Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Who Ya Gonna Call?---Part Three

It's really great for me to be here,
I've won over the pain and the fear,
It's been so very hard through the years,
Been looking through a rainbow of tears,
And still I never really let go of the dream....
("The Dream", Irene Cara)


Papa don't preach, I'm in trouble deep,
Papa don't preach, I've been losing sleep,
("Papa Don't Preach", Madonna)


That second year of nursing school at Shadyside seemed to last forever.

And despite the grueling pace, the mountains of work, and the endless parade of patients we cared for in the hospital, Marla and Cindy and I grew as close as sisters. Or perhaps more like comrades in arms, because it truly seemed like a battle to keep our wits about us as we navigated the never-ending pitfalls which could derail a girl under the tortuous and rocky road of a student nurse.

With each passing week, the nuns seemed to delight in seeing just how far they could push us ever closer towards the precipe of insanity. More girls (and even a couple of the precious few male students) dropped out of the program, and we'd see them sadly packing their belongings, leaving behind empty dorm rooms and empty seats in the classroom--- cruel reminders of what could happen to any of us if we did not study and work as hard as the nuns demanded.

We had started out with 64 students and by the middle of the second year there were only 40 of us left.

I never knew whether to pity or envy the students who left.

By this time I was so numb with the pain of this difficult program that I finally got to a point where I was mostly on a sort of dead-eyed auto-pilot. My routine was simple. I got up at 4 am to study, at 8 am I went to class or hospital clinicals until 3:30 pm, at which time I rushed back to the dorm to change out of my uniform and into scrubs. Then I worked as a nursing assistant on the cardiac ward until 9:30 pm. After that I would return to my dorm room where I'd sit at my desk and study until exhaustion caused me to fall asleep at my desk or stagger into my bed.

In class, I feverishly scribbled down every utterance of the instructors---in fact, I wrote such copious notes that Marla and Cindy begged to copy them for use as their own study guides. And I worked the hospital's wards like a driven demon, making patients' beds so tight you could bounce a quarter off them, bathing patients, doling out patients' meds, and learning how to professionally document my work in the patients' charts. Some days I was so tired that I performed my duties with about as much enthusiasm as the walking dead.

Many times when I approached a patient's bedside to perform some nursing function, I had the insane urge to say: "Move over, honey---I don't feel well myself...."

But somehow I was able to go on.

I hated my part-time job as a nursing assistant on the cardiac ward. Not because I hated doing nursing work---but because the nurses there treated me like a yard dog. They considered nursing students little better than the scum of the earth and they never allowed me to do anything interesting---nay, they delighted in giving me the nastiest, most dirtiest of jobs--- the stuff they didn't want to do.

And do them I did. For instance, I was assigned to perform all the day's groin shave preps for patients undergoing cardiac catheterizations the next day. This was no problem to me with the female patients, but it was absolute hell for me to shave male groins. I was so young, shy, and horribly naive about the male sex that I never seemed to be able to perform that task without much awkward fumbling with the "anatomy", all while stuttering and blushing furiously.

Most of the men I shaved were just as embarrassed as I was and simply laid there, stiffly, in silence, glad when it was over. But, unfortunately, some men were ill-mannered and lewd, and those creeps seemed to take a sadistic pleasure in making the experience as mortifyingly unpleasant for me as they could, taking some sort of perverted pleasure in my discomfort.

Some days all I did was empty and rinse out bedpans. Every commode was equipped with a forceful water faucet so that after you dumped the contents of the bedpan into the bowl, you could then turn on that faucet to jet-rinse out any stubborn bits of poop, pee, or blood left in the bedpan. But the strength of the water jets were so strong that it always caused water to be splashed out onto me-- which meant that the front of my scrubs usually always exhibited damp splash marks colored with poop, pee, or blood residue....

The only task on that ward that I enjoyed was handing out the patients' evening snacks. I'd roll my little snack cart around and chat with the patients while serving them pudding, jello, or cheese and crackers. This was my last job of the evening and so I could actually relax a little, taking time to piddle around trying to find the best snacks to load my snack cart with. And while I was handing them out to the patients I could sit down and chat for a few minutes.

Now don't get me wrong--- as mean as many of those nurses were to me, I was no angel on that ward. Having to endure so many hours of the hateful attitudes of the "real" nurses towards my lowly student-nurse status frequently caused the rebel in me to emerge.

My favorite trick was to "disappear" into the bowels of the hospital for awhile (usually to flirt with a certain handsome young respiratory therapist), emerging later looking frazzled, my scrubs splashed with water, with the excuse that I had been "bathing a patient" or emptying more bedpans. Some nurses fell for it, but a few of them did not and would sneak around trying to catch me in some delinquent pursuit.

The Charge Nurse once caught me hiding behind a curtain in an empty patient room, lounging comfortably on the empty patient bed with my feet up and the TV on--- and I was singing my lungs out along with Irene Cara's character in the hilariously funny movie "DC Cab".

(I don't think she would have been near as mad at me if I hadn't also had my mouth full of chocolate cake which I'd filched off the snack cart...)

As a matter of fact, I watched quite a few good movies while hiding in empty patient rooms. In addition to "DC Cab" I was able to catch "Car Wash", "Aliens", "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", and "Peggy Sue Got Married".

Where was I?

Oh yeah, I was the cardiac ward nurses' whipping post.....

Another time the Charge Nurse became absolutely livid with me because when I answered a patient's call bell who wanted her bedside table cranked down to a lower level, I carelessly cranked the table down smack onto the side rail, completely snapping in half the patient's groinal arterial blood line tubing--- which had been draped over that rail and was connected to a bedside "transducer", a mechanical device which provided a constant reading of the patient's arterial blood pressure.

The patient's arterial blood then began running out of the snapped tubing, down the bed rails and onto the floor--- causing the arterial line's alarm to begin blaring at the nurses' station--- which then alerted all the nurses, one of whom made a mad dash into the room to close off the clamp on the art line to stop the flow of the patient's blood!

God, I thought that Charge Nurse would bust a gasket!!

And for once, I refrained from my usual sarcastic comment of "It could happen to anybody!" No...not this time. I was thoroughly pissed off at myself for such a stupid blunder.

"Goddamm you!" she screamed (right in front of the patient), "Can't you do anything right? Now I've got to call Dr. Cunningham to come in here at 9 o'clock at night so he can put in another art line--- and there'll be hell to pay!! Get your ass back onto the ward and do my 9 pm blood sugars since I'll be in here for the next two hours!"

It was then that I swore to high heaven that I would NEVER, EVER treat a nursing assistant or rookie nurse in a manner like that of this Charge Nurse.

And I have kept that vow throughout my 22 years as an RN....

One of my other duties was to bring the oxygen tank whenever there was a Code Blue-- when a patient had gone into cardiac or respiratory arrest. Whenever I heard the dreaded Code Blue announcement go out over the hospital's PA system, I would listen to see if it was in a room on the ward I was working, and if it was I'd run grab the portable oxygen tank and madly roll it as fast as I could to the particular room.

I'd watch the Code Blue team attempt to resuscitate the patient, heroically working quickly and methodically in the complicated and difficult ballet of the desperate, last-ditch algorithms of procedures designed to bring a hapless patient back from the brink of death. I would watch wide-eyed and breathlessly from the sidelines as they desparately pushed in the lifesaving drugs or shocked the patient with the defibrillator. I admired their skills and abilities, and wished earnestly that I could someday be that skilled...

But for then I was just the lowly student nurse...

But despite all the slave labor "dirt work" I endured as a nursing student, I gritted my teeth and vowed on a daily basis that I would graduate from Shadyside with top grades so that I, too, could become an RN and go to work in the "critical care" arena--- like in an Emergency Room or an ICU.

I wanted to be one of the "glory girls" on a Code Blue Team---and I wanted it badly.

It was on that ward that I heard more rumors about the "ghost of the fifth floor of the nursing school".

It was one night when I was catching a short break in the nurse's lounge. Several of the ward's nurses were in there resting their sore feet, propping them up on chairs. I was in there in an attempt to grab a few minutes to study for an anatomy test the next day. One of the nicer nurses asked me how I was doing and I told her that I felt like my head was going to explode from all the knowledge I was trying to cram into it.

She, too, had graduated from Shadyside. And so I asked her.

I asked her if she'd ever heard of the "ghost of the fifth floor".

"Of course," she replied. "Everybody knows about the ghost. And it's not just on the fifth floor of the nursing school, either."

"Well....what's the story?" I pressed.

"They say it's the ghost of a nurse who once taught at the nursing school," she said. "A nurse from a long time ago---in the really olden days. And she lived in an apartment on the fifth floor of the nursing school. But after she died that apartment was turned into what is now the student nurses' "Skills Lab". Before she was a nursing school instructor she worked as a night nurse on the 4th floor in the main building of the hospital--the Med/Surg Ward. And it was after she died that strange things began happening on the fifth floor of the nursing school--- and also on the hospital's fourth floor."

"Really?" I said, pondering this information. And so I told her some of the things that had been happening in the nursing school---the noises coming from the fifth floor that could not be explained, the strange things happening like furniture moving or faucets turned on in the instructors' offices on that floor, and the fact that 2 girls had left the school that year because they were so frightened of the "ghost" noises they were hearing above them on their ceilings.

"It's the same stuff that happened when I lived in the dorm," the nurse continued. "But do you also know about the stuff that happens on the 4th floor of the hospital?"

I said I didn't and so she explained. And as she told me the stories, the hair began standing up on the back of my neck.

"It always happens on the fourth floor--the Med/Surg floor-- the floor where that nurse used to work before she became a nursing school instructor," she said. "On that floor the night nurses have to get surgical patients ready for their surgeries in the morning. The nurses have to bathe the patient, remove all jewelry, remove fingernail polish, remove their underwear, and put a gown on them. That way, the patient is ready and day shift can send them to surgery without delay."

"Yes--go on?" I pleaded, urging her to continue, hoping against hope that nothing would interrupt the nurse from telling me the story.

"Anyway," she continued, "Once in awhile, around 3 or 4 am, the night shift nurse will come to the patient's room to get the patient ready for the morning surgery. But the patient will already be ready for surgery! Bathed, gowned, jewelry and fingernail polish removed---and it confuses the hell out of the night nurse because she knows she didn't do it. And so then she'll ask all the other nurses if they did it--- but all of them deny doing it!"

"Well who did it, then?" I asked in shock, knowing the answer before she told me.

"Well....." the nurse said, smiling a little at my fright, "The night nurse would then go back and ask the patient who it was that got them ready for surgery. And the patient would always say something like 'it was that old-fashioned nurse---you know, the one in the really long nurse dress and the funny starched cap--- and she was wearing really clunky oxford-type shoes'...."

"GET OUT OF TOWN!" I exclaimed. "You're lying like a big dog!"

"No I am not," the nurse stated simply. "Ask anybody. And especially ask any nurse who works on the fourth floor."

"You're just joshing me because I'm a lowly nursing student!"
I accused.

"Nope," the nurse said. "Like I told you, you can ask anybody."

And I vowed that I jolly well WOULD ask around. I wanted to get to the bottom of this, oh yeah, I was going to find somebody to tell me the truth, once and for all.

So after I left my duties that night, I went to the fourth floor and asked three nurses there. After laughing in disdain at the "stupid rookie", they all backed up the story. They acted like I was some kind of idiot for doubting the tales. Apparently it was such a well-known enigma that nobody ever bothered to worry about it anymore.

"Oh hell," one of them said, "That ghost nurse gets patients ready for surgery so efficiently that whenever us nurses complain to the doctors that we're busy, they'll say something like 'Well, if you're that busy then get the goddamn ghost nurse to help you'!"

"And not only that," another nurse stated. "But there's been a couple times where a patient's call bell went off--- and when the nurse went to see what they wanted, the patient was unconscious and in respiratory or cardiac distress--- near death! And the nurse was able to call a Code Blue and revive the patient, saving their life. But the patient had been unconscious and so couldn't have been the one who had pushed the call bell! So it had to be the the ghost nurse who had done it!"

Still worried that the nurses were telling tall tales to a rookie, I promised myself that I'd find somebody who I knew would NEVER lie to me--and so I decided to ask one of the no-nonsense nursing school instructors whenever I had time.

Meanwhile, Marla, Cindy and me plugged onwards as best as we could, becoming the best of friends throughout all the blood, sweat and tears of our brutally rigorous workload, struggling to perform the best as we possibly could---and never losing sight of our distant dream of someday becoming RN's.

And then there was the problem of Cindy...

Cindy was in deep, deep trouble.

As I wrote in the previous chapter, a regrettable thing happened when Cindy naively, and stupidly, allowed herself to be seduced by a lewd hospital maintenance worker--- and had become pregnant as a result.

