After 25 years of providing pastoral care and visiting people when they’re sick or down or in the hospital, as well as having had a recent health event of my own, I’ve seen that there are a few basic responses people have to being in compromised or vulnerable states. obviously if it’s a catastrophic trauma, the main response for the patient and their loved ones is fear. that’s appropriate. but if it’s not so terrifying, here are some others:
“I hate being here, I want out, this is bullshit, I hate my doctors, I hate taking meds, Take me home now.” this may be because the patient is in distress and pain, and that’s real. but it can also be because this patient is a controller, or a perfectionist, and the vulnerability of being in a setting in which they are not in control is too much for them. they can be very grumpy and unpleasant. don’t worry, family or friend or loved one – they’re not in control and they’re just pissed off. don’t panic.
“I love this – everyone brings me everything and I’m the center of attention!” … that one’s pretty self-explanatory.
“I didn’t realize how much I needed the rest.” many men and women have told me that they wished for a hospitalization – nothing life-threatening, just, bad enough to have to stay in the hospital for a week or so; that way they can legitimately get a break from work, life, errands, bills, kids, all the shit that exhausts them and which they can’t figure out how to say No to.
Grief. something got lost. a part of the patient’s life has ended, or their life won’t be the same now, or they learned hard things. grief is absolutely appropriate. and the grief work won’t be over til it’s over. that will maybe take a long time.
“I’m grateful to be here.” that was me. (for context, see my previous post.) i couldn’t breathe, and then i went to the hospital, and then i could breathe! they said they were taking me to get an x-ray; they said they were checking my heart; they said they were giving me an injection in my stomach; and then they said they were admitting me and needed to see what was happening with my blood clots. my response? yay! please do all that and more! do whatever you need to! i was grateful for the health professionals, grateful for the tech and the machines and the tools, grateful for how kind the people were at the hospital. i thanked them, and meant it. (actor jonah hill’s brother just died from the same thing i had. i promise, i’m grateful to be here.)
yes, it’s also important to get data and be your own advocate and not just blindly accept whatever the docs and staff say; they might be wrong. don’t be naive. but – seriously – medicine is helpful. and, yes, i was only there a few days, and that’s different from a few weeks, so i can’t speak to how hard a hospital visit can be. – i’m just telling you the context for this:
4 am: “Mr Diamond, I’m so sorry to awaken you so early, but we need to take 14 vials [or some crazy amount; i was groggy] of your blood.” “No problem! go for it. here’s my arm.” and then at 10 am: “Mr Diamond, I’m so sorry, but we’re moving you down a floor. i am so sad! you’re the best patient on the entire wing! you’re our favorite!” “Me?” “Oh, yes, you’re so cooperative and you just do whatever we need you to do.” i’m not bragging; i was genuinely grateful and humbled by their care for me and my family.
be grateful. y’know, don’t be a dick.
this observation is, of course, not about hospitalization at all; it is about everything. i am often not grateful in my life. i am often grumpy and self-absorbed and off in my own bullshit story. but, there’s nothing like living through what one of my nurses lovingly described to me as a “potentially fatal health event” to help a person get perspective.