"When you get those rare moments of clarity, those flashes when the universe makes sense, you try desperately to hold on to them. They are the life boats for the darker times, when the vastness of it all, the incomprehensible nature of life is completely illusive. So the question becomes, or should have been all a long... What would you do if you knew you only had one day, or one week, or one month to live. What life boat would you grab on to? What secret would you tell? What band would you see? What person would you declare your love to? What wish would you fulfill? What exotic locale would you fly to for coffee? What book would you write?"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What Hell Must Be Like..

I have this patient that not only have  I been working with the past two days at work,  but I remember him from frequent hospitalizations previously. This man is 43. He has Multiple Sclerosis, and it has progressed enough so that he is almost completely paralyzed. No control or feeling in his legs. Minor voluntary movement in his arms. *Minor*.  He used to be able to change the channel on the TV with his hands and can't even do that anymore. He can control his head. All he can do is lie in bed, all day, watching the nurses come in and out, the doctors, the lab draws, the aides, whomever...he watches the tv all day, but can't even change the channel if he gets bored of a show. He can't change his position without tremendous amounts of help.

This is what I imagine my version of Hell to be like. Locked in your own body. Bored. Stuck. What kind of a life is that? It isn't. I don't think I would be able to do it. I don't know what I would do. Its a progressive disease that could happen to anyone. It's terrible.

I try and be the best I can be when I go in to see him. I offer conversation, to help alleviate the boredom. But I often find I don't know what to say. I want to know more about him, I want to know the progression of his MS and how fast it degenerated. I want to know the story behind his many tattoos on his arms. I want to know what he was like before the MS. Like many MS patients, the MS began in his 20s. Thats all I know. I would love to just spit out these questions, any maybe he would answer. But can you do that? Maybe. I don't know. That borders impolite. So instead I answer questions about me that he asks...where do I go to school, will I be an RN soon? How do you like school? Do you like working here? I don't mind answering questions. Besides conversation, I try and do anything else I can for him. I offer him a warm or cold face wash rag and I wash his face for him. I come in often and ask whats on TV and offer to change the channel or volume if he would like. I explain everything that the nurses are doing and that we, the aides are doing, or both.

It just kills me to see his face, he looks so unhappy and bored. We turn him every two hours, we change his linens from urine and feces as he stares at the bed rail. He virtually has no privacy, everything is gone. I try and always remember patient privacy and cover things up when they are not needed. I think sometimes nurses (and aides) forget to cover up private areas because we have seen them a million too many times, they are nothing new to us, so we don't feel awkward around it anymore, and therefore don't feel the incessant need to cover anything up while were working there or elsewhere. But we forget that this is new for the patient and they are probably screaming in their head, HELLO? I'm exposed :(

Not much else to say. I just wanted to express how sorry I felt for him. Not that feeling sorry would accomplish anything. I'm sure he doesn't even want people to feel sorry for him. I certainly would not want that. I would just want people to come in my room and be normal and talk to me normally. Which is what I try really, really hard to do.

~A Writer in a Nurse's Body

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