I am still me
A short story in a patient's point of view suffering a life changing experience.The sun was coming up on a bitter cold Minnesota morning. It was the day after Christmas which meant shopping with my two daughters. The grandkids were going to spend the day with Grandpa building a snowman and later ice skating. Then one last family dinner before everyone heads home tomorrow. “I better get a move on.” I told myself climbing out of the warmth of my bed. My husband, Charlie, had been up for hours and was probably at the Legion having coffee with the boys and discussing next week’s ice fishing trip. “If only this headache would go away.” I said the reflection in the mirror above the sink. At 54, I was one of the lucky ones that were blessed with just a few wrinkles and my black hair remained grey free. After breakfast, my twin girls, Ella and Emma, and I headed to the mall. It was a rare treat for it to be just us girls and I had planned to enjoy every minute of it, despite the headache that was still there. The girls were excited to be kid free and we stopped at every store, ate lunch and started to leave, when I felt dizzy and light headed and I sat back down in my chair. That was the last thing I remember.
I open my eyes and find myself in a dim lit room. I quickly realize that I am in a hospital but I don’t know why. Charlie is asleep in the chair next to my bed. I start to reach for him, but my left arm wouldn’t move. I try to say something to him, but I can’t get the words out. It’s like my mouth won’t open. I look around again. I was hooked up to all kinds of monitors and tubes. I felt the urge to pee and I tried to move, but it was like the left side of my body was dead. Nothing would move. My face felt funny, almost numb. I try again to say something to Charlie but instead of saying his name, it sounded more like gibberish. He looked up and started to smile.
“Hey, baby, you’re awake! Are you hurting? I will get a nurse, don’t worry. Everything is going to be just fine!” And before I could even try to respond, he was gone. The nurse came in and then a doctor and more nurses. Everyone was talking to Charlie about me, like I couldn’t hear them, like I wasn’t there. Someone mentioned that I had a very bad stroke and that the damage was severe. I went back to sleep. The next few days were a blur, full of tests and more tests. Then one morning, this bright and bubbly nurse came into the room and said it was time to get out of bed and get that body of mine moving again. I tried to say something to her but once again it was nothing but gibberish. The next few days were full of physical therapy and more test. The doctor came in and said that I could go home in a few days. Home. I was so excited. For about 15mins. Charlie and the girls came in next. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. The girls brought flowers and pictures of the grandkids. Charlie kissed my forehead.
Then he told me. I wasn’t going home. Apparently I needed more therapy and more care then I could get at home. Emma said they had looked at several nursing homes in the area and found a really great place.
“You have your own room and the window looks over a lake.”
The ambulance ride was bumpy but the EMT looked like McDreamy and had warm hands. I was taken to a nursing home about 15mins from our home. I had visited friends there, elderly members from our church. McDreamy and his partner took me into my new room and helped me get into the bed. Charlie and Ella were putting some of my things in the dresser. Emma was arranging the flowers and pictures of family. A nurse comes in and starts talking. I think she said her name was Amanda, but I wasn’t sure. She was telling us when the dining room was open, what was dinner that day and that physical therapy and speech therapy would also be in to talk with me. Another nurse came in and said she needs to get my vitals and weight. Charlie and the girls left, saying they would be back later. The nurse explained how to work the remote to the TV, the phone and how to call for help. She said that she need to do some sort of assessment but would be back later. Then, for the first time in, well I don’t know to be honest, there was silence. I looked out the window. Emma was right, there was view of a lake. It look like it was going to snow again. I looked around the room and noticed a small table and love seat. How lovely. The TV in the corner was dark. I reached for the remote and started flipping thru channels. I haven’t watched TV in forever I thought. Then it hit me. What day was it? How long was I in the hospital? I reached for the phone and dropped the remote on the floor. Great. I pushed the call light as I dialed our home number. Charlie answered and I did my now usual gibberish. I heard sigh and Emma came on the line. She said they were getting a few things for me and would be there soon. Why couldn’t I talk? Will I ever be able to talk again? Just then a cartoon started playing on the TV and it was way too loud. I reached for the remote and remembered in was on the floor. I looked around and saw just beyond the bed. I pushed off the blankets and tried to move myself up. I pushed my left leg over the side of the bed and pulled myself up to a sitting position and was sitting on the side of the bed when two young looking nurses walked in. Next thing I knew, they both had their arms around me and had me lying down again.
“Just where do you think you are going, missy? Don’t you know you can’t walk right? What do you want to do, fall on the floor and break your hip?” the nurse said as she covered me back up. I try to tell her that I was getting the remote, and pointed to it on the floor. But she didn’t understand me.
