The VigilanceVoice
Sunday-- March 17, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 187

Emergency Room Vigilance


"Vigilance & The Pill Of Terrorism

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, Mar. 17--"I can't breathe!  My throat hurts.  My mouth burns!"
        Suddenly, a pleasant night of friends and family turned into hours of Terror.   Our three-year-old granddaughter had found a "piece of candy" under the living room coffee table, a small pink pill that she assumed was "candy" and chewed and swallowed it.
        Minutes prior the house was filled with laughter, joy and happiness at celebrating our daughter's birthday party.  For the past two days I had brewed my favorite marinade and soaked chunks of steak in it for fondue.   Gifts were bought.  The grandchildren and our older daughter had brought the two grandkids by for an evening of fun and revelry.
        That all changed instantly.
        "Mommy, my throat burns!"
        Thank God for Vigilance.   A critical phone number was posted near our phone, one of many emergency numbers.   1-800-222-1222!   It's a number anyone should have near their phone, right next to 911.  It's the number of the Poison Control Center.
        I had been showing pictures of the Saint Patrick's Day Parade on our large-screened television hooked to my computer.   Classical music wafted through the air, suppressed by the strained Voices and controlled panic of Sarah, our granddaughter's worried mother, grandmother, and her Godmother, our birthday daughter.
        The fondue was boiling, all the food was out, and instead of diving into the feast, Terrorism had struck swiftly, silently, in the form of a little pill Sarah had mistaken for "candy," and was now gasping and crying, clutched by her mother, surrounded by her godmother and grandmother in a nest of protection and controlled panic.
          Sabra, Sarah's mother, was on the phone, trying to control her Voice, speaking to the Poison Control Center hotline expert, explaining to her what had happened.
        "She is three, almost four.  About thirty-five pounds.  She said it was a pink pill.  A small one.  She says she can breathe.  Her mouth burns."
        In the midst of the Terror calmness descended as the Poison Control Center told her to make a list of all the medicines in the house.    Sabra asked Sarah to describe the "candy" she had eaten.    The pill was isolated to three possibilities.   Then we rushed to the nearest hospital, Beth Israel, on 1st Avenue, in New York City, about ten blocks from where our apartment was located.
        Sarah didn't want to go.  She was crying.  "I don't want to go to hospital.  I want to stay at G-Ma's."
        Sabra clutched her closely.  "We need to see a doctor," she soothed.  "We're going to Beth Israel Hospital."
        Sarah cried wildly.  "I don't want to go to Israel, Mommy.  I don't want to go!  I want to go back to G-Ma's."
        I accompanied them.   Sabra had insisted the rest of the family remain at home.   Sarah's father, Joe, had recently been to Israel on a peace mission with the Catholic Worker.  During his visit to help fight for peace with other Catholics showing solidarity against the embattled country, a popular pizza restaurant where he had been earlier was bombed by Terrorists, killing and injuring many.    On the mission he and others arranged for an innocent Palestinian girl who had a bullet lodged in her brain to be flown to the United States and operated on.   Sarah's mind related "Israel" to "Terrorism."   She thought she was being taken to where her daddy's life had been put at risk.
       For the next three hours we sat in a crowded waiting room, with other parents, grandparents and children--coughing, crying, trying to be patient as the limited emergency room staff took the most threatened children first.    We entered the facility about 8:30 p.m. and left three hours later.
       Fortunately, the toxicology expert was on duty when we arrived, and as we went over the list of medicines, he assured us that any of those listed did not put Sarah in any immediate threat, but that we should wait for three hours to assure she was all right.
       She was back to her normal self as we sat and played dolls at a small, children's table.   When she chewed the pill, it had affected her throat, but the residual effects were non-threatening.
       The Emergency Room was a potpourri of ethnicity.  The doctors were from the Middle East, a young man and woman.   The parents of one sick child were Hassidic Jews, dressed in orthodox clothing and the father wearing a large, pie-shaped black hat with ringlets dangling down the sides of his face. Another family was Hispanic, another African American, and the guy sitting next to me with his 13-month old son who was struggling with an ear infection, was Irish.  He hailed from the Bronx.  And finally there was Sarah and Sabra, Irish-English Catholics.  We had given Sabra her name because we liked it, unaware at the time it was a "Jewish name," choosing it because of its beauty after discovering it written in my my wife's 'family register' dating back to the early 1800's.    One of the nurses was an older gay man, fastidiously attending the frustrations of the parents eager to have their children seen by the limited, overworked staff on St. Patrick's Day Eve..
