She pleaded with me, “I’m really uncomfortable.”
“But I am in so much pain… please, the least you could do, is scratch my back?”
In the hospital, I couldn’t spend as much time as I’d like with each patient, because I had tons of other things to do. I knew it was a simple and harmless request, but I thought to myself, I have 5 other patients, need to pass meds, check my IV pumps, hang fluids, and draw blood…I really don’t have time for this. But I didn’t even have the time to argue with her either, so after giving her pain medicine, I quickly reached behind her and scratched her back.
Mrs.A sighed with relief.
And a half hour later, she called again. “I’m still itchy!! Can’t you scratch my back again?”
I scanned the nurses station and improvised. Her small dilemma required a more sustainable solution. Grabbing 2 spoons, I taped the ends to each other, then wrapped a wad of gauze at the end of one of the spoons. I wound tape around the gauze to secure it, then handed it to my patient.
She looked at me strangely. “What is this?”
“A back scratcher,” I smiled.
~ ~ ~
Now that I am working in the community, things are different.
My patients are not as dependent, their problems less urgent. In fact, they may have had some issues for a long time.
But those problems are real.
Every time Mrs.B came to the clinic, she was sick. Despite being on chronic medication. Supposedly.
The truth was that she was embarrassed to tell us that she couldn’t afford it. When it came to buying food , or buying medicine, she chose food. I don’t know what happened afterwards, because she disappeared.
Until a few months later, when our worst fears came true…
Thankfully, she survived.
~ ~ ~
In this place,
where pain is misunderstood,
where poverty is invisible,
where access is limited,
where uncertainty looms,
where loneliness abounds,
where fear hovers,
the daily trials of our patients,
somewhere only we [nurses] know.