And Marla and I, for the life of us, simply COULD NOT figure out what to do about it! For days after Cindy tearfully told us the whole thing, we burned our brain cells out attempting to come up with a solution---all while Cindy cried hysterically in her dorm room, desperately frightened that somebody besides me and Marla would find out about the whole thing.

But no matter which way we looked at it, we knew that the only solution was that Cindy would have to drop out of school to have the baby.

Which meant that she'd never become an RN....

Shadyside was such a difficult 24-hour a day program that it was highly unlikely that Cindy could handle being a single mother while attending nursing school. And her parents were sure to disown her for becoming pregnant anyway, as it was a well-known fact that Cindy's home life was very abusive and neglectful.

And then something happened which I could never in all my born days have foreseen---something which would forever challenge my feelings about the nuns---and Catholicism in general....

I was summoned to Mother Superior's office.

Oh hell's bells, I thought to myself disgustedly. What in the damn tarnation had I done now?

So, still dressed in my nursing uniform from taking care of patients on the orthopedic ward all day, I made my way to her office on the fifth floor. I knew I looked a bedraggled and pitiful sight---a patient had puked on me, I had spilled sombody's poop on one of my shoes while emptying a bedpan, and I had a smear of somebody else's blood on one of my sleeves.

I knocked on the huge oak doors of her office and heard Mother Superior holler "Come!"

Dammit---she sounded like she was in an even worse humor than usual......

But as I entered her office, I was startled to see Cindy standing there, flanked by Mother Superior and her next-in-command cohort, Sister Kathleen, whom I disliked heartily.

Sister Kathleen had never smiled a day in her life and had repeatedly informed me that I would most likely "end up in hellfire and damnation for my wicked foolishness".

All three of them stared at me, somber and unblinking--- and I noticed that Cindy's eyes were red and swollen from crying, a number of crumpled Kleenexes clutched in her little hands.

"Whatever it is, I didn't do it," I remarked sarcastically, yet unsuccessful in my attempt to look nonchalant and unafraid.

"Close the door, Bo," Mother Superior said. "And sit down, both of you."

So Cindy and I sat down. I searched all three faces for clues as to what in the Sam Hill this was all about.

"As you know," Mother Superior announced, "Cindy is pregnant."


For once in my life I was speechless--- and I could see that this pleased Sister Kathleen. For she knew that this was the one situation for which I had no sassy retort or sardonic quip.

Nobody spoke for a minute. But I felt both the nuns' gaze---it was almost as if they were assessing me, guaging my possible reaction to whatever doom they were going to pronounce. Confusion spread throughout my brain and I almost began to cry myself.

And then Cindy dropped the bomb. Weeping pitifully, she blurted out a statement which would haunt me for many years to come......

"I'm going to have an abortion!" she blubbered, tears streaming out of her swollen eyes.

My jaw dropped.

I was aghast.

"And the nuns are going to pay for it!" Cindy added, a stray bit of snot dripping down out of one of her nostrils, which she dabbed with a Kleenex.

I was shocked to my very core. The room began spinning and I felt as if the whole scene was surreal. I fleetingly wondered if I was still asleep and was experiencing a horrible nightmare.

"An abor.....abortion?" I squeaked. "Cindy....for God's sakes, are you sure that's what you want to do? And what the hell do you mean that the nuns are going to pay for it?"

"It's true, Bo," Sister Kathleen said solemly. "Cindy has made her choice. And we are going to loan her the money for it. She will pay it back after she graduates and starts working as a nurse. And nobody is to ever, EVER, know of this---EVER! Do you hear me? We are counting on you to keep silent."

"Keep silent?" I replied incredulously. "Do you even have to ask? Good God, of course I'll keep silent!"

I still felt dumbstruck and sat there a minute more....and then it smacked my brain hard, like a wooden 2 x 4....

"Hey!?" I cried, "I thought you Catholics were against abortion! Hell, even non-Catholics are against abortion! I'm a Baptist and we're against abortion! So why would you, of all people, condone this? And what's worse---why would pay for it? I mean, it's one thing that you paid the money to keep my car from being re-possessed by the Repo-Man---but now you're going to pay for an abortion???"

At this, Mother Superior suddenly slumped, lowering her head as if the problems of the world were weighing upon her shoulders.

