I was sitting at my desk today on lunch break and the office manager came back and asked for my help.
A man had come into the office at lunch hour and was laying on the front counter extremely short of breath. She asked if I would go out and assess his condittion.
I walked out and saw an old man, older by appearance then by his actual age. Over weight with extremely thin hair. What little hair he had left was oily and unkempt. As I approached him I could smell the odor of cigarettes, days old on his clothes which had dirt all over them. He was struggling to breath. Unable to sit down, I assessed him while he leaned onto a chair. Diminished sounds in the lung bases, wheezing in the upper airways, heart racing, oxygen level in the toilet.
The doctor and I took him back to a room and gave him some oxygen. Still unable to sit down, the doctor asked me to stay in the room while we called the medic for transport to the local ER.
As I stood there talking to him, trying to remember all my critical thinking skills, trying to teach him how to breath with pursed lips... he started talking to me.
I heard about how he quit taking his anxiety medicine because he was afraid to lose his disability if someone thought he was insane. How his brother had stolen money from him. How his friends had turned their backs on him. How his wife had died some years ago. How he was so damn mad at the world and didn't know if he could go on living. How he wanted to end it all. How he couldn't take it sitting in his trailer, alone, only able to sleep sitting up on his couch. How he had no one to call on in times of help like this.
My first thought as I watched him being hauled off in the ambulance was clinical... I really hope this man gets some psychiatric help in the hospital. I heard some of the others talk in the office about how he's crazy, and a pain in the ass....
It bugged me all day long too...
Then as I was driving home it hit me like a mac truck in the face.
This man was dying.... and alone. He had NO ONE. He only had his doctor and the few nurses left who actually cared about him, and then only because it is their jobs to do so. This man was scared. This man was so lonely it was making him anxious. It was driving him to the brink of ending his own life because the misery was too much to handle. I drove home remembering his face, struggling to breath, snot dripping down his nose as his tears filled his eyes while he was talking about his life, what little life he has left.
At that moment, I finally FELT this holiday. Amazing how someone in a desperate time in their life comes into mine and instantly changed my perspective.
I drove home in love with my life. Thankful that I still am part of the medical world, where I learn compassion. Thankful that I didn't see this man as a pain or a bother, thankful I could feel empathy for him, thankful I still saw him as a human being.
And I drove home in love with my family. Thankful for every minute of the day I have with them. Thankful that I have a family at home waiting for me. Thankful when I walk in and everyone is coloring "Turkey notes" for each other, all the cards filled with love for each other. Thankful that I still have a wonderful man to kiss me when I walk through the door. I'm thankful today that I'm not alone and that I can share this thanks with the people I love.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you :-)