by Robert Lanz, LCSW
In medical parlance, a crush injury occurs when a body part is subjected to a high degree of pressure, usually as a result of being squeezed between two heavy objects. Severe crush injuries are medical emergencies that require immediate attention to prevent complication and to preserve the function of the affected body part. Symptoms may include bleeding, bruising, nerve injury. In some cases these injuries can be fatal.
But the kind of crush injury I had was of the less fatal variety. I had a crush on a cop. Well, not a cop, exactly. Having a crush on a local cop would have really shown bad judgment because we’re in sort of a small town, and cop love can get a little incestuous. I’ve seen relationships with the nurses go south too many times, so I draw the line with the locals. But hey, I was a middle-aged single guy with a typical male brain, so I went ahead and let myself develop a crush on a sheriff’s deputy. Although the sheriffs, like the highway patrol, were frequent visitors to the ER, we didn’t hang out with them like we did the local cops.
Anyway, our Emergency Department was famous for taking care of special victims, and that always helped law enforcement with the “difficulties” of having to interact with these “special victims” on their own. Special victims were those involved in domestic violence cases, child abuse cases, sexual assault cases and elder abuse cases. Sometimes special victims cases included some combination of the above, and were especially difficult. The emotional energy was often more than enough to overwhelm the coping and intervention skills of the average cop (or sheriff), and they liked the fact that there was always a social worker available to help them out.
The “special victims” officer in most departments is a default position so it goes to the person most willing to do it. Certainly, the person most willing to be the special victims officer is also the person who also has better skills for dealing with these victims than the person who doesn’t want to be “special” in that way. At the risk of offending any peace officers I have worked with over the last twenty years, I’ll go ahead and use the term “sensitive.” To cops, “sensitive” is a buzz-kill word, and most cops would never raise their hands in a crowd and yell out, “I’ll do it. I’m pretty sensitive that way.”
A lot of times the default choice becomes the female officer or deputy, the usually correct assumption being, that girls are more sensitive than boys. Recent research into the differences in the female and male brain show this is true in general. But cops are cops, and they probably don’t register in the middle of the bell-shaped curve when it comes to sensitivity. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, that is especially true of the sheriffs.
Except for Melissa, the blond beauty who was the child abuse deputy by choice. She wanted that assignment because she knew she would be better at it than anyone else in her division. That was a trait that I valued in myself. I’ll step up to do something I don’t want to do because the person I’m stepping up for deserves the best they can get and, if under the circumstances, that’s me, well, then it’s me. Melissa was like that.
The first time we worked a case together, I could feel something romantic cooking between us. As I’ve said, I’ve got the basic male brain, Melissa had a terrific female body and I wasn’t about to go against millions of years of evolution just to prove a point, a pretty weak one, at that. Even that bulletproof vest couldn’t cover her curves completely, and if you promise not to blab about it I’ll admit that the gun and all that leather added a small bump to the experience, a new sensation for me, a sense of the unknown. Where was this going, anyway?
So my male brain fantasized about Melissa for a couple of months and then naturally, the feelings slowly faded away. At least I thought they did. About the time they were turning from a fantasy into just a pleasant memory, she was back in the ER with another victim.
“That cute blonde sheriff is back, Bob. Got another little girl with her,” the charge nurse told me.
Luckily, I wasn’t hooked up to a heart monitor right then. The results would have made my feelings obvious. Same with a BP cuff. My blood pressure was definitely goosed, and the charge nurse cracked a smile.
Melissa smiled, too when she came into the office with the little girl. It was easy to see the little girl was comfortable around Melissa because they had already bonded, and now it was my turn to bond. No, not with the deputy, with the little girl. The hospital itself and the evidence collection process is scary for anyone, and most ten-year-olds are in fear mode when they arrive and as the social worker my job is to minimize that. If the victim seems to feel safe already with the deputy, then the deputy becomes my ally and helps with the bonding. Can you see where this whole bonding thing is going? It would be nearly impossible for a normal guy, a guy with a high sensitivity quotient, displaying his protective instincts in the presence of a stunning female sheriff doing her maternal best, not to have a crush.
She knew it. I knew it. Maybe the little girl knew it. After evidence was collected and Melissa left with the child, the nurses knew it, too. In fact, it was the hot topic on the night shift for the next few weeks, with most of the nursing staff excited to see me so excited. It was cute, I suppose, and it’s nice to be the center of all that female attention. Some of the docs noticed it, too and since they had normal male brains they were naturally curious about any follow-up I may have pursued. No one actually came out and asked if I’d “gotten any”, but I’m sure that was what they really wanted to know. Have I mentioned that there is no such thing as privacy in the ER?
Like any big move in my life, especially one fraught with so much emotion, I gave this issue a lot of thought. Perhaps at a younger stage in life, I would have let the fantasy run its gamut into passion and then seen if that would have grown into love. Or if not far enough in that direction, then perhaps at least into one of those fatal attraction moments that would have been exciting and dangerous. No. Too easy to become a patient in the ER engaging in that type of relationship. I knew this situation would require clear thinking.
The next time Melissa came back was only three weeks later. There was another victim, more bonding, and a lot of sideways glances from the nurses. After the legal responsibilities were concluded, a foster mother came and picked up the child victim and took her out of our lives. At that point, walking Melissa out to her sheriff’s cruiser was a dead giveaway to anyone who hadn’t already been aware of the vibes passing back and forth. When we got out to her car, with ambulances between us and the big glass doors that open to the ER, I’m sure Melissa knew a move was coming. Most likely, none of the other social workers had ever walked her to her car before. It was a new move for me too. Nevertheless, I was an ER guy and I believed that most of the time, there’s no reason to understate the obvious.
“Melissa, the nurses have been brutal to me. They see I’m sweet on you. Pretty obvious I guess.”
“I’m sure they could read my body language.”
“I noticed it myself-and I loved it.”
“What do you think we ought to do about it?”
“Well, it makes my heart beat fast to think about you, even with the weird circumstances of how we came together. The gun. The badge. The kids and all that stuff. I wanted to tell you that to your face.”
She looked into my eyes. She saw me start to puddle up. Then she did too, brushing a couple of tears away from those big brown eyes. Very un-sheriff-like.
“But you don’t want to date a cop.”
“Jeez, Melissa. I have such a crush on you and if we started dating, I know what would happen. I’d start getting jealous about your driving around with another guy every night, bonding on all this crazy and dangerous stuff. I’d want to be in the back seat so I could protect you from the bad guys. I’d go crazy if I loved you.”
She took my face gently into her hands, with sensitivity I guess you’d say, then she kissed me lightly on my lips and said, “You’re a good guy Bob, and I know how you feel. I wouldn’t want to date a cop either.”
Most likely, one of the reasons I waited until I was fifty-two to get married was that I had finally reached a stage of maturity where it would have been silly to continue cavorting with young and beautiful nurses following another night of horrendous losses in the ER. These losses were often so painful that the right thing seemed to be to stumble into the warmth of each other’s bodies for some relief. And I have to admit, that approach worked well for a long time without any major problems. So I understood what Melissa would sometimes feel at the end of her shift, after she and her partner had been through some traumatic event together. I understood how exquisitely close those emotions bring people when they are shared, even involuntarily, and I didn’t want to have a sweetheart that had some of her most powerfully bonding experiences with another guy. I’m sure my wife feels the same way.
Now, I’ve outgrown that feeling, but at the time of my crush, I was a lot younger and so was Melissa. It’s hard to believe that either one of us would have been up to the demands of such a relationship at the time. I didn’t think I was, and chose not to find out.
Crush injuries are, by nature, painful and take a long time to heal.