She's a nice woman; a little thin for her height, but solid muscle and bone. She had a brain tumor in an odd spot; although we managed to get it all out, it still had an impact on her legs. She's learning to use them now, just yesterday she walked 300 feet with only a gait belt.
She's the head of the SWAT team for the town two counties over. Not something you'd expect a pretty blond to be doing for a living. But she is, and she's apparently very good at it--good enough that the Thin Blue Line has been in evidence 24 hours a day outside her room since her surgery.
See, when a cop gets hurt in the line of duty, it's a tradition for the other cops to sit outside his or her room, one at a time, all day and all night long. I don't know if they run errands or just sit and eat sandwiches and read the paper, but I've seen them in every case where a cop has ended up at our hospital.
It's more unusual for cops to pull their vigil when one of their own gets hurt, or gets sick, outside the line of duty, but that's what these guys and women are doing. On their own time, they come and occupy a chair outside her room. Inside, there's a party going on--somebody brings in grinders and a sixer of beer, and shares everything with the nurse ('cept the beer, of course; it wouldn't do to drink on duty) and we all have a nice time.
Three rooms down is a gangbanger. He got part of the top of his head taken clean off by a bullet about a week ago. He's beginning to come around now, but he's going to have problems with speech and spatial relations for the rest of his life. His room is quieter. When his mom or aunties show up, there's a lot of talk but not much laughter. Sometimes, they pray.
And outside his room, on a chair, down the hall from the cop, is one of his buddies. Every hour around the clock, in shifts, they come to sit and keep vigil in the same way the cops do.
The khaki shirts and brown pants clash a little with the tattoos and blue bandannas, but we're all getting used to it. Grinders and beer in one room, wings and Pibb in the other. They'll all get along fine as long as they're here.
I asked one kid who showed up for the night shift why he was giving up his time to sit in the hallway in the hospital. "Respect." he said. "Loyalty."