To the Nurse Who Made Me Cry
We see many stories about the wonderful nurses who help those of us with chronic illness. For the most part, I’ve had great nurses, too. The nurse at my general practitioner’s office has known me most of my life and is the kindest person I know. She even hands out my business cards.
Unfortunately, not all nurses are like this. Sometimes a good nurse can have a bad day and that’s understandable. But sometimes, even one bad day can truly hurt a patient, like it did to me. So, here is the letter I’d like to send to the nurse who made me cry.
You never told me your name, so I cannot speak to you directly. It’s also been a few years, so I don’t even know if you are even still working at the hospital where I met you. When we met, it was one of the worst days of my life. I had only just begun my search for answers, which I still do not completely have. You met me just hours after I had been told by my doctor at the time that there was nothing left to do, she had found nothing, and all that was left was a follow up before she’d pass me to someone else. On top of my own medical mysteries, my beloved grandmother had taken a turn for the worst and would in fact pass away four days later.
You couldn’t possibly have known all of the intimate details of how my week had gone. You were simply the charge nurse on the floor I was on, where I was waiting until my body had enough fluids for me to use the bathroom and go home. You didn’t know how absolutely gutted I felt. The exploratory surgery, looking for endometriosis, had shown nothing and, at the time, that was my last hope. You didn’t know my pain levels.
What you did know, however, was that I was a patient. You could probably see that I’d already cried a few times that day. I can’t imagine it was hard to miss. You did know I relied on you for care. I relied on your knowledge as a nurse to make sure I was OK. I relied on you for compassion.
You did not show me compassion that day. Instead, you showed me contempt. When the battery died in the IV monitor, and it began loudly beeping, I politely explained that I had a very bad headache and asked if you might be able to stop the beeping. As you leaned in to check the battery, you said to me lowly, “Well, maybe you should grow up a little, it’s just beeping.” Later, when I had finally managed to use the bathroom and you, per regulation, checked the toilet, I said nothing. I knew it was your job. As the on-call doctor stepped in to confirm that I could now go home, you sneered at me before telling him with a laugh that I had “been embarrassed” when you checked.
I did say something about that. I looked at the doctor and firmly told him that I had not been embarrassed, and could he please personally let me know when I could leave? When I changed and sat in the wheelchair, waiting for you to push me to my parent’s vehicle so I could finally go home, I was again quiet. I was tired, I was in pain and I wanted to go home and pet my puppy. As you wheeled me to the car, as if to have one last moment of power, you not only ran over a large bump, but you ran the wheelchair into the edge of the sliding door on the way out. The jolt sent pain through my body as though I’d been struck by lightening.
I don’t know if you were having a bad day. I don’t know what your life was like. Maybe you, too, were dealing with an ill family member. Maybe you felt powerless and saw an opportunity. I don’t know. What I do know is that I cried on the way home. Sure, I was in pain, and that contributed to the matter. But, I also cried because I felt like I had just been slapped by someone who was meant to take care of me.
It’s been almost a year and a half, and I still think about you. If I go to a new doctor, or have to go to the ER or an urgent care, I’m filled with fear. I’m afraid that another nurse will act the way you did. Because now, I know just how fragile my body is. You see, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which explains much about my life and various injuries. It means that now I have to let nurses and doctors know that they absolutely must be careful with me, or else they may really hurt me. Thanks to you, and your decision to treat me the way you did, I am forever afraid that someone else will ignore my words and hurt me. Maybe ignoring my explanation regarding the loud beeping didn’t physically hurt me, but it did show me that not everyone in your profession is good.
I am doubtful you will see this. Like I said, I never even learned your name. But if you do, or if someone else who has done things like this sees it, I hope it will make you realize something. We patients need you. You are our lifelines. We rely on you to help us and make sure we are safe and as healthy as we can be. We need you. Please, even if you are having a bad day, do not take it out on us. More often than not, we cannot protect ourselves.
The Girl Who Needed You, That You Hurt Instead
Fellow Mighty friends, if you could write a letter to a medical professional, what would you say? Would it be one of thanks, for helping you or keeping you safe? Or would it be a letter like mine, explaining that their actions had hurt you in a way they may have never even considered?
I ended up being lucky. My bad experience ultimately did not physically hurt me, but the mental damage it did likely won’t go away. My only wish for my readers is that you never have to go through anything similar to what I did and that you never experience anything worse.
Photo by BrianAJackson via Getty.