Friday, November 19, 2010

...scenes from a hospital...




Yesterday the surgeon removed three pins from the radius and ulna bones in my left arm, at the region of the wrist.  As I had been assured by some of you, it was not a big deal and you were right!  It certainly was easier than the minor surgery six weeks ago to insert them.  The bones have healed beautifully thanks to six weeks of immobilization, the pins, and the miraculous healing capacity of the body.  Apparently I am not to lift, push, pull or twist with that arm/hand for the next four weeks, so my routine will still not return to normal.  Oh well ... this is nothing in the grand scheme of things is it?  I want to thank you all for your kind expressions of concern.








I was recently recalling some interesting scenes observed as I spent time in the hospital waiting for surgery six weeks ago.  One has to be admitted to the hospital before surgery and be assigned a room where you will be prepped before entering the surgery floor.  On entering the semi-private room on the ward, I had to pass through a phalanx of people visiting the room's other patient.  The young woman in the bed near the door, was surrounded by four or five other women.  It felt like we were walking in on a party.  The conversation was animated and loud, but abruptly stopped as DH and I entered. 


As everyone stared, one of the women asked what happened to my arm.  My explanation was cut short by the arrival of the nurse.  The curtain between the beds was pulled and I given a gown, asked to get in the bed.  When they received word that the surgeon was ready for me, I would be given a shot to calm me.  The nurse suggested it could be a while and that I had time to sleep if I could.


The loud talking around the other bed had resumed interrupted only by occasional bursts of laughter.  Gradually, members of the patient's boisterous 'pre-op team' said their goodbyes.  One remained with the patient.  Through snippets of the group conversation I learned that the young female patient was about to have a toe amputated.  There was indignation and justifiable anger about this as it was due to a work injury that was improperly treated and had turned gangrenous.

The dynamic between this woman, about to lose her toe, and her friends intrigued me.  The 'friend' who remained with her until she would be taken off to surgery proceeded to tell the young patient about her anger at society for all the unfair twists and turns of her life.  It was a sad  and sorry tale of abandonment, poverty, loss of children, etc.  Perhaps she was trying to distract the patient from the imminent amputation of her toe, but I doubt it.  This friend was ranting about her lot in life as if to suggest, "losing a toe is nothing, look at what I have endured'.  It seemed such a self-absorbed, unaware, inconsiderate and counterproductive way to pass the time with someone waiting for surgery.  The patient said very little, probably having tuned out the litany of complaints in order to deal with her own immediate concerns.  As you can imagine, I was not successful at falling asleep.

After we had both had our surgeries and were back in the semi-private room to recuperate, my husband quietly attended to me and suggested I try to sleep.  I said I would and suggested he go home for a bit while I slept.  Unfortunately, the partner, boyfriend or husband of the young amputee arrived at this time and in his booming voice proceeded to verbally assail the patient, his girlfriend, with stories of  HIS lifetime of indignities suffered at the hands of society.   He also began to tell her of  the legal suits he would be bringing on her behalf against the first doctors who did not accurately diagnose the severity of her toe injury.  He was edgy, angry, upset and suddenly he crawled up on the bed with her and started weeping about his lot in life ... and now he had a girlfriend missing a toe!   As she lay there, post-amputation, SHE HELD HIM and consoled HIM telling him everything would be all right.  His alternating wailing and whimpering, and her stoic, quiet consolation continued for the better part of an hour.  What was wrong with this picture?!!

All of this prevented me from sleeping, but it did distract me from any pain in my arm unrelieved by medication.  I was dumbfounded by the degree of self-absorption that difficult times seemed to confer on these so-called friends of the unfortunate amputee.  There she was in the role of mother/therapist/priest to these poor, ignorant souls.  Neither nurses nor I intervened however.  I considered saying something, but felt it would only add to the weight of the burden she was carrying.  A word from a nurse suggesting the patient could benefit from some quiet time might have been appropriate, but perhaps the busy nurses know from experience that people will generally do what they are going to do.


