While working as a nurse-tech in nursing school, I would often get assigned the Psych patients or the HIPAA-No patients (usually those who were incarcerated or under some kind of police watch), who were admitted to our floor for their traumatic injuries. It seemed that if we had one of these patients, we had about 6 of them, all at the same time.
One night, I was really tired and just felt I could not make it through the whole night, especially with these very needy and very draining patients. Well, I was in for some real introspection.
In my upbringing and due to some very traumatic personal events in my family, I always said and thought I would have a very hard time caring for a patient who had committed murder or some other violent crime. What I didn't know was that I wouldn't always know what a patient may have done on their own free time.
During this shift, we admitted a, "John Doe," who was under police watch and observation. I knew he was coming from the prison, but, I did not know any of his past history-just that he had sustained some injuries in a prison fight. When I greeted him, he immediately said to me, "You're the only one who has smiled and looked directly at me." I was a little taken aback, because I had not even realized I was doing those things.
Throughout the night, as I cared for him, I made sure he had fresh water, snacks, and clean linen. He was handcuffed to the bed rails and there were always 2 or 3 officers with him. Since I'm generally not afraid to talk to people and I know most people love talking about themselves, I began to talk with "John."
Me: "So, if you don't mind me asking, how did you get all these cuts on your body?"
John: "Well, I was caught by two different groups or gangs. They was trying to teach me a lesson."
Me: "A lesson? Well, I admit, I am a little 'jail-naÃ¯ve,' but, it seems that if they cut you this many times, they were really trying to really injure you or worse."
John: "Nah, not really. If they wanted to kill me, they could have and would have. They was just trying to teach me that the next time, it will be worse."
Me: "Again, if I'm being nosey, tell me, and I will shut-up. I just like to get to know my patients a little more than what I read on paper."
John: "Nah, you good. I appreciate that, really, 'cuz, most people, even doctors and nurses, don't really talk to me, so, the fact that you axin is different."
Me: "I guess, what I really want to know is why they cut you all over your body like this?"
John: "See, they wanted to get back at me for snitchin and they think I'm tryin to get out of stuff. It's just how it is, but, I ain't worried, tho, 'cuz, if they gonna take me, ain't nothing gonna stop 'em."
Me: "Are you afraid? First, I would be afraid of going to jail; but, even more so, I know I would be afraid to go back to that environment where I knew my life could be ended in a snap."
John: "Nah, I'm not afraid, not really. It just goes with the territory."
He must have seen the look on my face and saw the incredulous look on my face, too. As we kept talking, I finally asked him, "What are you in for?" to which "John," replied, "I was accused of attempted murder."
"Accused, or actually," I asked. "John," said, "Well, Ms. Evette, I can only say I was accused, 'cuz I haven't been tried yet, but, I was in a position where I had to defend myself from this dude who had a hit on me, and he saw me in a bar, tried to hit me, and I got to him first. That's all I can say."
I agreed with him, but, when I left the room, I found myself talking to myself, and going back and forth between the ideas of justice, retribution, punishment, and criminality. I was also astounded that I did not feel conflicted about caring for this man, even knowing a little more of his history.
The next day, "John," was discharged and as we walked down to the secure area to place him in the police van, he turned to me, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "Thank you, Ms. Evette. Thank you for talking to me, asking me about me, and just being real with me. I really appreciate you doing that. It meant a lot to me."
Now that I'm an RN, I've been told, "Thank you," many times, and each time it is music to my ears. But, this time, this, "Thank you," cut much deeper!