Friday, June 6, 2008

"A Hard Day"

"I'm having a hard day..."

This afternoon I visited with one of my patients, Peter* (as mentioned in an earlier post) and the first thing he told me when I asked how he was going was, "I'm having a hard day."  This was my second time seeing Peter*, but my first time going to see one of my patients by myself.  I had been looking forward to seeing him because the last visit with him was so special and touching, but as I entered the facility and made my way through the building to the elevator I felt some anxiety about this visit.  Peter* had been in isolation contact on my first visit so I wondered if that was still the case where I would have to wear gloves and a gown to enter his room for my own protection, the gloves and gown being a physical barrier between myself and Peter* that disturbed me on my previous visit.  It had really disturbed me having to wear gloves and a gown to enter his room because I worried that he was already feeling isolated by living in a facility and not being able to see his family as often as he liked.  The physical interaction he seem to so desire and could have with me, to hold my hand, was suddenly interrupted by the sterile latex gloves covering my hand, again not for his protection, but for my own.

While Peter* did not remember my name from my first visit, and again struggled with understanding how to say "Denise" he did recognize my face and thanked me for coming by to see him.  I felt as if he was quite frustrated during our visit by his comments of it being "a hard day" and there was "a lot going on."  As I asked him questions and tried my best to simply be present to him to listen to anything he wanted to say or talk about I grew sad at seeing how frustrated he was becoming with trying to answer my questions and share things with me.  Peter* would begin to respond, saying a few, and then stumble on his words as if his mouth would just not say the word he wanted to say so badly.  He would try a few more times and then say "I'm going to try it one more time," and unfortunately he would still struggle to finish the sentence he wanted to say to me.  I wanted desperately to hear what he was trying so hard to say, and I could see great frustration as his blue eyes penetrated mine.  He kept apologizing to me that he wasn't doing a good job explaining himself or taking care of himself.   I was saddened to see this was happening more now than my visit a couple weeks ago. 

With sitting in volunteer training and reading Final Gifts (for the second time) as part of my placement I have begun to see how those that near life's end go through a lot as sickness and disease cause them to begin facing their own mortality, something most of us try our hardest not to think about, begin grieving various loses (ie, jobs, health, physical ability, control, ability to do things they once enjoyed, and ability to take care of their basic needs), and it is "hard work."  I'm not sure any of us can ever completely realize how hard that work might be and other hard work that may be going on internally that as "observers" we're not even aware of.  Near the end of my visit with Peter* he told me "I'm full" but was unable to say any more about what he meant by that.  I was given the privilege again to be in prayer with him as I offered some words of intercession to God for him, and Peter* surprised me by adding his own prayer after mine.  We talked for a few more minutes and suddenly Peter* squeezed my hand tighter and began to pray to God again.  I'm not sure what prompted his need to pray again while I was there, but I felt privileged to be part of that intimate moment with him as the words of his second prayer seem to show a small change within him that he felt more assured of God's power and presence, and asked for strength from the Holy Spirit.  

I left soon after the second prayer because he seemed to be tired from my visit with him, although he did not want me to go.  He thanked me several times for coming and said that he would see me later.  I did not want to leave because he seemed to desire human interaction and a simple touch of holding his hand, and I do hope to see him again soon and that communication in our next visit would be easier for him the next time.

(*name has been changed for confidentiality)

No comments: