It was a slow day in the ER. A very slow day. In fact, it had actually gotten to the rare point where the staff had gone beyond enjoying this newfound peace. Theyd done all their charts, had them signed off, and wiped the board. Theyd played basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, and even a pick-up game of football in wheelchairs. Theyd gone through the stage of arguing about the pettiest things this time it had been what colours they should use to write on the admit board. And now they were scattered around the ER, just sitting, filing nails, playing with hair, doodling on scraps of paper and generally twiddling their thumbs in the hope that the MICN would soon beep at them.
Okay, I have a question?
Shoot, shouted Dave, who had resorted to picking fluff from the wheels of a wheelchair.
Why did you all become doctors? And nurses?
You mean, other than the money?
What is this, some Mills and Boon novel?!
The reactions were not exactly what Carol had been hoping for.
Oh cmon people! You must have all had your reasons! The money is a bit over rated for that to be the only reason you gave up, what, at least four years of your lives to end up here every day of your life, elbow deep in other peoples problems and bodies! There has to be some motivation behind that!
Well why dont you tell us why youre a nurse? said Cleo.
Dave retorted, Yeah, dont expect to ask the question and then not answer it yourself!
Besides, wasnt there that time you got into med school?
You got into med school? Jing-Mei looked at her.
Yeah. Thanks for that Mark.
Wow. And you turned it down?
I love being a nurse.Abby nodded in the background, but was the only person to know what Carol meant.
Is that it?!
Aww, cmon, I didnt ask the question to have it backfire on me youre dodging the point!
It WAS just the money!!
You dont wanna know, hollered Carter, from the end of the hallway, on his way to the on-call room.
What sort of question is that anyway?
You guys are such spoil sports. Im going to the lounge. Carol got up and stomped off, good-naturedly.
Well excuuuuuse me!
Touchy subject dya think?
Leave off her guys it was a good question!
Well, I didnt see you
It looked like the Petty Argument Stage was on a cycle, and had returned with a vengeance.
Carol went into the lounge and opened the fridge, unaware of the sleeping doctor behind her as she backed away to take a look and stumbled into the chair.
Oh. Luka, Im sorry. I didnt see you sitting there.
Thats okay. I was only dozing anyway.
Looks like you have the right idea. Were all ready to bite each others heads off out there.
You are? Why?
Ah, you know, everyones getting a bit stir-crazy. Too long cooped up together with no distractions!
Oh. I think I know what you mean. There are still no patients?
Nope. Not a one.
So what brings you in here? You do not like the tension?! That juice has been in the fridge for over a week, I wouldnt drink it if I were you.
Carol paused, mouth around the rim of her glass, before taking it away from her mouth slowly and tipping the contents down the sink.
Thanks for that. Yeah, its a bit too tense out there, I asked a question that they didnt like out there, got ridiculed into here.
A question? It must have been offensive?
No, at least, I didnt think it was. Unless there is some unwritten law that doctors take with the Hippocratic Oath that I dont know about .
What was the question?
I wanted to know why everyone had become doctors. Is that such a bad thing?!
Ah. No, no it is not. But the reasons arent always something that people want to talk about.
They arent? Well, no I guess not. It just seemed strange to me.
Do you want to know why I became a doctor?
If you want to tell me I mean, I dont want you to
Thats okay, I do not mind.
I became a doctor because it is a profession that commands the utmost respect from everyone in my country. Being a doctor meant that I was no longer defined by my religion, or my upbringing, or where I lived. I was no longer Luka Kovac, citizen and Croat, I was Dr. Luka Kovac. To become a doctor in Croatia, you have to study very long and very hard, and you have to sacrifice your life to helping other people, whether they are Serbian, Croatian, Serbo-Croat, Muslim, whatever. They are all people and you save people, not groups. Our country respects this, that doctors do not discriminate, and so they should not feel the hate because of their backgrounds either.
My family was not rich, but we were not poor, so I could go to medical school in Rijeka if I got a job at the same time I was still in medical school, in my final year when the war began. I felt lucky, because I knew that I would not be in any danger as I was a doctor. And my family would be safe as well, I had been married since my first year there, and I had two children. I thought it would not last for long anyway, because the NATO forces would make Milosovich stop. But it went on and on, and I got very worried for my family, because we lived in a Muslim village with my wifes parents, and the Serbians were starting to burn villages like theirs. My wife believed, as I did, that they were safe because I was a doctor. She had been one of few people to stand by me while I went through the process of learning medicine; other people did not want me to do that because it took so many years and my family was young and needed money that I would not earn through learning. She took the children out and worked in the fields near our home for a small amount of money, while I would work at weekends at a hotel in town as a doorman.
