A story of understanding 1

Another week of crazy hours at my job and I had quite a few nurses and other staff members who looked at me like I was crazy. I was asked at one point yesterday, “how do you keep sane with doing so many different off shifts with six kids?” My response was, “I can do anything short term, besides, I’m vertical and this side of the hospital bed. My few extra hours this week at work is nothing compared to some of the things some of our patients are dealing with.” This of course led into a conversation with a fairly new nurse who was making a complaint of a patient who was being admitted, AGAIN. You see, at my place of work, we have what is called “frequent flyers”, meaning, they come to the ER just about every week with a “complaint” to get admitted. Now you and I may not be able to relate because we don’t make plans on what ailments we can concoct in order to get admitted to the hospital. But many of our patients do. Anyway, this nurse was complaining because the patient was very needy. I told her everyone has a story. A story of who they are and how they came to be the type of adults they are. I then told her of a patient experience I had many years back that brought me to this frame of thinking.
In short, a gentleman who was considered a “frequent flyer” would be admitted several times a month for noncompliance of his diabetes. During one of his admissions, the nurses told me he was refusing to leave once given the d/c papers. He was known to be homeless and kept a shoebox at his side at all times. The staff was concerned he had something he shouldn’t have in the box and wanted me to talk to him. When I entered the room, he barely gave me a glance when I introduced myself and asked if I could sit down and talk with him. He gave a short nod and I pulled up a chair. I began to talk to him about his options of being discharged to a shelter. He grabbed at the box and shook his head “no”, saying his things are often stolen when he goes. I then approached the topic of the shoe box he kept so close. After some prying, I finally asked if I could just see what was inside so I could put the staffs concerns at ease. After a few seconds, he lifted the box onto his lap and opened the lid. Inside were pictures, a ring, a baseball, and other assortments of personal memoirs. He then led into a story of how his wife and two sons were killed in a car accident a few years back and this was all he had left of them. He was the head of a major corporation, even did some modeling in his younger days. They had owned a very large home in a upperclass neighborhood, but when he lost his family, he lost everything. He had a nervous breakdown, lost his job, lost his house and became homeless. He said he had no reason to want to live but was too much of a coward to end his own life. I sat for quite a while talking to this man who resembled nothing of the man in the wedding photo he showed me. After we finished talking, I told him I would set him up with social service to get him the help he needed. I only saw him back in the hospital a couple of times after that, and to this day I wonder how he’s doing. We all need to remember that everyone has a story. The homeless person standing with a sign, kids in gangs, the teenager pregnant with her 2nd child… all of them have a story of how they got to the place they are in their lives. We as healthcare providers only see a snapshot of their life while they are in the hospital. But I guarantee, not one of them at 6 or 7 years old had ever planned on their lives turning out the way it did. I’m not sure that I got through to this nurse as she kindly nodded, but didn’t respond in a way that said “huh, I guess I never thought of that.”
Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and we can’t help but be in a situation that we never expected. I think that is where others are tested in how they respond to those people. Showing a little bit of compassion and empathy may be all it takes to give those having hard times, a little bit of hope because they feel like someone cares about them.

There is no update to give on my book. I am still awaiting my publishers email on its release date and final approval of my name and book cover. So until next week….be good to those around you and those you meet, especially the ones who are always grumpy, quiet, annoying, etc., because I’m sure you’d be able to dissect the reasons behind their personality if you just took the time to talk with them and maybe get to know them.
Until next week…..

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One thought on “A story of understanding

  • Mark grady

    Good story Von, if we walk on the other side for a little while we could understand life there much better they are humans too.