Friday, April 20, 2007

Compartment Syndrome

My response to really horrendous events is to shut down, the classic shock response. It’s not a reaction I’m particularly proud of, but it’s like my brain absolutely can’t compute whatever it is has just happened and I simply block it out as best I can. This head in the sand approach isn’t new to me, nor is it something I have to work at. It just is. This is especially true for things like the Virginia Tech shootings and 9/11, where it is so easy to feel that there is nothing you personally could do anyway. Part of it is the control element, in that if you feel you have any control, real or perceived, over a situation, it makes it easier to grasp. I don’t take anything that happens to my family in this manner, by the way. I anguish and obsess and carry on shamelessly. It’s more evident in the events that impact me strongly, just not personally.

When you consider the kinds of nursing I’ve done it makes sense, really. On a daily basis I see massive trauma, unspeakable acts against other human beings, families whose lives really are irrevocably changed in that clichéd blink of an eye. I have been the one frantically giving chest compressions to a teenager all of us in the room knew was already dead while his mother made deals with god just outside the door. I’ve watched sons look at their mother on a ventilator and in a coma and listened as they told me that their last conversation with her had been an argument over their behavior. I’ve taken care of people who have had “routine” surgery go horribly wrong. I’ve finally come to realize that control really is an illusion, as much as I hate to admit it. Blocking these things out is sometimes the only control I have. Because lets face it, if I allowed myself to remember it all, I’d never let my children leave the house. They wouldn’t be alone. I’d never leave either.

And then all of a sudden worlds collide. Yesterday morning someone called in a series of bomb threats to our school district and all the schools went on lockdown status. All the schools were already in session. I was at work and found out about it when we got an alert that we were on a special protocol to handle potential mass casualties. Potential. Mass. Casualties. There are fifteen elementary, four junior high and two senior high schools in our district, in addition to at least three private schools. I have kids at two of those schools. The district was not cancelling class but parents were able to pick up their kids if they chose to. The private schools closed. The police were frantically tracking leads. It was pretty nerve wracking.

Then the kids started to freak out. Upper grade kids were sneaking into the bathrooms and making cell phone calls begging their parents to pick them up. All across town, people left their jobs to get their kids. At the grade school level with each picked up kid, the ones left got more and more anxious. We ended up getting all of our kids, based on phone calls from two of them wanting to come home. The Film Geek had to cancel his classes for the day to stay home with them. By the time the police had taken someone into custody and given the all clear, at least a third of the students district wide had been pulled out, not counting the schools that had closed. It had been a very long day all around.

Today, however, is a new day and all of my kids are back in school. I’m not happy about it, but neither do I have my head in the sand. The reality that is our society hit a little too close to home yesterday, and I don’t think I’ll be blocking it out any time soon. No matter how hard I try.

No comments: