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A Sane America Would Build Statues to a Utah Nurse

I can think of very few jobs that are harder, bleaker, and more pitilessly demanding than being a nurse working the night shift on a hospital burn unit.

Picture the flourescent-lit corridors at 3 AM , the cots along the ward, with scorched and scalded men, women and children in various states of agony.  Night after night, nurse Alex Wubbels treats those sufferers and comforts them, knowing that her treatment and comfort will never be enough—that’s the Sisyphus deal that burn-unit nurses are willing to accept, every time they clock in for another shift.  Then suddenly there’s a whirlwind of chaos and ambulances and swiftly-rolling gurneys as the victims of a car-fire are rushed down those flourescent corridors.  And as Alex Wubbels is busting her ass to care for a hideously-burned crash victim—who may die—Utah cops barge in and demand that SHE DRAW BLOOD FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS BURN VICTIM, though he is suspected of no crime.

What kind of regime demands blood from unconscious burn victims?

What kind of police force orders a nurse to draw that blood from his veins?

Alex Wubbels said hell no.

Lately it feels like the evening news is full of signs and portents.  Look at the imagery here: Donald Trump’s laughably phony and poorly-delivered “fire and fury” threat towards North Korea means nothing, but in this Utah parable we have blood, fire, even a creepy touch of vampirism—the police state as Nosferatu.  And yet with all this madness swirling around her, somehow Alex Wubbels was able to proceed by means of a fixed moral compass, and refuse the order.

So, of course, the cops not only arrest her, they jump her, cuff her, and drag her out of the burn unit and into a squad car—and if that image doesn’t capture this moment in America, nothing does.

In a sane country, the refusal of Alex Wubbels–on behalf of her patient, her vocation, and her sense of justice—would be honored.  Are we still building statues in America, to replace the ones of generals on horseback that may soon be coming down?

If so, how about a statue of a night-shift burn-unit nurse, hands cuffed behind her back, shouting her defiance?

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John Eskow is a writer and musician. He wrote or co-wrote the movies Air America, The Mask of Zorro, and Pink Cadillac, as well as the novel Smokestack Lightning. He is a contributor to Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence. He can be reached at: johneskow@yahoo.com

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