“Now, let’s stay in the bed, all right?” And with that, they were gone. Charlie and my girls came back as promised and kept saying how wonderful I looked. Ella said that she was heading home on Wednesday since I was doing so well and that she needed to get ready for her son’s birthday. I looked at her. Her son’s birthday is in February. What happened to January? Did I miss a whole month? The girls left as a nurse was bringing a dinner tray. She was busy talking to Charlie as she set up the tray. He looked so tired. I longed to hug him, to lie in bed next to him again. I looked down at my tray and picked up the coffee cup. It was thick as pudding and as was the milk and water. I pushed the tray away. Charlie tried to help but I could drink the stuff. It was awful. A few minutes later, Charlie said he had to go home and get some sleep and kissed me. Once again I was alone. I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew, the two young nurses were back. They were talking to each other and laughing. The taller one came on my left side, the broken side while the other one went to my right. I had no idea what they wanted, they were lost in conversation. It felt like forever before the taller one stopped talking and looked at me.
“Missy, we are going to change your diaper, k? Now I am going to roll you over to my friend, k?” And then she did just that. I wish I could tell her that my name wasn’t Missy, it was Sara. When they left, I started to cry. I felt humiliated and ashamed. I had no idea that I had soiled myself and then not only that, but I wasn’t even able to clean myself up. Was this ever going to end?
The next day was busy with therapy and a meeting with social services. Once again I felt I was just a fly on the wall. Charlie and the nice lady talked about me, “my condition”, and what was in my best interest. There was a goal set but it did not look good. I might need long term care. I started say something, but it sounded like foreign language. And once again I started to cry. Charlie took me back to my room and told me how much he loved me and how sorry he was. He looked like he was about to cry and then he shook his head and left. I sat by the window and looked over the lake. We were supposed to be ice fishing and enjoying our weekends off. I started feel tired and wanted to sleep. I pushed my call light and the two young nurses came in. I have learned their names were Holly and Molly. No, it’s true. And as usual, they were lost in conversation with each other. I will never understand how they could talk so much. Holly started to push me and Molly turned off my call light and I pointed to the picture of a bed on my flashcards. Molly took the cards and put them on the table. “Its not bedtime, its time for church. Now lets do something with that hair, it looks terrible.” Molly said as she put my hair in a bun. I hate buns and I don’t want to go to church. I pushed her hand away from my head. “ Now, missy, lets not hit! I am only trying to help!” Holly pushed me out and down the hallway and parked me next to a couple of other ladies in the day room. I heard her then tell the nurse at the desk that I was “combative with cares”. I hung my head down.
After church, I was able to lie down. And when Holly came to get me up for supper, I pushed her away, pointing to my flash cards, the word “NO”. And then I went back to sleep. The nurse came in and gave my night pills. I went back to sleep. I was awaken hours later when the lights came on and two aids walked in, laughing and very loud. One of them grabbed my blankets, and I pushed her arm away. She told the other girl that I was being “feisty”. They rolled me over and removed my pad. “Wow, she has some strong urine. Maybe that is why she is always confused and combative.” I felt her hands on me. I started to cry as they rolled me back and covered me back up.” “Don’t worry; we will let the nurse that you might have a UTI.” And with that, they turned off the light and left. I laid there in the dark. A few months ago, I was able to walk, talk, and care for myself and my husband. I was able to hold my grandchildren. Sleep in my own bed, eat my own food and drink regular coffee with nothing making so thick its like pudding. Now here I am, can not do anything for myself, have no idea when I soil myself and depend on complete strangers to clean it up, dress me, and feed me. I think I am entitled to be a little “feisty”. I try to fall back asleep, but the nurse comes in and says she needs to get some urine from me. I shake my head no. I don’t want her to touch me. I push her hand away and start to cry. She picks up the flash cards and points to things. I shake my head no over and over. I pick up the cards and throw them across the room and start to cry. I am not some confused old person! I am still me! Why can’t anyone understand that?
The next morning, I was sitting in the TV room with some other residents. Oprah was on, giving away trips to Paris to unsuspecting audience members. A pretty young lady pulled up a chair next to me. She wasn’t a nurse, she didn’t have on scrubs and she didn’t look tired. She smiled at me and told me her name was Mary, my new case worker. We went back to my room and we talked. Well, she talked and I pointed to pictures. And Mary actually understood me. It felt great! She then pulled out her cell phone and told the other person I was ready. Ready for what I didn’t know. But a moment or two later, my day nurse came in. Mary told her what we talked about and how I passed a test I don’t remember taking. The nurse smiled and sat down next to me. Mary went on and explained to her that my outburst and feisty behaviors were not from confusion or infections. She said it was from a “catastrophic reaction”, difficulty coping with the results from the stroke and being in a nursing home. I was impressed. She got all that from me pointing to pictures in her big notebook? Mary then put her hand on mine, and said that she would make sure that things would be different.