I left before the young amputee and was able to send a small, compassionate smile her way as I exited.  I only hope her friends got their act together and were able to take better care of her at home.

27 comments:

  1. As I am sure you agree, Bonnie, in life there are givers and there are takers - your eavesdropping on the next bed shows just how real this is.
    Glad your arm is really on the mend now.

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  2. Weaver: That is a good way of summing up what was happening there. BTW, I did not have to eavesdrop - their voices were so loud they could be heard in the hallway, according to my husband. There was no way I would not be privy to all this information. (Sorry, just dislike that word eavesdrop! :-)

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  3. I have found throughout life that people try to console people in crisis with tales of the crises they've had or were having. When I had breast cancer, I was dumbfounded by the number of cancer stories I was suddenly hearing from everyone--cancer was a damn epidemic. I concluded they were dolts. I was sorry I had told them my plight--yet I had to because the illness was going to become obvious during treatment. When I told them, I just wanted a friendly ear to vent my distress. They should have let me and kept quiet. (Glad you're okay. Glad I'm okay)

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  4. Oh my, I feel for you and your one handed approach to things for the next four weeks. Glad to know your observational skills are still intact.

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  5. Bonnie! I'm so glad the pin removal went well and your arm is healing well. I only have an experience of once breaking a toe to compare your injury with (and there was nothing to be done but wait it out, so pins are not something I have any knowledge of) but imagine it must be much more of a challenge to do so many things without the use of a (helping) hand - though I assume your DH offers his when he can :-) .

    Wishing you fortitude and patience in the coming weeks!

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  6. glad you are healing up bonnie...a little snapshop if life there...ugh.

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  7. Delighted to know that your wrist is healing well. Congratulations on the patience you showed in dealing with the unfortunate situation in the other bed. I'm not sure I could have restrained myself.

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  8. sometimes we are exposed to the lives of others and it stays with us. send your loving intention, then move on to your own healing. perhaps after this experience mulls for a while a pearl will emerge! this post was but an appetizer.


    get well, friend




    Aloha from Waikiki

    Comfort Spiral

    ><}}(°>


    <°)}}><

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  9. This is excellent news about your wrist, Bonnie. Hold on just a little bit longer, and you'll be back to controlling that kitchen in no time ...

    Wow, the hospital room with the drainers. Yes, how nice it would have been of the nurses to encourage quiet, but you're probably right that it wouldn't have helped. It's really a very good thing to think about and remember, that when someone shares a story of their plight, to focus on them without heading straight off into our own story. Why is it so difficult to know how to just listen?

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  10. I am so pleased that you have healed nicely! YAHOO! The adventure in pre-op bed with the toe girl- so very familiar- self absorbed folks- there are way too many in this world.It could be genetic they are finding- There are two variations of the COMT gene- COMT met and COMT val- the later of the two is the favorable one and essential to the survival of a species...dopamine is four times more effectively activated- there are more good deeds done- more altruism...So, there we are- horrid behaviour could very well be genetic.

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  11. I shouldn't think so, Bonnie. She is probably known as a good and sympathetic listener.

    I have had such 'I-specialists' in my life too. The minute you say anything mildly self-referring they come out with tales of woe they - or worse - somebody they know have experienced.

    One of the lessons in life I have learned is to get rid of these people, quickly and ruthlessly. It is absolute joy to behold their hurt expressions.

    I am happy for you and your wrist. Like I said before, it is getting the use of it back which is the boring and hard work part.
    Good luck.

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  12. You know, her role in their group may be as comforter in which case they were only acting in normal ways. She may even enable them in this way. But the boyfriend? very weird. As if having a girlfriend with a missing toe diminished him somehow.

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  13. L.W. Thank you - I'm glad you are well too. It is such a gift - to just have someone listen.

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  14. lakeviewer: Thank you! Well, I did not have much choice in the matter as our beds were no more than 4-5 feet apart.

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  15. neighbor: Thank you. The worst is now behind me.

