I love my job. I learn every day. I help people learn every day. I take great pleasure in both of those things and a lot of personal pride in it too because I think I’m pretty good at it. Someone I am training told me that I created a wonderful and safe learning environment with the right mix of patience, knowledge, praise, and honesty. It was an amazing compliment, but the pride I felt wasn’t that she had told me that. It didn’t puff me up or make me feel special or validated. It made me happy because that is exactly what my goals are in training someone, and I was thrilled to know that I had helped someone to feel that way. I was far more happy for her, and that was very cool.
The flip side of my job is that sometimes I see patients who are gravely ill, patients who die, patients who were standing on the wrong corner when an out of control car came by, patients who woke up one morning with a headache and went to bed that night with a brain tumor. They are old, they are young; they are mothers, fathers, babies, grandparents. Some of them come with their entire family in tow. Some come alone and leave alone, because they have no one to hold their hand. Some come with the caregiver from the assisted/group/nursing/psychiatric home where they live. Some have lost the ability to write their name. Some don’t know their name.
I see a lot of patients who get better, thank God. I work daily with miracle workers and life givers, people who, for whatever reason, have dedicated themselves to fighting an ultimately un-win-able war, one battle at a time: We will all die. These men and women go to work every day to put that day off a little longer for whomever they can or to give the days that are left some type of quality to the people they treat. Sometimes they drive me crazy, sometimes I’m in awe, but most of the time, I feel like a member of that team and like I’m doing something that matters in someone’s life.
And then I meet the patient in her 50s who has decided, no more. She’s been sick a few years now. She’s put multiple different poisons into her body to try to stop it, over and over and over again. They’ve found something that seems to be helping, but it is making her even sicker, knocking her down, beating her. And so it is that even in the face of potential promise, she says, Enough. He tells her that he understands. He tells her that, most likely, this will be it; the disease will rear up and take her … and she says okay.
Some days my job just reminds me how much I want to live.