What A Patient Taught Me About Healing
Posted by Anne-Marie Pandya on Apr 29, 2017
My journey started a while ago, about 10 years ago, as a new nurse. A really naïve and new nurse who really didn't know much about what healing meant. I thought healing meant that we're going to fix everybody, but I arrived at a very stark realization that healing means so many different things to so many people, and there's so many journeys that one can take to get there. Healing happens differently for everybody.
It was a patient of mine that really taught me that lesson. For privacy's sake I'm going to call her Jojo.
Jojo, when I first met her, was a 17 year old female. She was initially diagnosed with HIV, which later on progressed to AIDS, and was a young female that didn't really understand her diagnosis or her imbalance, her disease. Her parents kept that from her, so she didn't know her whole life. She only came to know her diagnosis when I met her, and it was, as you can imagine, the most horrific news to receive.
Jojo was known to most of the nurses as someone who is extremely angry and mean towards nurses. She was always on the bell right before those medications were due. It was a concern for the nurses. When I walked in that room, I remember the intensity of the energy within that room. It was bitter, angry. She was in the middle of an argument with her mother, and her mom stormed out, and she was left crying and just cursing at her mom while she left. I had just met her, and I was like, "I'm going to give you your pain medicine now."
I was just trying to do my job in an action oriented manner, but as I was leaving, I asked her if there was anything else she needed, if there was anything else I could do for her.
As I was leaving, she said, "Don't leave me. I don't want to be alone."
It caught me off guard. I replied, "Your mom must be coming back shorty. Can I grab her?" She was like, "No. But I don't want to die alone. I don't want to be in the room alone, and I don't want to die alone."
That really caught me off guard, and I paused and felt like there's something that I needed to offer her beyond the pain medicine that I had just given her. There was something else that I needed to offer her in that moment.
So I sat with her and I said, "Jojo, you will never be alone. You have us, and you can have anybody in this room, whenever you want it." I sat, and I started creating a sort of imaginary space for her, a place where she can bring in anybody she needed. I ask her to create it in her mind, "This is your safe space, so if you need to bring in your dog, and your friends, you can bring them in. You can have anybody here." She kind of agreed, and pretty soon she was like, "Okay, and can I bring in so-and-so?" I was like, "Yes, any time. Any time."
Through the weeks that I was caring for her, I realized she wasn't as much on the bell for the pain medicine. She kind of had a sense of peace within her. She was able to create a sense of healing for herself.
Not long after that, couple months later, she was very ill at the end of her life, and I remember visiting her, now in more of an intense care setting, and I went to her and I was like, "Jojo, who did you bring in today? Who's in your safe space?"
She said, "I brought in my mom, and I brought in my dad."
For me that was a moment where I realized that, yes, she was going to pass any day, but there was a sense of healing, a sense of peace, of respect, of compassion, and understanding of what her life was about.
That was the moment that really hit me, that I can never forget. She really helped me understand what the journey of healing could look like, even if we didn't"fix" her.