Sarah Blake LaRose (3kitties) wrote,
Sarah Blake LaRose

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reflection on hospitals and extraversion

What is too much extraversion...?

My dad would probably say that I extravert out of my own need to be comfortable with a situation. At times perhaps that is true. At times it is out of my intense awareness of other people's pain and my desire to somehow "speak to" it. Many people would probably think that ministry to a stranger's pain isn't my business. But there are times when holding myself back from this is extremely hard.

When my grandmother was in the hospital during her final weeks of life, we often heard a lady down the hall yelling with all her might. Her agony was palpable. I was 19 years old, but I remember having the urge to go and sing to her or pray with her. One of my other relatives did eventually visit her. She was a young lady, in her 40s, and had two children at home. She was not at peace with death, and she was screaming not because of pain but because she didn't want to die and she knew that death was imminent. No wonder she was yelling. I was glad that my aunt had gone to see her, and I wished that I had had the courage.

Yesterday, I had similar feelings while visiting H.; but it was much harder to figure out what to do because the person in question was her roommate. She became agitated at some point while we were there, and the doctor came in and was very unsympathetic to her. It became clear that she was addicted to medications but also had some additional problems. The situation was very troubling to me, especially because the doctor's interactions were so strained with the patient. It made her very hostile and combative, and in a way I could understand. She didn't feel like she was getting heard, so she was going to make sure she got heard. Her emotional state wasn't rational, but since when does a person have to be rational to deserve a hearing. The pastoral counselor in me was quite upset.

On another level, I felt that this kind of stuff would interfere with H.'s recovery. H. is taking her new limitations with incredible spunk. If there is one thing she is afraid of, it is being severely disabled and sitting around like a lump. But she still has a good, sharp mind, and she is not about to let anything take that away from her. At this point, she thinks that she can recover. It's probably not realistic for her to recover all of her motor functions, but she's certainly going to try to live out the remainder of her days with all the gumption she has. The hostility in the room would have upset and frightened her and made it very hard for her to concentrate on her own emotional healing process. I encouraged Mom and her son to advocate for the other lady to be moved; and it worked. Surprisingly, it was done immediately.

I think that moving the lady to her own room may have been wise for her, too. Part of what I eventually got mad about was the way the doctor acted toward her--we talked about this, and I talked about it with Dad later. The doctor acted like she was putting all this stuff on for attention, but it was probably all withdrawal symptoms. That became clear to me later. So she's not supposed to cry or "act like that," say she hurts, etc, because supposedly she doesn't. (She probably does even though it's withdrawal pain.) And in the next bed is H. who gets spoken to like a sweet old lady, doted over because she's recovering so well, every pain checked on and medicated... How would that feel? I know how it would make me feel if I was irrational and afraid. She doesn't feel like anyone is on her side, and the last thing she needs is H.'s situation rubbing that feeling in unintentionally. When the nurse said it was better for everyone, I felt guilty because we had just been thinking about H., but really it was better for everyone. I'm praying that someone nice comes around who can help that lady through all this.

It's hard for me to understand the things I am feeling. I had a strong urge to go over and pray with that lady--or at least try to speak some kind of words of comfort. But Mom would have probably felt that her life was none of our business. But what about the lady in Granny's hospital. Her life was none of our business... But was she comforted by my aunt's visit? She had no visitors of her own. Would this lady have benefitted from my stepping over and saying, "I can hear that you're very afraid and sad and that you really need to know that someone cares about you. Would you mind if I sat here and prayed with you and talked with you for a minute?" Was I just there to see H., my friend? Can I be so selfish as to just withhold the love of Jesus for my friends? I could have been the only Jesus she would ever know, and she might have needed him badly right then. What if her hostility to everyone's help was the very thing that would give her a disposition to hear the gospel? And I was too timid, too private, to share.

There was one time when the lady really smiled and those walls of hostility came down. The nurse came in and offered to bring Mom and Alexis and me some drinks. We accepted, and she returned and promptly spilled ice on the floor. The lady in the next bed had spilled several drinks that day, and she cheered up and said, "I'm not the only one!" The "them vs. me" walls had been broken because the nurse was human and spilled a drink. Maybe there was hope that she wasn't such a bad person after all. I could hear it in her voice. The sound of her saying through her tears, "Y'all are saying I do everything wrong," will never leave my mind. Regardless of whether that was really what was being said or not, so many things are communicated by manner of speech and by what is unsaid that it can be hard for a person in such a vulnerable state to hear what it being said. There's got to be a better way to handle addiction than to tell a person, "You've got to quit acting like this."


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