       As we waited over the three hours, I studied the waiting room ethnic complexion.  Parents of Vigilance of all races and creeds, some diametrically opposed in their belief systems, all bonded together in an Emergency Room Pediatric Waiting Room--the barriers (if any existed) between them melted by the love and concern over their children. 
      The rifts that cleave human beings seemed absurd when it came to the children.  None of them knew any differences between themselves and their "brothers and sisters of innocence."
      They played with the beads together, and looked into the "funny mirror" attached to the waiting room desk that made them appear tall and skinny.   
      One baby cried in pain, calming only when its mother rocked him in the stroller.   A young African-American boy sat in a wheelchair, rolling it back and forth.   An Hispanic family paced anxiously outside the waiting room, preferring the openness to the crowded circle of parents and children crammed in the narrow space waiting for their names to be called.
       I knew that if Afghanistan mothers and fathers of the Taliban were here, they wouldn't be concerned about a jihad, but would be focused on the same agenda as all the others--helping their children become well.  It seemed such an absurdity that adults choose beliefs so distant from the innocence of childhood, and trained themselves to separate their beliefs from others.
       But the Terror to the child's welfare erased the sham of convictions to which one might cling to create "hate," or "anger," or "violence" against another group.    The Vigilance over a child's safety neutralized the "fear," the "intimidation" and "complacency" of Terrorism's vile formula.
      Finally, we were discharged.   Sarah was in good spirits.  She wanted some ice cream, a good sign that she was back in tip-top shape.   The scare had been good.  Sarah's mom went into great detail to explain why Sarah should never pick up anything and eat it without asking her mother or father or grandparents or whomever was watching her.  
      Sarah nodded.  "I will never do it again," she said.  "I will never eat anything I find again, Mommy, unless I ask you or G-Ma."
      Sabra went a step farther with her Vigilance.  "And, if someone gives you something to eat, and you don't know them, you don't eat it. You say, 'No Thank You',  O.K.?"
      Sarah nodded.  "O.K.  Can we have some ice cream now!"
      Out bad comes good if we look for it, I thought.  Sarah's scare had taught her a lesson, hopefully, about ingesting anything that she found--even at G-Ma's and G-Pa's house.  
      It also taught us the importance of having the number--1-800-222-1222--close at hand so that in one phone call experts on the other end of the line can provide direction and guidance.   Had we not called, we might not have known to make a list of all the medicines in the house so the toxicology experts would have a spectrum of dangers to review.
      This morning I scoured the web for data on "children poisonings" and found some revealing information about keeping medicines and household cleaners far out of reach of children.  In our case the "Terrorist Pill" had been vacuumed up, but the vacuum had been under the table.  The pill must have fallen out of the vacuum onto the floor.
      I also was impressed by the diversity of the patients and parents.   Vigilance, the goal of protecting ones self and loved ones from Terrorism's harm, had shown its power once again.  Parents of all different shapes and origins converged to one place--the hospital.   They were indeed Parents of Vigilance, even if they hadn't take the Pledge of Vigilance.   They shed their particular beliefs for the safety of their child, and were obviously as concerned about the welfare of other children in that waiting room.
     I wished I could put an 800 number up by every phone besides 911 or 1-800-222-1222.  This number would be the Emergency Vigilance Number.
     When one was struck by the "Pill of Terror," or ingested some feeling of hatred, anger, resentment, fear, complacency toward another group of individual or themselves, they could call it and speak to a "Vigilance Crisis Counselor."
      The antidote for the poisons created by hate and fear of others would be Courage, Conviction and Action.   The Vigilance Counselor would remind them they were all children sitting in an Emergency Room, concerned abut the welfare not only of their own "Child Within," but reminding them to be cognizant of the "Universal Child Within."
      These counselors would have the person calling make a list of all their hatreds, resentments, angers, fears, intimidations and complacencies, and then flush them down the toilet, or rush to an Emergency Vigilance Room where Sentinels of Vigilance would pump the bile of human animosity out of their bellies, removing from them the poisons of Terrorism.
      To achieve this goal, I would need to add another digit to the standard seven phone numbering system.  
       CALL   1-800-V-I-G-I-L-A-N-C-E.            

 Go To Mar. 16--Osama's "Last Stand!"--Serving Up His Head

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