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The beacon on the hill! Harborview is infamous in Seattle, a place of great healing, a place most people in the city hope to never visit. A massive employer, with 24/7 staffing. It's the only Level 1 trauma center in the state, and also serves parts of Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. If you've ever seen those red and white helicopters flying fast and low over Elliott Bay, chances are good they're on their way to one of the three landing pads on top of the Harborview parking complex.
To enter the emergency department at night, you pass through metal detectors. It's a nod to the fact that if you're shot in the city, you're probably going to end up at Harborview. And what if the person who shot you wants to make sure the job is finished?
Opened on First Hill in 1931, Harborview began its life in a much more modest way, as a six-bed welfare hospital in 1877, then called "King County Hospital". In 1906 it was in Georgetown, and had 225 beds. Now, after its recent expansion, it has 413 beds.
Hospitals seem like dark places to people who don't work in them, or visit them frequently. They represent our fears, the places we least want to be. But then, I think about Fred Rogers' quote about his mother:
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."
The fact is people choose to work in hospitals because they want to help people. If you look at a hospital and see fear, remember to look again and see professionals who will be there for you or your family in times of the most dramatic need.
But then, not every story should be about the good things, should it? There are a million stories in the naked hospital, and I only have foom for five writing prompts.
- The rain is coming down in slanting waves, and maybe it wasn't smart that the bird was flying at all in this, but when somebody needs help, those helicopter pilots push their luck. The EMT was sitting in the ambulance, and after the wheels touch down, the EMT waited for the rotors to stop like regulation says. But then the helicopter door buckles. A face presses against the windshield in a scream. The door flies off the side with amazing force, and a dark blur exits into the inky night. The EMT rubs their eyes. What the hell was that? The rain beats down in waves.
- Parking passes are impossible. You work in the hospital? You talk to one man. He's cornered the market. He knows how the system works. He's greased the wheels, and now you have to butter up to him if you don't want to pay through the nose for the day rates. He's one of the highest powered surgeons in the city, so this is just a fun side game to him. If he doesn't like you, there's no way you're gonna be able to park. Too bad you're the auditor who is here to investigate him.
- It had to happen on her shift. She had a lot of beds to cover, but they put those two in the same room. One, a machinist biker who got his knee smashed by a little old lady in a Mercedes. Totaled his body and his Softail. The other, a computer programmer who got drunk and fell of a balcony. All was chill for most of the night, and then the two of them started talking politics. Now it was full on war between two immobilized pissed-off men. And their families.
- That little damn button. It takes away the pain, but it makes everything groggy and sleepy. Still, the patient pushes it when the pain makes everything else seem inconsequential, and tries to sleep the rest of the time away. But one time, that reassuring beep doesn't happen. It's been hours, surely. And furthermore, where is the nurse? Someone should have come in twice in the time its been. And the patient was hungry. Where could dinner be? And why does it feel like the entire hospital is deserted? In fact, why couldn't they see the lights of the city downtown like usual?
- This was what they always did. When first in college, they wandered every hall in every building, finding every nook and cranny. Mapping all the places they could go, and the places they could go, but probably weren't allowed to. So now, in their first weeks as a residence, knowing the sprawl of this massive building was something important. Is there roof access? Can you get up to the walkway around the tower? Which elevators are the fastest? What are the most efficient routes? What they didn't expect was that door in the lowest levels of the basement. And more than that, who could have expected what, and who, was behind it when they found it unlocked the first time they tried?