This post could probably be a book written someday…
But I’ll try to stick with one blog post. Actually, probably not.
I am sure some of you have experienced lengthy stays in the hospital, unfortunately. Or maybe not unfortunately? Okay, when you’re in the moment, you just want OUT. Ironically though, when you are sick, and quite sick for that matter, there really is no where else you’d want to be, but the hospital. For me, it was safe. It was home. It was where I felt all my needs were met without having to ask. I felt secure there. Though I suppose home life can look exactly the same too.
During our 6 day and then 16 day stay at the University of Michigan, we met some incredible and interesting people. Incredible and interesting in the sense that they challenged me to look at life in a different way. They taught me to look at my own life, question how I lived, and made me think about who I was, who I wanted to be, and how I talked. So let me introduce you to some people.
First of all, I have to tell you about one of my most favorite nurses there: Xihua (pronounced Sheewah). Xihua is Chinese and while she lived in China, was the equivalent of a doctor, though unfortunately when she moved the US, her credentials didn’t transfer. I understand in a way, but at the same time, she was INCREDIBLE. She was so smart, so wise, yet so caring. Her bedside manner was unlike any other nurse I had. Her goal for me was to just rest and save my energy for surgery and then after, to just get healthy. And boy did she exceed her goal! Everything had to be JUST so. If I tried to do anything, it was “No, I DO.” Okay, Xihua! Her goal was to ensure my meds were taken on time, that I was comfortable in bed, that my call button was nearby, and that I was bathed and out of bed before the doctor came in at 6:30am. Yes, that meant an early wake up call for me, but I didn’t care. The room always looked impeccable. She always made sure I had FRESH ice water, that my pain was managed, and that I felt some self-worth. Another goal of hers was to make sure that whatever routine I had at home for getting up in the morning and going to bed at night, that I did that in the hospital too. She believed that in keeping routine, it helps patients recover quicker. I would have never thought of that, but I totally agree now being a part of her routine deal. She made sure I washed my face and brushed my teeth. She made sure I felt “ready” for each turning hour.
She also had a sense of humor. I was on a morphine pump at the time and her coined phrase was “You have pain? You press pump.” Okay, Xihua! The thing is, she wasn’t joking and was dead serious. Clearly taking these types of meds wasn’t normal for me so I was a little gun shy. Anytime I had to take a stronger med, even if it was in the middle of the night, she made sure I had food in the my stomach, so that meant I ate jello at 3:00am. But no other nurse did that. And under her watch, I did not have any more nausea, after she knew that new meds caused me to get it.
I was able to learn about her life, her loves in life, and why she just loves what she does. Her husband works for Toyota and they have a son at home. She always works nights, I think for the past 6 years, barely sleeps, and just loves others. Ironically, another PA told me about her AMAZING cooking and noodle dish she once brought. I brought that up to her, that I heard her cooking was top notch and she just shyly chuckled. Of course, showing any sign of pride was against her character, but I asked her about that dish and she said it was nothing. Yeah right, Xihua! I’m sure. I pressed a little harder and she said oh, it’s just noodles and a few basic spices. Kristin, you could make it! Yeah right I could! I could see how much it meant to her, that others appreciated what she did. So I took it upon myself to encourage her and I realized, what a difference that made in her. Even though I loved her before, but as we built that relationship, she became even more caring (if that was possible). Oh the beauty of encouragement and oh how we fed off of each other.
A woman I will always remember. And the best part? Xihua was my nurse for 3 nights in a row after my surgery and each time, she said too, she hoped she could be my nurse as well. We had created this bond and every time I saw her at the 7:00pm shift change, I would always excitedly say “XIHUA!” And oh the smile on her face. I can only hope that she continues to bless others in the way she blessed me.
Then there were the night-shift PAs. There were a few of them who we actually got to know on the ICU floor, due to me being there two rounds and the last round, for a rather lengthy amount of time. They were a couple of guys about our age and what we realized is that we were a bit of an oddity on that floor. Most people were at least 30 years older than I was, if not 40, and so we were a few fresh faces. But what we loved, is that they would come in on their rounds and we would chat for a LONG time. We would talk about our journey and what not, but then it would lead off on rabbit trails to who knows where. But in a way, we felt like they became our friends for that time being. They understood where we were coming from, they kept telling us that we were so positive, but at the same time, when you walk around the ICU floor with people hanging onto their lives, it’s hard not to keep your head up at times when you know you are leaving that floor someday. They were also the ones who often had to tell us the “bad news” that seem to keep coming and coming. Especially the time when they almost had to put in a bypass pump and sedate me til surgery. You could tell it was hard for them to tell us the news, but I wouldn’t have wanted to hear it from anyone else. They could see our hearts break, but they allowed them to and only picked us right back up. They encouraged us and all we hope is that we encouraged them in their work as well.