Over the next few days, I had meetings with Charlie and the nurse managers. This time, they talked to me and treated me like I was there and not like a drooling, lifeless gimp. I wasn’t 100% sure, but I had a feeling that this was the first day of my new life, a second chance and for once, in a very long time, I felt human again.Last edit by Joe V on Nov 30, '10 : Reason: formatting for easier reading
I was a CNA for 10yrs, LPN for 2 yrs, currently in RN school, proud momma and wife.
blessedmomma247 has '6' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'LTC, Addiction nursing'. From 'USA'; Joined May '10; Posts: 94; Likes: 189.2Nov 28, '10 by rnrainyThis is a beautifully written, from the heart letter. I would like your permission to share it with my staff and on my facebook...I always tell my peers to place themselves in the client's shoes. I have less "combativeness" from my patients than others, because I treat people with dignity. I remember to tell them "I am your nurse Laurene, and you are in the hospital...." Thank you for this1Nov 28, '10 by blessedmomma247Thank you very much!! And yes, you can share it. I wrote this because now I see things very differently as a nurse than I did as a CNA. When you are working as a CNA, you have a lot more hands on and one on one with the resident than you do when you are a nurse. I constantly remind staff to put themselves in their shoes. One day, things really hit home for alot of the staff when had a 39yr client that was admitted for permnament placement after suffering from a stroke that was secondary resulting from a fall out of a tree. One day the client was holding their 4yr child and the next, is now 100% dependant for their ADL's. It really puts things into perspective.1Nov 28, '10 by heartnursernDear Blessed,
Thank you for your story. Well written and heart wrenching. It is good to hear what it is really like from the other side. I went through similar treatment when my mom was ill, watching her be treated like a commodity in a bed. Thank you for saying what was in my heart at that time.
2Nov 28, '10 by cherryames1949Your story was a stab in my heart. You have described, in detail, my greatest fear. Thank you for sharing your difficult experience with us. It reminds us to treat patients the way we would want to be treated. I wish you good luck and good health.:heartbeat1Nov 30, '10 by Kooky KorkySo sorry you had to go through all this. How are you now?
I sometimes find I'm praying that some person who is being insensitive will come to know, from personal experience, about pain, helplessness, and other of life's more miserable, fearful experiences. Experience is the best teacher.
Thank you for sharing your difficult experience and I hope you are much healthier now.4Nov 30, '10 by blessedmomma247I really need to clarify. This story is just that...a story. It is not about me personally. I have worked in LTC for 12years now and I got this story from the residents that I have cared for over those years. Some residents voice their feelings while others are not able to. They hold your hand and look into your eyes as if they expect you to read their mind. I had one resident recently (probably the one who inspired me to write this) that suffered a massive stroke while at work one day. At first she was diagnosed with dementia among other diagnosises. The more I worked with her, the more I became to realize that she was still there...she could understand everything that was going on. She was in no way in any way confused. She was however, nonverbal. If she did speak it was, like "Sara", gibberish. I fought hard for her because no one would believe me at first that she did not have dementia. It took me two whole months before someone started to believe me. She had been so frustrated because she lost the most basic thing we have...the ability to communicate. I wrote this for other nurses and aides...basically any one in the healthcare field. Too many times, our residents, our patients, are treated like a dollar sign or just another patient. THere is rarely any compassion. Nurses and doctors are overworked and understaffed. We are so worried about making sure we finish the med pass in a timely manner along with the 100 other things we do in a 8 or 12hr shift. It is almost impossible to stop and talk with resident or give them something so basic..human compassion. Its pounded and pounded in our heads that "this is their home..respect their home" and yet most LTC's are run like a factory and the residents are just one more "product". I just wrote this one night, submitted it to my employer's newsletter and recieved a lot of unexpected support. That is when I thought I would share it on here. I am so sorry that I mislead everyone..that was no way in any way my intentions.3Nov 30, '10 by tralalaRNYou were not misleading at all! I am astounded, as I am sure everyone else is in reading this, that this did NOT happen to you - it is incredibly realistic! BRAVO!! Every first semester nursing student and every CNA in training should receive a copy of this. Thank you for sharing it here!