Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dealing with pain and suffering

I haven't written much more about my hospital experience since my last post, but these thoughts have been brewing inside my mind for weeks now. Warning: I'm sure many of you will not find any interest in these ramblings. Anyway…

Before I started, I was sure I'm going to collapse the moment I see a patient in real life. But as days and weeks went on, and we kept going from unit to unit, surrounded by the most terrible pain and suffering you can imagine, I was surprised at my own calmness. I'm doing great, I thought, mentally patting myself on the back.

One of the dietitians in our hospital also has a license in art therapy. She did a session with us this week, which brought up much of what we were feeling but were afraid to admit even to ourselves. There wasn't much talking, but I saw how each one of us looks inside herself, her own emotions. It was only then that I realized I've just been walking around in a certain form of numbness.

I'm not indifferent to other people's suffering. Far from it. However, I'm determined not to be overwhelmed and broken by it. So I do what I can. I take it one day at a time. I rejoice in being surrounded by friends, who make it so much easier to hold on, and even throw in a good deal of laughter, support and fellowship. I see amazing changes in young women I thought I got to know well during our college years. They are harder and softer at the same time, more real, more focused on the truly important. It's hard for me to tell, but I wonder if a similar process is taking place in my heart as well.

As soon as I can, I hurry to my dear home. I find even more joy than before in performing simple, mundane tasks: hanging the laundry; baking a cake; reorganizing my closets; knitting; playing with our kitties. On the other hand, I feel my mind is less perceptible to information, especially troubling news. I stopped watching TV altogether. I read much less newspapers, websites and blogs. Of books, these days I mainly stick to comforting, peaceful, and preferably, familiar stories.

I don't talk much, but I crave the closeness of people I feel comfortable with. I love listening to everyday conversations – for some reason, I find it soothing. And every day, every single day, I will keep safely placing my heart and soul at the hands of God Almighty. He will guide me and deliver me. I know He will.

22 comments:

Terry said...

Anna, I've often wondered how nurses and doctors cope with being surrounded by so much pain and suffering all the time. I wondered if a certain numbness sets in. Isn't almost necessary in order to do it day after day? I'm glad that you seem to be handling it well. And I'm certain that God will continue to guide and deliver you.

Haus Frau said...

For whatever reason, this post touched my heart more than most others you've shared, Anna.

There is so much strife and stress in this world. Dwelling and finding joy in simple tasks and simple life brings sweet joy to one's soul. I'm so thankful you're experiencing this.

My husband has commented, on numerous occasions, that it's wonderful coming home because there's warmth, aroma, and a hug and kiss awaiting his arrival. He said I make our home a haven. It still causes me to tear up. I'm so thankful to bless this man.

An interesting fact about my life relationships...it seems that the closest of my friends have all been nurses, from CCU, ICU, PICU to outpatient surgery. In fact, my dear closest friend Shelley is an outpatient surgery nurse, whom I first met while having surgery 15 years ago. A year or so later we remet when our girlies began kindergarten at a local Christian school. Her daughter is my daughter's closest friend - more like sisters, and Shelley is the sister I always wanted even though I have 3 older sisters of my own. We spoke of working in hospitals and she shared that there's a certain 'disconnect' one must achieve or they'll be emotionally consumed and of no value to their own families. It's a fine line to walk, she said.

Have a blessed day, dear lady. Enjoy the simplicity.

Anonymous said...

Anna,

I can understand a lot of what you are talking about here. Before I was married, I worked as a registered nurse in emergency and critical care. I've seen some things I know I will never forget as long as I live. I remember well the craving for the comfort and stability of home, just to be some place familure. Sometimes, even now, after a stressful day, I still dream about some of the situations I was in as a nurse, although much prayer and time has healed a lot of this. My husband was a medic in the military for 14 years as well, and his understanding and guidance to me has made all the difference.
I remember an older nurse telling me one day that to be with the patients during their time of need is an honor - that it is a great privilege to aid them. She said that the job is difficult - absorbing and overwhelming - because we experience every day through our patients what most people only experience a few times in a lifetime. The extremes of suffering, pain, dying, and death, as well as the intense highs of birth, miracles, and celebration are everyday in a nurses world.
I wish you all the best during your time in the hospital. I will keep you in my prayers. Use this experience to the fullest, it will shape you to be a better woman, wife, and mother.