And then she sighed heavily....and spoke.

"Listen Bo," she began gently. "Cindy is only 18 years old. If she has this baby she will never be able to graduate from nursing school. And then what will she do to support herself and a baby without any job skills? Work at Burger King for minimum wage? And her parents, if they don't disown her entirely, probably won't give her an ounce of help--- especially once they find out that the father is a married janitor. And even if they did try to help her, they are poor and can barely support themselves! In fact, it is Cindy's great aunt who is funding her tuition to attend Shadyside---because this is her one and only chance at making something of herself. Becoming an RN will mean job security and decent wages for the rest of her life. This is her only alternative. And you are her best friend...."

At this Mother Superior paused before going on. And then she continued...

"And thus, Bo, you you are going to help her in this."

"Help her?" I stuttered, trying to come to grips with the situation. And then a dark dread began spreading through my very being.....

"Uh...what do you mean 'help' her?" I asked stupidly, in a stunned whisper, a vague suspicion creeping into my thoughts.

And then all three, Mother Superior, Sister Kathleen, and Cindy looked hard at me--and then Mother Superior listed my dreadful instructions.

"You are the one who is going to take her to the abortion clinic."

"On no I'm not!" I exclaimed quickly. "No-siree-Bob. I'm not taking ANYBODY to a damn abortion clinic, you got that? What the hell are you thinking?"

Suddenly Mother Superior gathered herself up to her full height, her stern face darkening in an ugly anger, her eyes boring into mine like fiery daggers--- and she pointed an accusatory finger at my stricken face--- and explained just EXACTLY what I was going to have to do...

And she laid it on the line in crisp, clipped sentences. And all I could do was stand there and listen in pale mortification at what the awful task was going to entail.....

"You know perfectly well that there are daily picket lines of anti-abortion protesters in front of the Pittsburgh abortion clinic," she began. "It's in the news all the time. They actively attempt to bodily prevent people from entering the clinic. I've heard they even commit what could be considered actual assault on the patrons of the clinic."

And then Sister Kathleen piped in.

"Cindy will never make it on her own---she is much too timid and chicken-hearted to endure such a struggle and would never make it through the picket line."

"And so it is up to you to get her through that picket line," Mother Superior added. "You, Bo, must help her cross the picketers and get into that clinic."

I was horrified.

Because I had seen the news. I knew what happened at that clinic. And I knew exactly what horrid experience Cindy and I were both in for if we did this.

Because in those days there were no laws prohibiting throngs of anti-abortion protesters from standing in extremely close proximity to the clinics' front walkways. There was no prohibition of them from getting so close that they could even stand in formation right on the clinics' front lawns, walkways, or parking lots. They could also line up and flank the street-curbs and sidewalks in front of the clinics' doors-- sometimes even forming blockades right up to the clinics' veritable doorsteps. As of yet, there was no federal law declaring it illegal for anti-abortionists to actively prevent patients from entering such clinics.

Anti-abortion protesters could picket and protest wherever they wanted, and their tactics included linking arms to block the clinic's door, verbally harassing anybody trying to break through the lines, and forcing anybody trying to get into the clinic to look at morbid and frightening posters on which were nightmarish pictures of aborted fetuses. I'd even seen news stories of hundreds of abortion protesters lying down on the ground in front of such clinics, laying on the ground in fetal positions in an attempt to "portray" unborn babies in the womb.

And the abortion clinic in Pittsburgh was no different. In fact, the protesters which picketed this clinic were a particularly vicious and violent group. They would scream hideous accusations at anybody trying to gain entry into the clinic. And some of their shocking behaviors included thrusting jars inside of which dead fetuses were preserved in formaldehyde right into the faces of anybody trying to gain entrance to the clinic, forcing them to look at the jar's contents, as well as forcing them also to look at poster pictures of fetuses which had been aborted, piece by horrifying piece.

The placards they carried warned of God's hatred toward anybody who underwent an abortion. And they were so efficient at blocking the way into the clinic's door that many prospective patients literally had to battle their way through the screaming mob.

I'd even heard of stories where the police had been called out to stop the protesters from preventing clinic patrons from entering the premises---whereby the police had found it necessary to bodily escort the patrons safely through the mobs and into the clinic door. And I'd also heard that some of these episodes had degenerated into completely violent and chaotic melees, with some protesters getting arrested by the police.

