Q & A

Bernice Luddin

Q: What do you do?

I’m like everybody else, I do what I’m supposed to do and what time’s left over I do what I want. I’m an OR nurse. I like my job. I'm good at it. I enjoy being good at it. I save lives. But It’s hard and exhausting. I see terrible things. Car wrecks are the worse. People with bodies so busted up, it’s a miracle they’re alive. People dying. It happens so easily and so often, it used to take my breath away. At first I had my heart broken almost every single day. But after a while, you get used to it. You deal with it. It’s all about being professional. And then, it almost never bothers you. You do your job. Focus on the job. If things bother you, you can’t do your job. Years later, you realize the damage that’s been done. All your feelings shriveled up. You go through the motions when you have to, but the feeling really isn’t there anymore. It’s like going deaf or blind or slowly psycho—all that empathy you had when you first started is now gone.


And then sometimes it dawns on you what a fucked up world we live in, and the fucked up people you have to share it with and deal with. I’m telling you, it kinda makes you think twice about your standard benevolent deity who’s supposedly running the show. I was in charge, not the way I’d do things. Other night I was watching PBS—love the nature programs. They had this one about bonobos. Species of apes that live in Africa. What makes them so special, they never kill each other like us and the chimpanzees do. Instead they have sex—everyday, all the time. It’s their way of apologizing, of comforting, of making amends—whatever. Males, females, doesn’t matter. They're always humping each other. I’m not saying that’s what we should be doing, okay, only that violence against your own kind doesn’t have to be in your DNA. Course, it’d help if we weren’t carnivores.

Q: What do you believe it?


It all goes back to nature. Plants, animals, the wind and rain. The mountains and rivers. The sun and moon. If you’re looking for answers, that’s the only place you’re going to find it. The pagans had it right. It’s not my place to criticize other people’s religion, so I won’t. But for me, why look for answers in old books when it’s all there right in front of you? The idea of things being alive, all that fucking complexity and variety, the mystery at the heart of it, that’s what gets me going. You don’t have to worship something, you just have to respect it, appreciate it, love it. And in the end, live in harmony with it. The good and the bad. Some of my friends make fun of me, or say I’m going to hell cause I’m a pagan. I don’t care. They’re just ignorant, so I don’t pay them any attention. They can’t see that we’re a part of everything else. We just got on board not so long ago as a species. How are we doing? Are we the pride of the planet or its worst scourge? Beats me. Who knows where we’ll end up. We take ourselves so fucking seriously. That’s the problem. Humility is in short supply. People worry about whether or not they’re happy. Not me. Happiness is where you find it, and it’s everywhere, all the time. That little sliver of sun on the floor. A breeze with the whiff of spring on it. My dog Rollo sleeping on my lap, the tip of his pink tongue hanging out, his back feet going like mad as he chases down a squirrel or a racoon in his dreams. Everything’s a miracle. Most of the time we’re too stupid to notice.

What bothers you the most?

Assholes. There's so many of them. Around here they can kill you. We got this doc, one of the surgeons, thinks  he's God's gift to medicine. Problem is he's a lush. The stink of booze always on his breath, even when he's cutting somebody open. We called him Dr. Jack, for Jack Daniels. Last year we had this guy with a tumor in his lung. In his early forties. Got to talking to him while he was getting prepped. I could tell he was nervous. I told him his prognosis was pretty good. The cancer hadn't spread. They'd take out the lung and he'd be good to go. I didn't want to tell him about his surgeon, Dr. Jack. Too late for that. 

Operation went like clockwork. Maybe a little too fast. It was the end of the day. Maybe the doc had plans. We get the patient into the recovery room. Twenty minutes later, I'm walking down the hall to go home, thinking everything fine, and I hear a code blue for recovery. I go back up and there's the resident working over the guy with the tumor. Dr. Jack long gone. The patient's chest has been opened up. No anesthesia. There's blood everywhere. The resident is frantic. Finally finds what he's looking for. Blood spurting up from the pulmonary artery that Dr. Jack couldn't manage to tie off properly. The resident gets a hemostat on it, but it's too late. Too much blood loss. All the monitors have flat-lined. The resident's gown is dripping with blood. I could see the anger on his face.

Everyone was talking about it, course nothing ever happened to Dr. Jack. The hospital protects their own.