Janice and I met in Dallas last fall, at the American Christian Fiction Writers’ annual conference. I’d been sort of stalking her (though I probably shouldn’t confess that in the presence of law enforcement) during the conference. I admire her work and we share a publisher, so I figured we should meet. I couldn’t find her. Then at breakfast on the final day, she introduced herself saying she’d been hoping to meet me.
In truth, it makes sense on a much broader scale: cops and ER nurses. They go together like cold pizza and stale coffee. Hold on, I mean that in a good way. If you’ve ever worked a holiday night shift (during a full moon) you’ll know that there are times when that dubious food combination will save your life. You’re grateful. Just as I was grateful working in a small ER many years back. A full-moon night shift. When I needed a police officer, stat.
I was young, so squeaky-new that I still ironed my scrubs. The hospital was rural, small. On the night shift, it was just me and the doc. It was my duty to jostle him awake when a patient arrived for treatment. The community had one police officer on patrol at night, not much older than I was. Officer Pease—that always made me smile, Peace Officer Pease. But that night was anything but peaceful . . .
The man who comes through back door is tall, bone-thin, agitated, and jumpy. He makes me nervous right away. There’s a young child with him. Runny nose, sad eyes. Has an earache the man says. And needs to be seen immediately, he insists, refusing to give medical information or fill out any paperwork. I try my best to gently explain that we need at least the basics. He begins to pace, raise his voice—and then a fist.
Trying to wake the doctor is like prodding a hibernating bear.
The man in the corridor paces, curses . . . escalates.
The doctor mumbles he’ll be right there. What’s the big deal about an earache?
The man tells me he has a shotgun in his car. Takes off at a jog toward the parking lot, child bouncing his arms.
I tell the doctor.
He locks the door to his sleeping room. (You will not find this man as a hero in any of my novels).
I dial the hospital operator–no outside lines in those days. Explain quickly what’s happened; tell her to call the police.
My heart is in my throat; I’m grateful there are no other patients . . . I wonder briefly who’ll take care of me if I’m shot. Will the doctor consider that a big deal?
I’m hiding near the doctor’s locked door—hear footsteps in corridor beyond. Peek around the corner of the wall. Freeze. The blood in my head rushes toward my feet.
Officer Pease is standing there, spread stance, gun in hand— pointed my way.
If I’d had cold pizza that night, I’d have thrown it up. The officer looked as pale as I felt.
Apparently the hospital operator told the dispatcher, “A man is threatening our nurse with a gun.”
My hero (not the doctor—did I mention that?) was coming in fully prepared to save me.
As it turned out, the agitated man in the car outside did not have a gun . . . and I do believe we went on to treat his child that night.
Eventually the full-moon-crazy subsided for all of us.
Officer Pease and I probably shared some burnt coffee . . . and mutual respect. I was grateful he was there for me that night, and he was grateful I’d be there in the ER if, God forbid, he drew his gun another time and it didn’t go well.
Or if, simply, his own child had a miserable earache in the middle of the night.
Cops and ER nurses. We get each other.
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