It would be a nightmare even for the bravest of heart.

"No way, Jose!" I hollered rudely at Mother Superior. "What you need is a 6-foot tall football linebacker to get her into there! There is no way in hell that I'm going to go through that mess! And you can't make me!"

"Please, Bo!" Cindy pleaded pitifully. "I'm so scared! And I know I can't do it by myself! And you're so strong, Bo! PLEASE TAKE ME, BO!"

And then, for the first and only time I ever heard it, the usually subdued Mother Superior raised her voice and actually shouted at me.

"You most certainly WILL do it Bo!" she screamed. "You WILL take her, do you hear me? You will get her in there--and you will wait for it to be done---and then you will bring her back out!"

"Why ME?" I screamed right back in righteous indignation. "I'm frightened to death of crowds! Why does it have to be me?"

"Because you're her friend---and, also because you're probably the only one in this whole school who has the stubborn will and personal grit to do it! You MUST do it!" she beseeched. "You are going to get her through that wall of protesters and that's FINAL!"

At this, Sister Kathleen took up the baton.

"You're tough, Bo. You've always been tough. And you're Cindy's best friend. We know that you can do this, Bo. And do it you MUST, for Cindy's sake! You're going to get her into that clinic. Have we made ourselves clear?"

And then I threw my last verbal salvo. "I don't think my parents would approve of this whole deal!"

"YOUR PARENTS ARE IN BRAZIL!!" Mother Superior thundered.

And that statement silenced my protests. Because as I stood there, my eyeballs bugged open as wide as a gigged frog's, I realized that I had no further defenses against the two old nuns. They had beaten me...as they always had.

"WE are your parents here," she stated flatly. "And we have endured all your ridiculous shenanigans for a year and a half---and so it's high time for you to grow up and rise to your responsibilities--- and repay us for all that foolishness."

"You will take her tomorrow morning, before any of the other students get out of bed," Sister Kathleen stated. "The arrangements have already been made."

Your parents are in Brazil....

* * * * * * * * * * *

And in the end, I did it.

I slept fitfully the night before, dreaming of Cindy, Mother Superior, and Sister Kathleen all screaming at me in that dreadful office. I dreamed of every frightening thing I had ever heard of about abortions. I dreamed of screaming babies. And I dreamed of all the horrid things I had heard that anti-protesters did on picket lines.

Your parents are in Brazil....

The next morning dawned a sad dull grey. Cindy was waiting for me when I knocked lightly on her door. She and I had both been officially listed on "sick call" by the housemother in order to quell any questions from other students, and we hastily sneaked out of the building, the Housemother letting us out through a little-used side door, a baleful expression on her face.

But of course my other friend Marla knew....we were a threesome and knew each other's every secret. I knew Marla would worry all day until Cindy and I returned from our awful mission. During the night she had slipped a note under my door that read simply: "Lock and Load...."

To this day I get tears in my eyes when I remember that godforsaken day.....

Sister Kathleen drove us to the abortion clinic, parking across the street, away from that thing which we were afraid of---the large group of protesters. Because even though it was very early in the morning, we saw that the protesters were out in force. It was a horrifying spectacle.

Wordlessly, Cindy and I got out of the car and stood still for a moment, trying to gather our wits about us. And then I steeled myself---and grabbed Cindy's arm--- and I walked us across the street, two frightened young girls about to try and enter an abortion clinic....

Sure enough, the protesters swarmed upon us like a pack of rabid beasts, quickly surrounding us and stopping us dead in our tracks. As I grasped Cindy's arm even tighter, the protesters linked arms and blocked our way to the clinic's door while chanting and screaming their virulently horrible messages....

one lady screeched.

a man hollered.

"THE BABY WILL BE ALIVE AS IT IS TORN OUT OF THE WOMB, YOU MURDERER!" another man screamed right into Cindy's left ear.

Cindy began crying hard and I felt panic rising in my throat. "Come on, Cindy!" I hollered, trying to sound confident. "We can get through these assholes!"

Suddenly, a protester shoved a placard in front of Cindy's face. Enblazoned upon it was a picture of multiple bloody, dead fetuses lying in a metal trash bin.

"Oh my God! Oh my God!" Cindy screamed, now sobbing hysterically.

