Michael Morse - Rescuing Providence

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Updated: 44 min 39 sec ago

Other people’s emergencies

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 09:35

Waiting is the worst part, listening for the sirens in the distance, listening to her soft sobs in the bedroom, knowing she doesn’t want me to know how much it hurts.

The engine company first, Warwick, RI Fire Department Engine Co. 6 from West Shore Road, great guys, polite, serious and efficient. Even in their borrowed yellow truck from Cranston they manage to look good. I tell them what I can, she has MS, hard to walk most days, impossible today, sudden onset abdominal pain, right side, 10 out of 10.

She jokes through clenched teeth, “the house is a mess,” though it is gleaming, and the guys tell her so. The ambulance arrives, guys half my age, looking just as worn out as I did.

A quick but thorough assessment and she’s in their chair and gone, into the rescue, ekg, IV and all of that. I let them take her, knowing she is in good hands.

The house is still, deathly quiet as I gather her things. I’m overwhelmed with lonliness as I get an unexpected glimpse of life without her, and her presence in my life is the only thing I can think of, the only thing that matters.

Stuff in a bag hastily thrown together will have to do, little did I know it would be three days before we get home. Kidney problems. Waiting for follow up. Tests inconclusive. Pain intense.

Life is funny; we just can’t see how fragile it is, until it punches us in the face.

Waiting now, no sirens, but the painful sobs keep coming. And I thought responding to other people’s emergencies was hard.

Categories: Syndicated Columnists

The political climate?

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 11:20

“The current political climate” is a phrase that describes how dysfunctional life in the United States has become. The words are used by the media and politicians, as well as by people at coffee shops, bars and dinner tables, to strengthen their position on hot topics: Donald Trump, racism, Supreme Court nominations, global warming and gun control. To name a few.

The words are written or spoken, and all who read or hear them are expected to understand without question that there is an ideological war raging between right and left, and we are all embroiled in it.

I think we all might be a little crazy, and that the current political climate is in our heads. The people we have elected to represent us are often elected because they have promised to fight for us. In most elections, the fighter gets the votes and the diplomat goes home.

This philosophy holds true in the strange world of politics, but not so much in the lives of the people affected by it. We the people fight as a last resort, not as a matter of course. We understand that there is more to life than grandstanding, attacking another’s position and winning. We have no choice, we are in this together. Our world is not black and white, 50-50, or left vs. right.

For our society to function, it is imperative that all involved understand that every one of us has something of value to offer. The complexity of life demands it. Our world would fall into irreparable chaos if each of us, every moment, fought to be right. Travel would be catastrophic, peaceful gatherings reduced to riots, education impossible and high-quality health care an unobtainable dream.

Human beings have learned the value of understanding another person’s views, and right of way. We understand the laws of nature, and follow them without question. It is truly miraculous and validating that 300 million people are able to exist in peace, be productive, help those in need and truly care about everybody else.

The distractions we are bombarded with daily do not define us. We are far more important than President Donald Trump’s tweets, or a Supreme Court nomination and the circus that surrounds it. It is difficult to ignore the drama, and oddly comforting to choose a side and live in an echo chamber of like-minded people. But that ultimately leads to resentment, disappointment and despair.

“The current political climate” is exactly what we allow it to be. I refuse to succumb to the mantra that my beliefs are in stark contrast with half of my fellow citizens. I have far more in common with people I disagree with on political matters than I have differences.

I know that I like meatloaf, punk rock, kombucha, the NFL and Nike sneakers. People close to me despise all of those things. But we all love each other, and most of us love meatballs, rock music, sweet tea, sports and cool T-shirts.

The devil is in the details, and we have become obsessed with focusing on the details that divide us. What is good and oft forgotten is the graceful dance the vast majority of us perform daily.

Providence Journal Op/Ed by Michael Morse, 1 Oct 18

Categories: Syndicated Columnists

Spanning Generations

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 17:05


I always try and remember that what we do spans generations. . .


The fire started in the kitchen, he told me, his mother and aunt had been drinking, and forgot about the pan of oil on the stovetop. It ignited, then before they could put it out the stove caught fire. It was an oil stove, he said, before they had natural gas. He was in the attic bedroom with his brother when he smelled the smoke, and heard the screams from downstairs.

The fire spread quickly, the entire first floor went up, then the flames came after him and his brother. He was terrified, and thought he would die. His brother went to a window, and stood on the ledge as the fire trucks approached, but he couldn’t wait, and he jumped. A branch from a tree punctured his side, and he died shortly after hitting the ground.

My patient patient waited, a six year old boy, alone in an attic, fire approaching, heat intolerable, smoke choking him, but he waited, and the firemen came, and picked him up, and covered him best they could and carried him out of the house.

We sat in silence for a moment then, and I looked again at his leg, his entire calf and shin covered with scars from the skin grafts. The scars went all the way up he told me, but those firemen saved his life, and would have saved his brother, too, if he had waited.

“You fellas do a heck of a job” he said, as I checked the flow of the IV, and rechecked his vitals. He’s in his sixties now, has had four heart attacks, lives with a defibrillator implanted in his chest, and deformed legs, and a lost brother in 1954.

The sixty-something year old man on my stretcher still had the sparkle of the six year old kid whose life was forever marked all those years ago as he told me his story, and let another generation of Providence Firefighters do their job.

I closed my eyes for a moment, and pictured the old Jakes as they must have looked back then, and realized they were likely younger than me when they saved my patients life the first time. But to Albert it doesn’t really matter, because when he needs us, we are there.

Categories: Syndicated Columnists