Stories about my patients: a nurse’s memories
A dialysis center is no Disneyland. I learned that on my first day of training at a dialysis center years ago. I was shocked that people can get so sick. I was shocked that so many were so sick. I knew about dreaded diseases, of course, and had prior hospital exposure, but that was the first time I came face-to-face with individuals with end-stage renal disease on a daily basis. Getting to know the patients on a more personal level was the privilege I got whilst in the midst of learning specialized nursing skills. Here are some of their stories.
Meet some of my dialysis patients
Mr. A – Mr. A was a character. While everyone was enjoying watching the local TV show It’s Showtime!, he was busy reading books along the lines of “The Metaphysics of Politics.” Wow, right? Erudite stuff indeed. Not that he was a snob. He was amiable, though he basically just kept to himself. Like the rest of my patients, I got to chat with him regularly. During one such chat, he gave me a handwritten short list of classical guitar songs that he said I should check out on YouTube. I thanked him, put the list in my notebook, and promptly forgot about it. I remembered the list all of a sudden one listless evening – it was my day off – and thus went to YouTube to finally give the songs a listen. When I reported for duty the following day looking forward to give him my feedback about his recommendations, I discovered that he had expired the previous morning. That was a really sad day for me. It was the first time I lost a patient.
Mr. B – Mr. B was a tall and slightly chubby Fil-Chinese patient in his late 40s. He always had a ready smile for everyone, except for the days when he looked like he was in excruciating pain. (All patients had those sort of days.) He seemed to draw strength from chitchatting with the staff, and I was glad to oblige him that. One time his wife came in to pick him up, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he married out of his league, looks-wise. Not that he wasn’t good-looking, mind! It’s sad that my last memory of him was of him being wheeled out of the center looking like his life force was drained out of him.
Mr. C – I loved the fighting spirit of Mr. C! Like Mr. B, he was Tsinoy (a Filipino term referring to people of Filipino-Chinese descent). Unlike Mr. B, he was lean and of average height. Since dialysis patients have bulging veins, he covered his with arm sleeves. What made him stand out from the rest was his unwavering faith that he would vanquish his disease. He told me that his family had already found a kidney donor and that he was hopeful his kidney transplant would be scheduled soon. The best lesson I gleaned from him was that hope can exist even in the most trying and desperate of times.
Ms. D – Ms. D was a petite and fair-skinned woman who always came with her husband. She was kind but had a no-nonsense attitude. She asked me something one time, and when I answered that her idea might be difficult to pull off, she said, “No, no.. Don’t think that way. We can do it. Let’s figure it out.” Her husband would usually just look dotingly at her whenever she interacted with the nurses. He also helped her be as comfortable as possible during the dialysis treatments. I couldn’t help but think that her husband will really miss her, should she go on ahead before him.
Mr. E – Mr. E was moreno (brown-skinned), gaunt, and surly, the latter perhaps the result of his being in dialysis for over 10 years. He had a jaded air about him, and it was tough trying to establish rapport with him. What made establishing rapport tougher was the fact that I made a silly faux pas the first time we talked. Let’s just say I mentioned something that I shouldn’t have said. I was able to win him over later on, thankfully. I’m pretty honest, and the trait that got me in trouble with him initially was the same trait that eventually made him realize that my intentions were good and I meant no harm. Before I left, in fact, we were already talking about the out-of-town trip I was planning to take with my friends later that year.
So those are some of my memories as a nurse. I decided to write them down here lest I forget too soon. I don’t know where all of the abovementioned individuals – as well as the rest of the patients I also cared for back then – are right now, though I truly wish each of them the best.
Have you ever been a patient? What was the one thing you’ll always remember as a patient?
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