A mother holds her child in one of the hospital's pediatric tents
Again, last night I worked in the hospital's emergency room, my task was to suture lacerations as they came in; I was certainly not at a loss for work. I trolled the triage area looking for anyone with a bloody dressing; a quick examination and I would usher them into my little work area within the tent.
Sitting on the pew-like benches was a tiny girl atop her father's lap. She held a stained piece of cloth over her forehead with her own hand. She couldn't have been more than 5-years old. As I took a gentle look I silently prayed that I would be able to stick a Band-Aid on it and send her happily on her way. This was not the case, she had a 4 cm "lac" to her forehead that was going to require a few interrupted sutures. I cringed at the thought of having to cause this innocent little girl further pain in her life.
I took them both back into the tent and laid her down on a worn cot so that I could get a better look using my headlamp, often the only light source that we have at night. She was stoic, unafraid, staring at me with a look of curiosity, almost daring me to assault her bravery. I wanted to sit a bit with her before I had to inject her with a syringe of lidocaine which is often the most painful part of the procedure. We smiled at one another, she played with my light, and I patted her on the head. The interpreter explained to her that it was going to sting a bit, but try to remain still.
She closed her eyes as the steel needle sunk into the gaping wound, not so much as a wince. Her face remained calm and passive almost as if she were asleep. Her bravery penetrated me, this 5-year old girl, in the face of something that would make me cringe, laid there determined to be brave.
It took only a few minutes to place the three sutures, but not even so much as a whimper. In the end I touched her forehead and told her "finished"; her eyes fluttered open… a smile from me to her. Little fingers reached up to explore the new dressing. Her father thanked me and he scooped her up in her arms and disappeared down the dark street. Bravery is not the sole providence of the strong.