Abc, 123

A short Asian woman in handcuffs was brought to the ER by police officers. She was yelling at employees at Safeway (supermarket) and threaten to burn it down. It didn’t help that two days ago, next to this Safeway, several stores burnt down and over 50 people have been displaced. It was a large fire that took out most of the block. Unrelated, I was reading an article that wondered if the fire might have been intentional to displace low income families in replacement of new development. Further, a Middle Eastern restaurant on the corner, fed all the first responders for free while they were putting out the fire. After reading this article, after my shift, I stopped by to order a falafel because I wanted to support this restaurant who gave back to support the Bernal Heights neighborhood.

This woman was considered a danger to herself and others, so the police brought her to the ER for evaluation. The doctor asked her, are you on any medications? Have you threatened people before? She said, no. She is on a 72 hour medical hold and stays in the ER until she can be evaluated by a psychiatrist or moved to a psych facility. During my 4 hour shift, there were 3 other people who were high or drunk, taking up space, also without a medical emergency, 4/10 beds. I wondered what has become of our healthcare system when people are brought to the ER without life threatening illnesses.  One person who was drunk, arrived mostly without clothes except his boxers.  The sister came to pick him up two hours later, still heavily intoxicated.  The social worker gave him some clothes.  I wonder who donates clothing to the hospital.

There was another older Asian woman with respiratory problems and I spoke with the family briefly in Chinese. One relative left the ER and came back with a Burger King meal (BK is located a few blocks away).  I confirmed with the nurse that he cannot give the meal to the patient. He argued that the doctor had said he could bring food for her. He then asked if he could go home and bring back rice. I also said, no. They left to go home and likely would return the next day. I thought also how terrible it would be to in the ER, family not present, and unable to communicate to the doctors or staff, waiting for a translator.

A housekeeping staff person who conversed with the family also said, to me, oh, you speak, you are ABC, (American Born Chinese). I have always struggled with this concept, being American but maintaining fluency of your parents native tongue. I struggle with this imaginary (seen and not seen), border of not being enough.


  1. Wow, so many complex issues here. I get the sense you are torn, too, over how the system works, how people behave, and what your role is. I love seeing where you are right now in your life. Seems like you are being challenged by what you are witnessing as well as by yourself and what you want to accomplish.


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