Butterfly Sparks Designs

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Patients: My Heroes

In one moment, the things we hold most precious can be taken from us.

Breath.  Life.  Limbs.  Function.  Hope.

As nurses, because we work with the broken, we receive a gift of gratitude: gratitude for all of the small blessings and gifts we all so easily often take for granted.

This is gratitude for the ability to walk, talk, taste, hear, and smell.  Gratitude that our brains function normally, our lungs pump air, our hearts work just fine, and our legs can move.  Heck, even gratitude for the gift of daily bowel movements :)

None of us are guaranteed good health.  None of us are guaranteed that at any moment some trauma couldn't occur, and who we've always been may no longer be who we may become.

Once I worked with two patients who have lost much.

One, because of an accident, can no longer bathe himself, take care of his own bowel movements, turn himself in bed, and many other things.  He is still young, and his whole life is ahead of him.  The doctors believe he may never walk again.

He chooses to believe he will.

Many call it denial.  He calls it hope.

My other patient received a threatening diagnosis.  While undergoing treatment for it, he suffered a terrible complication.  It now takes 3 people to move him from a wheelchair to the bed.  He gets his food through a tube, has a catheter for his urine, and a diaper to hold his bowel movements.  He chooses to be kind, thankful, and hopeful.  As I prayed with him at the bedside, I felt God impress a simple truth: He was in control of everything- everything concerning this man.  As we prayed and this man cried at that truth, we wept together for the uncertainties that now face this man's life.  He's retired.  He should be on a RV somewhere, seeing our national parks, but now he's wondering if he'll ever walk again and how his wife will handle the things he is supposed to handle.  But he chooses to be kind, thankful, and hopeful.

What if I lost my ability to transfer myself from one place to another?  What if someone had to bathe me, clean up my bowel movements, feed me, and turn me in the bed?  Would I be kind, thankful, and hopeful?  Would I choose faith against the odds or sink into despair?

It's nights like these as a nurse when reality is difficult; where there aren't pat answers and where the cursory statement, "Everything's going to be okay" feels cheap, worn, and like a masquerade ball.

As a believer in Christ, I hold to that in the broken things is where Christ's glory has found the ripest place to shine.  I believe He uses us, as His hands and feet, to bring His healing somehow.  I believe that to Him the broken is beautiful; those who have suffered loss and brokenness perhaps cause His heart to feel like a deep gutter of compassion that aches with the pain and knows the hollows of it better than anyone else.

After all, this is His created who now bears loss- what could move the heart of God more?

I don't know how to be a nurse to people who face these kind of odds.  I still haven't figured out how to say the right things or do the right things or be just the right way.  But I know I feel Jesus's love when I'm near them.  I know my eyes well up and my heart aches and my insides hurt like someone's hollowed them out or chiseled them with a knife, as I wade among broken conditions.

I see the triumph in my patient's eyes every time they choose kindness, when they could choose bitterness and gratitude or when they could choose despair.  I see in those moments what could possibly be one of the most beautiful things about the human spirit: the ability to overcome and have free will over outcomes.

Patients like these two are my heroes.  They remind prideful me to slow down, be thankful, choose love and kindness, and trust God.  They remind me every day, every minute, and every second is a gift.

They remind me Jesus's love is fierce, and our brokenness will be His glory.  Our pain is His pain, and the words, "Jesus wept" found in John 11:35, I understand as a nurse working among the ill.

Let us all be blessed in thanking the Father for all of the things we daily take for granted.  Let us choose kindness and hope when the alternatives might be more automatic or easy.

Every day and every gift is a blessing we must return as thanks and savor the moments of true triumph in our lives.