But now things were different, I was earning a good amount of money so she did not have to work any more. So now it seemed that everything was safe for us we would not becomes victims of the ethnic cleansing as it was labelled. But I did not escape it, because I had to treat some of these people, their victims, in the hospitals where I worked. I even began to hear of people being shot in the head by the soldiers, straight, bang, they are dead. With no warnings. And that they would try to hide the bodies so no one would know. I started to make plans for us to move out of the country, to move to America where I had cousins and we would be safe there, here. But it was hard to do because so many people were trying to do the same thing there were so many refugees flooding into countries like Italy and Austria, and it was very hard to escape because Milosovichs people were holding everyone in. If you wanted to cross the border, you had to do it at night and hope that the soldiers did not have their glasses, the goggles that can make them see in the dark.
I worked at three different hospitals, in the three different emergency rooms, but the hospitals were starting to be three big emergency rooms. And when NATO started bombing it was even worse, now we didnt just have to worry about being murdered by our own countrymen, but now our saviours were attacking us as well, although the didnt mean to. When NATO forces arrived, I was asked to go and work in the field as they say. Thats a funny way to say it, isnt it? I worked with a lot of American doctors in their medical tents where refugees poured in everyday, with malnutrition and exhaustion, and some even with arms and legs missing where they had been shot and not treated well. It made me angry, but so scared for my family. I knew we were not safe as I thought we would have been. Now the killers did not care about who they were killing, from my point of view. My profession no longer protected me.
I arrived back at our village one morning at dawn, and the sun was rising, and all I could see was bright, bright light over my home, I ran in and called upstairs. I thought that my wife would be very angry, that I had woken her up so early when it was the weekend and she wanted to stay in bed, and that she would be even more angry when the children woke up and wanted to play, but I wanted to know that they were safe after all I had seen that day. Much to my relief, I heard her feet on the floorboards upstairs and she came down and whispered in my ear, very, very quietly, she said, You must not do that again! We will always be safe, they will never hurt the family of a doctor. I said to her she was right, and I thought about how stupid I was, how I could have woken up everyone so early for no reason, and I went back up to bed with her. But then I got a call just minutes later, from a few miles away where a bomb had blown up a large farm and injured two young boys who were working there. So I went out there, I said I was sorry to my wife, and I told her to tell the children I would see them soon, and wed go out and play some football or just go out for a walk But she was asleep.
I got to the farm and it was very bad, I could see. One of those boys was not going to live whatever I did for him. I treated the other boy, he was just lying in the field, he had been thrown 15 feet by the explosion and lost a leg, but he felt no pain. He asked me if he was in heaven, because he could no longer feel any pain, and I told him, no, you will be better soon, it is just analgesia. I saw that he was taken to the nearest hospital in his uncles car, but I was so tired that I could not go with him. I walked back to my village.
When I arrived, it was silent, like it was so silent that the silence itself was loud you know? I was so tired that I didnt think, I knew something was not right, but I left it, I just wanted to get to bed. I went up to my house and I went in. I didnt even notice that the door was gone. I put my coat on the table, then I moved it again to under some paper because it had blood on it that I did not want my children to see. I started to go up the stairs, but I did not go all the way up, because when I got nearer, I saw a huge hole, a wide gaping wound in the back wall of my house. I could see the field behind my house I could have stepped out of that hole and straight into my back garden. And on the floor I saw a drop of blood. And I stood there for so long, I did not want to go up any more because if I did, I knew that they would not be there. Or if they were, they would just be spread over the walls, the floor, the ceiling, anywhere but peacefully asleep. I sat there on that step for so long, and I never went any further. When I did move, I went back downstairs and I went outside. There was no one there, they had taken everyone. I saw over by the hay shed, there was something there, something. I thought it might be them, still looking for me, and I wanted to run. But they did not move, and there is nothing that could have stayed so still and quiet for so long as I stood and watched it. So I went closer, and I got too close because I saw that it was a sight from history, something that was a mistake when it first happened, but now it was happening again, it was a pile, a pile of bodies. All the men, and all the boys and the male babies of the village. My neighbours, my neighbours children, my friends, and to one side my son, my four year old little boy.
I got the papers through for my trip to America a week after it happened, and I took them and sailed out of the country the next day on a ship that was going for medical supplies.
I got here, and I stayed for a year learning your medical practices and doing some simple lab work at hospitals. I knew a lot of American medicine from working with NATO doctors, so I had a head start you could say. After a year I was granted a Green Card so I could work properly and I found my cousin in Chicago, and moved here. I guess you know the rest, eh? What is it they say? The rest is all history.
It was strange, as we sailed from Pula, Milosovics soldiers waved at me, and I waved back. I do not know why. I waved at them and I thought that there is good in these people. Even though they did what they did, and I do not understand it, even after the murder of my family, I still believe that you can come out of a situation like that hating them; hating everyone because I lost the ones I loved so much. Or you can mourn your loss and curse those who did it, but accept that for every bit of bad in people, there is also good, and so an individual is not to blame. They are badly led in the wrong direction, it is those in power that we should really be afraid of. War can bring out the worst in people but also the best. So I can either spend my life in fear and hate of everyone because I have seen the worst, or I can live in the knowledge and hope that the better part of people will shine through because I have also seen the best.