Sometimes our lives boil down to one decision: a decision to say yes or no, a decision to destruct or repair. And sometimes life is in the hands of another person’s decision.
Recently my life or death was in the hands of someone else and their decision. A person whom I didn’t know, had never seen before and that I couldn’t pick out in a line-up today.
A person, full of endorphins and testosterone, who busted down the front door of my patient’s house while I was conducting a skilled nursing visit.
I have been a registered nurse for over seventeen years and I have always cared for the marginalized and disenfranchised.Those struggling with mental illness, trauma, poverty, impending homelessness and addiction. This fact often leads me to homes located in unsafe parts of Springfield, Massachusetts.
But I always thought I’d be alright if I visited patients very early in the morning. Everyone is asleep, right?
I was wrong.
In the middle of an early morning visit there was a knock at the front door. My patient went to the door without opening it and asked who it was. The knocker asked where the patient’s son was. My patient told him, through the closed door, that her son was not home.
She came back into her room where we were conducting our visit and then the assailants broke down the door. ‘Oh shit!’ I screamed. They entered the bedroom, dressed in black and wearing black masks. One had a gun. He came toward me. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor next to the bed.
Did I get shot? I was bleeding a lot, but breathing. My blood was running down my face into my eyes and mouth. The assailant returned to me, demanding we tell him where the money was. Then I felt the barrel of the gun being pushed into my scalp, and heard a whisper, “You better shut the fuck up, now.” This was it. This was decision time. We were on the fourth floor in an eight-family building. He needed me to be quiet so he could complete his mission. But he made a decision. He decided not to pull the trigger.
But I was still unsure. Had I gotten shot? They left the room. I was breathing. I could hear. I could see, albeit through the blood in my eyes. Maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t shot.
Then I started to wonder. Was I going to bleed to death here in downtown Springfield on the fourth floor of a cockroach- infested apartment?
Is this what my life had boiled down to? A decision whether or not to pull the trigger made by a man I had never met before? And the answer I received in my head at that time was, “Yes.”
The other message I received at that time, on the floor, bleeding, was, “Pray for your assailant.”
For this man, the same one that held my life in his careless hands, was living by the gun, and may very well die by the gun. If this is his way of operating in the world, he is in a whole ton of trouble.
They left the apartment. I was breathing and praying and alive.
Today I am raw. This assault happened less than three months ago. I am licking my wounds physically, emotionally and mentally. I have PTSD, am not working or driving and I am seeing many medical and psychiatric professionals each week.
The goal is for me to return to the same level of functioning. This will take time. But this is my story and I am praying still.