Melissa

Kathleen said...

Good post. I'm glad you "rambled".

Kelly said...

Wow, moving post Anna, and wonderful comments too!

Sammybunny said...

Sounds like you are in the midst of a unique period of growth! Thank you for sharing this, Anna!

Laura said...

Everyone keeps talking about nurses, but the people closet to the patients are the CNAs. Especially in nursing homes. I've been with lots of people while they were dying then the nurse came in after they had already passed.

Anna,

I think that you experiences are really going to help you. I know that you resisted at first, but I think you will really look back on this job as positive.

Lily said...

Hi Anna,
I found this post very touching as well. I had a similar experience when my mother was dying. I was amazed at the combination of knowledge and concern exhibited by the staff who cared for her. I often wondered how they did it. Sometimes they would cry with us. I knew it had to be emotionally draining on them.

Just know from the patient's perspective, and from that of the family members, your concern and your expertise is both noticed and appreciated by them, even if they are too overwhelmed with circumstance to make mention of it.

May God bless you.

Anonymous said...

I'm a nurse and I understand what you mean. I work in an area where I see the same patients for weeks and months. I get very invested in many of them and I love seeing them get better and move beyond my care. Though sometimes they are called home, for me nursing is what God has called me to and He gives me strength to help patients deal with the diffcult times.

Mimi said...

Its interesting how it effects us when we see other peoples pain and suffering isn't it?... we really learn to appreciate what we have and things that used to be so important to us are no longer important...
I am glad for you that you are having this experience... it will make you a much stronger and compassionate wife and mother some day...

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,

Thank you for posting this. I have been reading your blog for some time now and find it very beneficial. You have an amazing amount of wisdom for your tender age. :)

This post in particular struck me because, due to chronic illness, I have been one of the patients you see every day more times than I care to count. I am sure from the health care providers' perspective it can indeed be overwhelming to see all that relentless, intense suffering. I imagine even more so because you rarely can make it go away and so might feel you are not having much impact on the patient's situation.

However, one thing I want to encourage you with is the incredible difference simple compassion can make to the patient. When I was in the hospital at the age of 14 there was a nurse who went out of her way to show me compassion. She had to deliver a painful treatment to me which made me cry, but then she comforted me by putting her arms around me and holding me briefly. She seemed a bit hasty about it, like she wasn't supposed to do things like that. But I am 40 years old today and I have never forgotten it. Of course she couldn't "fix" me, which would have made everyone feel better. But she did what she could to let me know I mattered. I cannot begin to tell you what a healing effect that has to a patient's spirit.

All of this is to say please don't run from or be overcome by the suffering of others. It is an unfortunate part of life since the fall of man and needs to be accepted as our collective lot at this time. But compassionate care is invaluable comfort to the suffering one and we patients need that. Your presence there in such a spirit does a whole lot more good than you can know, even though it seems not to make the least dent in the suffering.

Thanks for enduring!

JanH

Shelley:) said...

Hi Anna. I work as a Registered Practical Nurse in Long-term care. Your instructor may have already told you about this but if you're having any trouble with odours related to CA/pressure ulcers etc, a bit of Vicks vapo-rub under both nares will take care of the smell. This made my job much easier. Yes you do see things that "come home with you" at the end of your shift, but I know that you are making a difference in the lives of these patients and the knowledge and skills you gain here will be wonderful in your owm home. God Bless you and hang in there:)

Persuaded said...

Anna, dear... you are such a tender hearted and deep thinking young woman, I'm not surprised you are being affected in this way. Although my job didn't involve hospitals and physical suffering, I dealt with folks who were in the midst of a lot of stress and emotional turmoil. It's hard to leave it behind when you are done, and it's hard to give at home in the same way after dealing with this kind of thing at work. I think this illustrates though why we as women really do feel better within the sphere of home. When we are at peace and secure we can nurture more effectively.

All that said though, I know God will use this time in your life to grow and mature you in new ways. I'll be praying for you in a special way as you deal with your work issues.
Know that you are much loved and appreciated!

Mrs.B said...

Wow Anna....this post really touched me. Thank you for opening up and sharing your heart with us. (o:

Blessings and Hugs,
~Mrs.B

Jimena said...

Hi Anna,
I don't watch the news or read newspapers anymore either. It doesn't do me much good to know about all the terrible things happening everywhere. I know horrible things happen everyday, and I believe that the best I can do is pray about it, and I need peace in my heart to pray about these things (as in, when I'm not too focused on only praying about what is happening around me and to those I love) I think that we will experience enough pain in life through our own lives and those the Lord brings our way, maybe in our jobs or when we are out shopping, and it's our calling I believe to reach out and comfort and love those in pain. I think if we live in the present we can be used to love those in pain when we meet them, and to also enjoy all the great blessings the Lord gives us as they happen. Not thinking about terrible things that have happened, or dreading what horrible things we will have to deal with tomorrow, but just living in the now. I'm so happy to hear that you are enjoying the little simple things so much. I hope to get there soon...

I love your blog, I don't comment much because I see that you already get so many comments, but just thought I would leave my thoughts here today. Have a blessed day in the Lord!

Andrea said...

I think this post is every bit as valuable as the others you've shared, if not more. In this one you've shared something more personal, I think, than simply your ideals, hopes, etc. (not to dismiss any of those, of course!) Now, forgive me, but I felt the need to analyse why I found this particular post of your so appealing. So here goes ;)

Speaking as a writer, I can say with some conviction that in recounting something "as it happens" so to speak, you draw your readers in even more than usual. There's always been a friendly, personable feel to your writing, but I think something in this post is even more seasoned with a confiding flavour of sorts; rather than feeling like I am peeking in on somebody's journal, I feel as though I'm sitting across the table from you as you talk about your week.

There is, in fact, a very neighbourly feel to this post ;)

Now, that sorted out, I have to say I'm so happy for you that you have your home to retreat to at the end of the day. I am sure some of those ladies you work with don't have the sort of haven you do; something that enables them to find a balance between the stress of their daily work, and the release of returning to a safe place each night. I'm so happy for you too that you're able to shut out the more unpleasant things; balance like that is so key, and I'm glad you're finding it.

Thank you, as always, for sharing.

Anonymous said...

A fine line to walk, surely! Very thought-provoking post, Anna.

Brenda

Mrs. Brigham said...

I cannot begin to imagine what you must be feeling each & every day at the hospital, Anna. Suffering is just unbearable to hear about, let alone experience on a first hand basis. With that said, knowing that you have your "shelter from the world" to return to everyday has to be quite the blessing for you. Sean's job forces him to see some less than pleasant circumstances on a day to day basis, but knowing that he is coming home now, rather than "home" to a tent as it was in the past, is a wonderful little light out there in the storm. :o)

Bethany Sue, CFO said...

Stay strong dear Anna. As a former nurse I can tell you that even the smallest glimmer of cheer and light you can bring to a patient means a lot to them.

Elizabeth said...

Wow. Thank you sharing your thoughts and feelings (some of them, anyway!), Anna. I'm praying for you! :->

Coffee Catholic said...

I must admit, reading this post made me ache for my own days as a medic! I loved helping people as a medical professional. I'll never stop missing being a medic no matter how many years pass! This is the *one* thing that was wretchedly difficult to give up when I decided to accept Erlend's marriage proposal. This post of yours was amazing!!

elena rulli said...

Maybe I'm a bit late for this post, but I just wish to tell you how I was - once again - surprised by your courage and intelligence in front of such pianful and trying experiences. You are a beautiful example for me and I wish you and your dear ones all the happiness in the world.