How Becoming Chronically Ill Changed My Journey as a Nurse
Dear fellow chronic illness warrior,
Before I became unwell, I was a full-time university student studying nursing. I loved it. I was passionate about it.
I read avidly about various conditions in text books, filling my head with knowledge of signs and symptoms, procedures and medications.
I was the young student nurse you saw during your hospital visits. The one ever so eager to administer your medications, take vitals, pull out drain tubes and chat to you about your life.
I love people and medical conditions fascinated me. I was excited to become a nurse – to interact with people all day, to help, to learn and to care.
Then I became unwell. My naivety as to the reality of life with a chronic illness was shattered.
Now I was the patient in the hospital bed. The patient who spent hours crying at home in pain before eventually deciding to make the exhausting trip to the emergency department. The ambulance trips. The trying to explain to paramedics, nurses and doctors exactly what my condition entails.
The patient who stared at the clock, memorizing the hospital schedule, meal times, and most importantly when I could have more pain meds. The patient who was too weak to change herself or shower herself.
The patient who was discharged once medically stable – but sent home to struggle with the weight of her pain and illness.
I have experienced not just the seen physical element of my illness – the wheelchair, the lost jobs, finances, freedom, but the deeper and hard piercing, unforeseen damages.
How illness impacts relationships, opens the door of isolation and dramatically changes how you live your life. The cost of illness spreads further than I could have ever imagined.
I have now been given a small glimpse as to what life is with a chronic health condition. I have seen beyond the surface of the diagnostic label and long list of related medications.
I’ve seen beyond the acute hospital stays, the IV drips and delayed waits.
To see how illness impacts the person deeply. The grief from loss of function, the desperation from sleepless nights of pain, and the hope in faith, for a cure, for relief.
I’ve met others with chronic illnesses and heard their stories. The ebb and flow of symptoms. The frustration with medical care. The fear of the unknown future. The hurt one feels. The impact on relationships and loss of purpose.
But I also see the strength. The joy found in small victories and small moments of delight. The gratitude and love for those present in their lives. The beauty of life found not in perfection, but in the midst of brokenness.
Seeing devastating illness from the other side has changed me.
I hope to recover enough from my illness and home-bound state which I am currently in and to go back to nursing.
I will remain ever thankful for this experience however – for it has changed me and revealed to me more than text-books ever could.
As chronic illness warriors we are so much more than the diagnostic label of our conditions.
The battle-wounds we wear from our pain represent a story: the mark of how the condition has challenged us, broken us, strengthened us, and changed our perspective.
I hope that when I nurse again, I will see beyond the physical signs of illness and tasks I am responsible for, and give time to listen to your story, your pain and your victory.
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