Monday, May 3, 2010


Editor's note: for the next 4-5 days, things are a bit foggy.  I was having at least 2-3 seizures a day, and I was struggling to do as many tasks as possible, on my own.  Some of my struggles were due to my own stubbornness-- other struggles were due to the fact that the nursing staff made it clear that they had "more important, sicker" patients to deal with, and I was an "inconvenience" (yep, direct quote...). Thank goodness I had my computer.  My journal is a rambling mess-- but, I was testing the voice recognition software, so I recorded everything that was going on, at the time.  By the third day of rehab, the head honcho nurse gave me permission to incorporate Sugar into my recovery.  I never felt comfortable having Sugar stay with me at the hospital because I never felt safe.  However, her visits lifted my spirits.  I found this journal entry, and I realized that her visits helped in other ways, too...

My First Sunday

My roommate won't stop wailing.  Not the soft cries I make, while hiding in the bathroom.  Large, loud, horrendous cries of grief.  She is another miracle, trapped in a body that refuses to cooperate.  She can't eat, so she depends on a feeding tube. She spent months in ICU, unable to walk, to communicate. Now,  she can walk, she is finding ways to communicate, and she knows how to express her emotions.  She has the most beautiful smile I have ever seen-- and the most heartbreaking cry I have ever heard.  Her husband sleeps next to her bed, in a small chair the nurses have provided.  He cares for her every need.  He bathes her, takes her to the bathroom, gives her medication, and has even learned to feed her using the stomach tube.  He has left her for a much-needed respite, and a moment of prayer.  She is devastated without him, and she won't stop crying.

No one comes to visit, to check on her.   I call the nurses, but they refuse to help. "Nothing we can do, we have other patients that need us, it's almost shift change."  I try to talk to my roommate over the curtains, across the room,  to let her know that she is not alone. The distance doesn't help.  I call and ask a nurse to help me into the wheelchair.  She refuses, again, there are more important patients that need her help before her shift ends.  I crawl from my bed and climb into the chair.  By myself. Falling, not caring, because someone needs to do something.  I'm not saint.  I'm tired, sad, in pain-- but, I find a way to plant a smile on my face and drag myself to my roommates bed.

I touch her hand.  She continues to cry.

"Hi. What can I do to help?  Do you need something?"

Her mouth is so swollen that she can not speak, but she communicates with her hands and grunts small words.  It's a mix of English and Tagalog, but I understand what she says.

"Ah, your hubby is at church.  He'll be back soon.  Did you see my dog, Sugar, today?"

She smiles. 

"Sugar is beautiful, right?  She's a service dog.  She takes care of me. I miss her.  Not the same as your hubby, but she's a part of me, you know?"

She stops crying and touches her left chest.

"Yes, a part of my heart.  So, do you like dogs?"

She nods her head and touches her chest, again, smiling.

"Ah, I see, you love dogs!  Well, let me tell you Sugar's story..."

I stay by her side and hold her hand.  I tell her Sugar's story of abandonment, rescue and service to humankind.  Her husband enters the room and we don't even see him, we are both so enthralled with Sugar's life.  In the end, she laughs.  She looks up and sees her husband.  She claps her hands in joy.

I wheel back to my bed and call the nurse.  For once, someone comes and helps me to my bed.They have had a shift change and it's the gentle nurse, the one who (I've learned) will always be ready to help, no matter the emergency or need.  She has only been assigned to me once, but I remember her care, attention, and kindness.  As she tucks me in,  the nurse whispers, "We're not suppose to encourage patients to talk too much with each other, get involved in each others lives.  It's important to respect each others privacy.  But, what you did?  That was a beautiful thing to do.  She looks happy."

I did nothing special.  I cared for her like I wish someone would care for me.  I treated her like Sugar cares for me, every day I am with her.

All I did was give comfort to someone who was feeling alone.



Ashley (the mom), Dixie (the Catahoula) and sometimes Lola (the Pit Bull) said...

I am so angry for you at how terribly they treated you.
I really admire your strength and compassion. This was a wonderful story and I have tears in my eyes. I am so glad you were able to help that woman and that you are out of there!
-Ashley and Dixie

Wild Dingo said...

Gosh, you know, i see a lot of people are so angry at the way you were treated. and i am too. sadly, i hear this is the norm in many hospitals. i worked in a hospital many times in different careers. for someone who was interested in health care and mental health, i ALWAYS found hospital staff to be the worst healthcare providers of both physical and mental health. sigh.

Mango said...

Sugar is a magical dog. She can help heal people even when she isn't there.

Mango Momma

Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom said...

I know I've said this before -
and I'll say it again a ZILLION times -

I hope someday those 'caring professionals' meet their counterparts -

It would so seem they are in the wrong job - maybe they should find something that doesn't inconvenience their style -

Sugar so rocks! Khyra says it is so the paws!

Pibble said...

I don't know - is this the way they're trained to treat people? Coldly, without compassion? Does that make any sense? Why can't you care about your roommate? If no one else cares and you can make her feel human for just a moment in time...

I'm stumped, I really am.