We All Bleed Red
“We all bleed red.” They say in the protests on the streets. Those in the Black Lives Matter movement. Those protesting the killings of the black men, black women, black children.
I watched the videos. Some I wish I could un-see, but I know to understand the horror, you have to see it.
The blood that slowly seeped into Philando Castille’s white t-shirt as he laid dying at gunpoint for a broken taillight, or a wide set nose–it was red.
The blood that stained the street from the broken femurs of the Frenchmen, the children on the ground in Nice that were hit by a truck–it was indistinguishable from Mr. Castille’s, it was red.
The white latex gloves on the black hands of the trauma surgeon in Dallas trying to save the lives of the police officers, ambushed while serving–they were stained red.
The drag marks, left by the leaking bullet holes from the bodies, as their friends, or strangers, pulled them from the Bataclan Theater in the back alley, gunshots still audible–they were red.
The floor of the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine church members were gathered to pray, was stained red with their blood–the same color as the confederate flag that hung at the Capitol Building. The same color as the single rose that adorned the desk of State Senator, Clementa Pinckney, the day after his blood stained that same church floor.
The blood that dripped from the the forty nine bodies that did not make it out of Pulse nightclub on Latin night at one of Orlando’s best known gay clubs–it too, was red.
The dozens of people bleeding out in the South Sudan refugee camp from a mysterious illness that scientists can’t identify and can’t treat, much like ebola, but not–their blood on the dusty, war-torn ground is red.
“We all bleed red,” they say.
I spend a large portion of my life in doctor’s offices, in hospitals, and lately, in an infusion center.
Patients line the walls seated in recliners, hooked up to pumps attached to wheels. Needles in our arms or our chests turn to clear tubing that run up into rhythmically beeping pumps with bottles and bags of chemo and fluids and even red blood.
We have one bathroom, so when we need to go, we have to get up, unplug our pumps and try to walk to the bathroom. Sometimes there’s a line of people attached to pumps waiting for their turn, hanging on to the walls for support. Sometimes one of us will pass out. So we all try to let each other go first when we know we can stand a little longer.
We have a blanket warmer, but it can only fit a few blankets at a time. So when we get one, we replace it with a new one for the next person.
We bring water to the person sitting next to us who can’t get up to get his own.
We give tips on how to get through the symptoms that are surely coming.
We are a team–each fighting a different battle, but we fight together.
I have learned that at some point, all of us will end up in these recliners. We all will get sick and die–and if we are lucky, it will be when we are old and comfortable in our beds with a lifetime of experiences behind us. But, nothing we do will let us escape the reality that we all end up in the same place in the end.
And since I have been in the infusion center recliner, the things that once separated me from others no longer do.
We are black. We are white. We are hispanic. We are poor. We are rich. We have insurance. We don’t. We are old. We are young. Some of us die. Some of us survive.
We have become one, these patients and I.
No matter what medication we have hanging in those bags on the intravenous poles, that connect to those beeping pumps, that run down through those clear tubes to those needles in our arms–It all hits our blood. The same, warm, bright red blood.
You see, we all bleed red.