When Carly was 5 she fell while climbing on the metal jungle gym at school and a bolt ripped open a gaping hole under her chin.
The school called us to take her to the emergency room. The school nurse had a bloody towel pressed under her chin.
Claire drove and I took over the towel.
At the hospital, a young doctor took charge. He got Carly on a gurney and wheeled her to a side room.
Carly was a sturdy child. When she didn’t like something she let the world know. She didn’t like the gurney. She didn’t like the little side room. She really didn’t like the bossy young doctor. Her screams of outrage were deafening.
An older nurse rushed in to see what was going on.
What the fuck are you doing, she asked the smart young doctor.
The emergency room got quiet.
What the fuck was going on was that the doctor needed to have Carly hold still. She needed stiches inside and outside to close up the gouge. She wasn’t about to hold still so the doctor had taped her to the gurney and was getting ready to sedate her.
If it was me listening to the story I’d be thinking, where are this poor child’s parents?
Me and Claire?
We were being good. Following directions. Frozen by protocol in the orange plastic chairs with all the other proper citizens. I am a social rebel but, up to then, in practical matters I went with the experts.
This was a hospital.
He was a doctor.
He knew what the fuck was going on.
The nurse cut the tape holding Carly down.
Get the father in here, she told the doctor.
Why don’t you come in, the doctor said.
I was on my way already because we could hear every word from the little room on the side.
I held Carly’s head. She didn’t like it but I was there and I said it would be OK.
The doctor stitched her up.
He started to tell the nurse about the next procedural steps. She cut him off with one scathing glance. She helped Carly off the gurney, took me by the arm and left the doctor to clean up on his own.
Doctors, she said.
That was the turning point for me. When I realized having a voice is everything. When I learned that best practice and experts only go so far. When I began to cringe when people said, ‘the research shows’.
Don’t get me wrong I love science, but to me the heart of science, the heart of democracy, the heart of right choices is all about questions and seldom about answers.
Today we have unparalleled opportunities for projecting our voices. We have the tools to broadcast live. It only takes one person to start the process. Just one of us to say,
What the fuck is going on?