I am blessed to get to meet new people every single day being a nurse. Most of my patients will have a story to tell or make simple small talk. Then sometimes there is one that touches me deeply with their life story. I had this experience last week. And I told this patient who of course will remain nameless, that I thought her story was amazing and I wanted to share it. I think she was even more touched by that.
So my patient who was a female was coming in for a routine procedure. She was very nervous, but most patients are when about to go into surgery. I was telling her how to change and what to do with her belongings when I noticed she was trembling. This made me dig a little bit deeper, and I know she needed someone to talk to. So after she pulled the curtain she got onto her stretcher and I began my routine assessment. I took her blood pressure which was sky high, neither one of us were surprised. She looked at me with a terrified look, so I tried to calm her and asked her what I could do to alleviate her anxiety, and what exactly she was so afraid of. She was so grateful she started to tear up. She said she was just so scared to have this procedure, since her father had died of a cancer and she was afraid of the results. We began to review her medical history and she admitted she had a history of HIV. At that moment she started to cry. My heart broke for her. I'm required to ask her how she acquired HIV and she told me of a history of IV drug abuse. I'm happy to say she has been clean for 19 years this January. I let her cry and held her hand and just listened...
We went on with the assessment and I told her I was going to start her IV. She had an episode of Post Traumatic Stress and began to panic at the sight of the needle and cried heavily. While trying to keep my composure I just wanted to burst into tears with her. My heart ached for her and her regrets. She was wonderful with the process, and I talked her through each step of what I had to do. When I applied the tourniquet she cried and almost screamed saying "I used to tie belts to me and rip them tight to get my veins to come up." "I can't believe I used to do this to myself." I rubbed the alcohol on her and I thought she may pass out, but she was so strong and brave and told me that I had a job to do and not to let her get in the way of that. Of course easier said than done, because I truly felt for this woman. I put the needle in and she started to shake horribly. Almost like someone would while having a seizure. It was awful, but very quick and she was able to stop. The whole time she was having flash backs of her drug abuse days. You can tell it was every bit of traumatic.
I sat there with her and consoled her and finished up our work. She warned me that she had no veins left from the abuse. I reassured her in a joking way, that I was a pretty good vampire and we'd be A-OK. And we were just that. I got her IV in a tiny area on her hand and I have to say even I was happy to find one that worked. She immediately thanked me and cried and cried some more. She was so grateful to GOD for letting her get this far in her life. She thanked GOD for letting her be a survivor. She thanked GOD for letting her be clean for almost 19 years, and for giving her re-birth. She cried that these horrible things she'd done to herself had caused her to have HIV and she doesn't understand what made her do those things to herself. She frequently cried out "Why, why did I do this to myself!?"
She inspired me so much. Her faith alone was amazing to me. She had so much to be grateful for despite her past and she knew it. She made it through the dark and now is able to live this new life as a "clean" adult. Through her tears (and almost mine) I reminded her that sometimes in life we all make mistakes. Some of those mistakes are much bigger than others and have extremely different outcomes or circumstances. What matters is what you choose to do with those lessons and experiences. And I told her to be proud of herself. Yes she made some mistakes that could have taken her life, but look at what she gained from it as well. From those life experiences, she now is who she is today. She's a drug free, Faithful, and turned her life around and now has a gift to help others who are in the shoes she once wore.
At the end of our triaging I wheeled her back to the O.R. I stayed with her until it was time to start her procedure. As soon as she was in recovery in her sleep she was calling for me. I went over to her and when she opened her eyes she said " Jessica, I don't know If you've been told this today, but I want you to know you are an Angel who made my day."
Sometimes patients just leave a mark on you....And I'm happy to say her procedure went 100% perfectly.