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  16. Thanks Brian. Yes it was an intensified snapshot of life - a rather sad one.

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  17. Thanks George. Well, I had quite a debate with myself, but decided to say anything might somehow feel shaming on the receiving end, and I did not want to do that. I did really want to pull a Sarah Palin and say to the boyfriend: "Man up!". I'm glad I found some impulse control! :-)

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  18. Cloudia: Thank you for the well wishes. Yes, better sometimes to simply wish the best for someone, and concentrate on our own growth.

    The pearl here seems self-evident: the value of listening, presence and attention - and the opportunities for deep connection that are missed when we are too preoccupied with self.

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  19. Ruth: I'm sure as a campus counsellor you have excellent listening skills. It is a rare quality and one we all need to work on to cultivate.

    You have hit the nail on the head. I can't wait to get into my kitchen and give it a major 'Spring' cleaning in December!!! Dear DH has taken great care of me, but a lot of housework has been left undone. It has been a great exercise for me in letting go of control and just allowing things in the home to be. :-)

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  20. Linda Sue: You mention some interesting research there ... I have not heard of these genes ...

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  21. Friko: Yes, we often do teach people how to treat us. But you'd think it would be obvious that even good caretakers can be in situations where THEY need a little TLC.

    Yes, I can feel and see that the muscles around the bones have atrophied a bit during their six week holiday. Lots of work (after 4 more weeks) to get back into shape. I'll do it.

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  22. Ellen: I think you're right. But one would think when someone is flat on their back and has just lost a part of their body that the attention would be on their needs.

    Yes, that poor man was so needy. They were just a few feet away from me and he seemed more distraught over her loss of a toe than she. An excellent study in human nature!

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  23. Glad your healing is going well. Your tale of the ranter and complainer within the circumstances of the woman facing surgery is a sad portrait. I try to avoid this kind of person if possible.

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  24. I'm glad that the pin removal was as tolerable as it turned out to be. Alas for the restraint that must be shown over the next FOUR weeks. A forced hiatus from what could have been a whirlwind of activity ... no doubt a well needed hiatus ... one that you wouldn't have dreamed to have taken otherwise.

    I hesitated to comment but I couldn't help myself. I lost my husband early June and can attest to the neediness that this brought out in those that surrounded me ... as their own mortality seemed to be exposed. My, ahem, close friend had a complete meltdown either the evening of or the next evening after her driving home with me to be with me that first week. I couldn't believe it. I had to comfort and counsel her ... and it was over NOTHING like losing a soul mate of a husband. And this is from one who took her degree in psychology as she wanted to be a counselor! I find my best solace and council has been in prayer and meditation. I've recently had a fellow widow over for tea ... one who truly understands ... even to the faux pas from "well meaning" people.

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  25. Paul: It always amazes me how medicine depends on the body's innate ability to heal itself. No surgery, no pins, etc. could have their effect if the body didn't know how to recreate the necessary tissue. Thank you BTW!

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  26. Cicero Sings: I'm so please you took the time to comment. My condolences with regard to the recent loss of your husband. What you say is so true - our own fears are awakened when someone around us is ill or dying ... we seem to become overcome by our own fear and lose command of our reason! I'm sorry your friend reacted similarly at such a pivotal moment for you ... did she ever apologize?

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  27. Oh boy your xray caught my eye. I broke my wrist in June and it didn't heal well. The doctor said he'd have to rebreak it and put in screws. I didn't like the thought of metal in me and asked him if I left it the way it was, if it would be ok.
    He said it very well could be because its not that bad. so I left it.
    I use it but its weak and I don't know how long it will stay that way or if it will get stronger with time.but now I see your xray and wish I took a picture of mine.He said if I am not happy this work can be done at any time.
    They fixed it fine but then the cast was not that good and the bones moved. Another woman came in and the same thing happened to her.
    I wear a brace when working just to give it support. I didn't know they pull out the screws once its healed and didn't think to ask.
    Had I known I might have gone for the operation.

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