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Why don’t you get a real job?!" I’m asked as I walk into my grandparents house late for dinner. My hair is pulled back into a messy bun still soaking wet from the five minute shower I rushed through. “Why are your hands covered in scratches”?! "You look a mess!" I try to cover these marks up before handing out to my grandmothers, it always used to upset her or anyone else that saw me. The scratches are no match for my bruised legs. My eyes move down towards the ground and I say “tough day at work” I go back to looking at my phone waiting for my mother to arrive at my grandmothers house as well. Tonight we are celebrating a birthday and I so badly wanted to skip it, but family is family.
My mother arrives and takes one look at me and knows it was a really hard day at work. “How was work?” "You doing OK?" "You look tired?" She asks giving me hug. “Rough day,” is all I manage to squeak out. See what they are failing to see is I just spent the last 12 hours with a student in a hospital. I had to hold his little body down while he was being stuck with needles and fit for an IV. I was fighting with doctors and nurses to just give him a minute.
See, this young man had been fighting a battle since birth, he is misunderstood because he’s different. Before me, he was going through staff left and right, everyone was afraid of him. Big and loud, violent they would say. He’s 12. He's just a little boy. How bad could he be?! 12 years of foster care, 12 years of knowing nothing but abandonment and rough care. I’ll be his direct care! Pick me to watch him eight hours a day! Little did I know what I was getting into.
Vomit is what went down my shirt prior to this hospital stay. As he was vomiting and crying, I was talking to him and telling him he was ok. 911 was called not 30 minutes after this event. 30 minutes it took to get the ER, a wild eyed child with a shunt malfunction in progress. I’m talking to him and holding his hands while he asks me 1000 times what we are doing and where we are going. I explained as best I could, but it made no difference. Here come the tears because he knows whats’s waiting for him inside that ER.
Screaming. Spitting. Biting. Crying. Thrashing around on a hospital bed while I’m being told to move out of the way they are going to restrain him to the bed. “Like, hell you are”! I scream at the nurse. “Give him a minute, just give me a minute with him!” I get him to relax and talk to me, “Don’t leave me” he begs misty eyed. I promise I won’t, and the nurses come in and get him ready for his IV. I hold his hand the hold time and sing to him. "Thank you" he says over and over as I crush all his favorite songs.
All is quiet till it comes time for me to leave. More screaming, crying and vomiting entail. I sit on the edge of his bed and talk with him till he is relaxed. I remind him of his goals and what he is working towards earning from the store at school. I put on his favorite show, tuck him in with his favorite blanket and say goodbye.
Goodbye. This is something I'll be saying for good in a week. I was moving away and we needed to part ways.
I talk to my relief and wish them luck. I leave them with my number just in case it doesn’t go well. I realize I’m running late and need to fight Boston traffic.
I get into my car and sob. I know it’s not appropriate but have become attached to my little buddy. He had been with us for three years. He has been my responsibility for two. He’s been a light and joy in my life and taught me so much about being patient and understanding. I knew this would be hard. I smell like vomit and I’m covered in scratches and bruises from my WWE match earlier in the day. I am emotionally drained and just want to nap. My job was not glamorous or easy, but it was filling and meaningful. I got to see the compassion in other human beings that I didn’t think existed anymore. I got to witness miracles, and millstones.
These are things I can not tell my family because they are awful truths to my job. A rough day is the only thing I can say because that is what it was—a rough day.
“Why don’t you get a real job?” That question would stab me like a dagger. Nobody knew what I truly did or would comprehend it. It was beyond a simple mind and bigoted person. People can be cruel and heartless. I would get the disgusted look when I would start to explain my wonderful job. The things I saw would make you hate the world. People can be monsters and destroy a life in seconds. That drunk driver that just hit that car full of kids under 10-years-old, I'm sure I'll be teaching one of the kids inside that car in a few months how to brush their teeth and count to 10 while answering their questions to what happened to them.
Or, the mother that was addicted to drugs and had a baby born eight weeks early with heroine in their system. I'm sure I'll see that child walk into this building as they didn't hit milestones and come to find out has some sort of TBI due to the rough delivery, oh and the shunt that had to be put in this little ones head because of the swelling on their brain. This was my life for five years. I saw the good and the bad. I saw love, and I saw hope. My job was more than a job. It was my life. It helped me be a better understanding person. It helped me realize that even in a storm—one that had devastated everything, there is something in the rubble that is worth saving.
Love your babies hold them tight and remember, next time you tell someone to “get a real job” really think about it. You don’t know a person 'till you are in their shoes. Stay humble.