Suddenly, an enraged priest burst through the throngs to stand directly in front of me. He rudely thrust a large Crucifix into my face, flattening my nose with it, and started blasting me with Bible quotes...


Your parents are in Brazil....

Cindy began bawling so hard she could hardly breathe as the protesters stepped up their shouting---and now they were physically pushing us backwards, pushing us away from the clinic door, which looked like it was miles away. It was clear that these rage-filled protesters had no intention of allowing us entry into the clinic. I glanced behind us and noticed that Sister Kathleen was sitting, motionless, in her car--and her eyes were boring laser-like holes into mine.

And then I got angry.

Really angry.

And I realized that, right or wrong, these damn protesters were assaulting us! And they were preventing Cindy from her civil right of entering any damn clinic she wanted to.

And then I felt a surge of strength begin racing through my veins--and I decided right then and there that, by God, if I died trying, I was going to get Cindy through this wall of screaming lunatics if it was the last damn thing I ever did in my life!

I yelled at the priest, who was still rubbing that Crucifix in my face. "Get the FUCK out of my way, Father!"

And with with my free hand I shoved him as hard as I could in his chest and out of my way---and thus was able to drag Cindy a few inches further.

And so I began punching and shoving and kicking at the protesters---which surprised them---and I began screaming right back at them in their faces while literally dragging the bawling Cindy behind me, inch by inch, one step at a time, through their masses. There must have been 50 of them against us two small girls.

Cindy was bawling out-of-control by now, and the protesters were screaming even more violently---but I screamed blatant cuss-words right back at them. I put my free arm out in front of me like a football player would do to force his way through an opposing team towards the field goal posts, forcefully pushing people out of my way. And I began a mad dance of kicking out with one leg and then the other, literally kicking people out of my way. And each time I punched, shoved, or kicked one of them out of my way, I gained a few more inches through the crowd.

One protester tried to separate us by grabbing Cindy's other arm and pulling on it--- and I wheeled around and slapped that person right upside their head, causing the person to drop Cindy's arm like a hot potato.

"Do that again and I'll SNATCH YOU BALD!"
I warned, jerking Cindy away.

And I kept on fighting our way through the crowd.

Finally, we had made our way to within inches of the clinic's door. For some reason I glanced back. And my last view of Sister Kathleen was of her still sitting in the car....

She was holding her face in her hands.

And I knew that she was crying too......

After madly forcing our way through the linked arms of two protesters, I was able to punch our way through the last few inches to the clinic door, whereupon it was swiftly opened by a waiting clinic staffer. And then two other clinic staffers reached out and bodily pulled both Cindy and I over the door's threshold and into the clinic. The door was then quickly locked behind us---and Cindy and I stopped and stood still to rest, sweat pouring down our brows, bruises on our arms, breathing heavy.....

But we'd made it.

* * * * * * * * * *

That night I laid in my bed crying hard. And I cried until I didn't have any tears left in me to cry.

Your parents are in Brazil....

I cried for Cindy and the awful choice she had made.

I cried for Mother Superior---and the awful choice she had made.

I cried for Sister Kathleen---because I had finally seen the chink in her impenetrable armor.

I cried for the three of us best friends---Marla, Cindy and me---because I knew in my heart that the three of us would never, ever be the same again.

I cried for myself, for having to go through the frightening, traumatic experience of dragging Cindy through that angry mob.

And I cried because I didn't have anybody to cry to---because, as Mother Superior had so bluntly stated, my parents were in Brazil.

But most of all....

I cried for the precious little baby....

* * * * * * * * * * *

That night, I heard chairs scraping the ceiling above my room....

And for the first time I admitted to myself that what I was hearing wasn't simply "bad acoustics" from the student dorm room below me.

I knew it was the chem lab's stools moving around on the floor above me.

And I knew that whatever (or whoever) was moving them was not human....

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3).






Nurse Stella said...

You are a remarkable woman. I shed a tear for all of you as I read this. Thank you for sharing this painful story.

Kim said...

Holy freaking cow. I don't think I took a breath the entire story. Wow.

Steph said...

Thank you for sharing some of your life stories with us. What a strong woman you are, definitely remarkable as Nurse Stella said. You are such a gifted writer .

danielle said...

wow. i dont think i can even comment here yet, still have to take it all in. but they were right - you are a strong woman. and because of that and so many other reasons - i send you one gigantic texas sized hug.