Oh and then there is Lee. Oh Lee. I’d put her at about maybe 65-70 years of age? When I was moved down to the step down unit, it was a double room. Little did I know that my roommate would have quite the issues! She suffered from COPD and a slew of other things, but from what I could tell, she struggled most to breathe. She had a LOT of phlegm in her lungs and they wanted her to cough it out. I will spare you details, but just let your mind imagine what that sounded like. It was nauseating on an already weak stomach. She didn’t really walk, which meant she couldn’t go to the bathroom on her own, but really her physical limitations in my mind were far less than her mental struggle. I truly felt sorry for her by the end of my stay in that room. The first night, she spent the night yelling for help, when all she needed, was just a blanket. Or something fairly minor. No need to yell, folks. She didn’t ever push her call button, which meant after about 5 or 10 minutes of me listening to the yelling, I’d cave and push mine. The nurses realized what was happening and said that they were going to try and get me a new room, after my about 2 hours of sleep that first night. They had ear plugs, but they didn’t always bypass the yelling, unfortunately.
As the days went on (there weren’t any openings for another room), I would listen to her talk to the nurses, and what we realized is that she could really be quite sweet, but oh could she be rude and belittling. Her perspective on life was so difficult to hear. Everything was wrong. Everything was everyone else’s fault. There was one nurse who could get through to her, Heather, and I made sure she knew how special she was b/c no other nurse had that gift!
Lee would have to have a test done and she was adamant that there was NO WAY she was doing that test. Of course they finally convinced her to, but at 5am, it was not the type of talk I needed to listen to. I just wanted to tell her that these people here are trying to help you get better and so just accept their love, support, and help. I even questioned if I should befriend her and get to know her, but first of all it would’ve been hard to do through the curtain and she didn’t always hear the greatest, but I decided to take a different approach.
I knew I couldn’t change her overnight, but what I did hope is that she could hear us talk. That she could hear how we treated the nurses, how we talked about our situation, our faith, etc. Not that we were perfect or that we didn’t struggle. I sure shed some tears in that room too. But it is much easier to get through to someone by not yelling at them, telling them that they were wrong, and that they should know. As nurses walked past my bed to hers, they would roll their eyes, sigh, and all I did was give them a smile, a thumbs up with a good job, and tell them that they were doing all they could. You could tell it was wearing on some of them, which was hard to see. That whole situation taught me that you can sure make or break someone’s day very easily by the very words you say!
I eventually was switched out of that room to a private room, which was so amazing! Dan said he could tell that Lee’s negative attitude was really affecting me emotionally, mentally, and physically. How could it not? When you listen to that 24/7, even as much as that isn’t you, it really does affect you! When I switched to the other room, apparently my whole demeanor changed. I slept like a BABY, and I felt I was finally making progress. Unfortunately that only lasted one night because a male needed that room, so I was switched again. Oh well. That situation was MUCH better than the last! Even though that new roommate had her own slew of issues and lies that she told, but she was semi-civil and I could sleep! That’s all I cared about!
We met SO MANY PEOPLE while in the hospital and this is just a sampling of how they impacted our lives. All for good, even though they were completely different situations. Xihua taught me unselfishness, love, and kindness through her own acts of love and kindness. The PAs taught me that it’s okay to just take a moment and talk. Yes, there is work to be done, but being able to share life with those around you, is a beautiful thing. Lee taught me that you can really affect someone through your attitude and words, negatively. Not only did I see it affect the nurses, but even myself, which I had no clue it did, until I left that room.
The nurses sure left a tremendous impact on my life! Some even said they vouched to be my nurse again on their next shift, so we could continue to hang out. Hey, why not make the most of your hospital stay, right? They were young and we could always find something to talk about it seemed! I just wanted to encourage them too, in their work. They needed to know that they were appreciated and loved!
Oh the power of a word. Positive or negative. It sure has taught me to think about every word that comes out of my mouth. Is it uplifting? Of God? You can share the love of Christ with simple words of encouragement and it has taught me to make the most of every opportunity, no matter what setting you are in. Did I miss opportunities? Oh I know I did. But there is always the next time.
God’s love is worth spreading in every word you speak! And I have a long ways to go…