Being able to sit in silence of someone’s suffering, confusion, uncertainty …. is a true gift. At times in my life I have appreciated the company of strangers in what you have described; random encounters at just the right moment.

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