Monday, April 03, 2006

8 5 3

I am disappointed with myself. I am guilty of failure to act, and frankly, it is not the first time. Sometimes opportunities to help people present themselves so quickly that I am caught off guard. However, this time I definitely could have said something.

My friend and I were out for a late lunch the other week, and there was a woman in her thirties not ten feet away from us. She was dressed nicely, her hair and makeup were done—everything appeared to be in order. However, as she moved forward in the line, it was then that we noticed her arms. All along both arms from shoulder to elbow there were bruises in different stages of healing, with most of them being along the inner, medial aspect of her arms. This was not an accidental pattern of injury. There is no way that those bruises could have been the result of a one time fall. And if she had fallen, it’s unlikely that both arms would have been bruised so symmetrically.

My friend and I looked at each other. We both agreed that the markings had to be the result of violence. The woman walked off. She appeared to be alone but still, neither one of us said or did anything.

Here’s a few statistics I try to keep in my head:

-One in eight women will develop breast cancer.
-One in five women will be victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives.
-One in three women will develop ischemic heart disease.

At the time, I didn’t know what to do. I did not want to embarrass or anger her by a comment on her appearance. I also felt somewhat at a loss for words as I don’t even know the names of any of the local women’s shelters or support hotlines. It can be frustrating to deal with these types of situations, but I still should have at least said something to her. Ultimately, everyone makes their own choices in life, but at least if I had drawn her attention back to the issue, it might have been the start of a decision to change her situation.

For the rest of that day, I felt pretty bad about the situation. Although it’s becoming more of a distant memory now, my inaction still bothers me. At the same time, I know that it is pointless and ineffective to keep dwelling on the incident. But really, what kind of doctor sees someone in need, and then does nothing? I was again reminded of that afternoon when I ran across this little gem the other day: “But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person?” 1 John 4: 17

The best I can do now is to determine how I could have better handled the situation. For starters, I think a simple, “Are you okay?” would have done nicely. That way if she didn’t want to talk about it, it gives her an easy exit. At the same time, hopefully it doesn’t come across as judgmental. And a little research on local shelters is definitely in order.


On a much lighter note, today I ran 3.27 miles—which is a new record for me. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to add another .25 miles as I had kind of backed off a little on my workouts this past week, but I did it!


I don't know if you can appreciate this from the picture or not, but see those shower curtain rings? Those are actually binder rings, like from an office supply store. This apartment is wacky!


~~Silk said...

Having not seen the bruises, I can't judge, but I can offer something for your consideration. Since the bruises could have been easily covered, and she chose not to cover them, I conclude that she is not ashamed of them. So it's possible, even probable, that they are innocent. I have bruises all over my thighs (and a few on my upper arms) from flinging heavy things around in the basement. They could also be from rough sex, and she wears them as a badge. So I don't think you failed her by not asking. You didn't have the kind of (even slightly) intimate relationship where you could.

Now if she were your patient....


Chris said...

Those times in life hit pretty unexpectedly sometimes.

But don't beat yourself up too much because first, she had not presented to you as a patient, so you were not a doctor then, you were a person.

Another thought just came to me. Maybe it wasn't fate, chance or whatever's intention that you were there to intervene for her. Maybe, just maybe, she was there to change your life. Maybe this is going to sit in your mind and drive your life in a way that will end up helping many, many more people than this one woman.

Great entry Kate.

Kate said...

Thanks for the comments. I hope that they were badges, Silk. And thanks for putting it in a different perspective, Chris.

Anonymous said...

I heard someone say once that the most important thing in life is to be aware. Or I made it up myself. But it's still true. Life is full of surprises, but when we are aware of what's happening, that prepares us for the next one. I think that by reflecting on this woman, you are preparing yourself for the next time.

Anonymous said...

I tried leaving a comment twice, but I can't tell if you're receiving them or not. Anyway, I think you did the right thing. Being aware is often the most important part of life. If I were to see a misbehaving child in a supermarket, my choices would be limited in what I could do without pissing off a stranger.

Kate said...

I posted all of your comments so you could see that they did go through.

I have my comments set so I have to view and approve them before they get posted to avoid spammers and such. Sometimes it takes a while for me to check my email and post them. Sorry for any confusion, and thanks for stopping by.