Monday, March 5, 2012


One of the difficult things about working in a hospital on a floor that has so much grim illness, is having to watch the horror of a body shutting down. We don't think about that often in our busy lives. Most of our nervous systems fire and our bodies cooperate with what our minds tell them to do. We usually don't think about their betrayal. This betrayal of the flesh from the mind is the most saddening part. Many of my patients are not coherent enough to decipher what is going through their minds, but some of them are. Some of them understand fully how bad it hurts to have the dressing changed on their pressure ulcers. Some of them can just shake their heads and look at you with embarrassment when they have been incontinent. They have lost their dignity. They have lost control of everything except for pain. Right now I tell myself to press down these keystrokes to send this message across the world to the dozens that read my words. I never think about the possibility that I will not one day be able to express myself at all. I may not be able to speak or write things down. There may be an end to my written history, at least how I see it.

One of the organizations I respect the most is Hospice. Hospice deals in dignity. I think that is pretty admirable. They don't care who you were when you were still a cowboy, they only care that you don't go out screaming in pain. They make it not hurt anymore. This is a very basic of love. When my son broke his femur, I would have torn off my own flesh to make the hurt stop. It made me sick every time they had to touch him and make him shriek in pain, it cut me deeply every time. Pain is a large part of the human condition. It is the very thing we have always feared the most. When I was a boy it took several nurses to hold me down when I had to get a shot. Now I see things that make me want to cry. As a student, one of my patients had an open amputation above the knee, but could not speak anymore. Every day I had to tear that dressing out of the open wound as it had dried, removing pieces of her life with it. She could not speak or scream, but tears rolled down her unresponsive face. I remember coming in to clinical after Hospice had taken her care over and removed the bandage and got no tears at all. No reaction. Her pain was gone, taken away by the people that deal in dignity.

I want someone to come and read this passage to me every day if I ever become unable to raise my voice in coherence. Rev. 21:4 "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." There may not be a more comforting passage in the world in regards to our state of humanity. Those who find themselves in the fellowship of God are His Children. The Bible says that those who believe have the right to be called a child of God. I can only imagine what God feels when we are in pain. The Bible even gave us His Spirit, which intercedes for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. When we cannot even express ourselves to God, He is still at work. No promise of reduced suffering for knowing Him. I could do nothing to end my son's pain as badly as it hurt me. He can do all things, yet in this present time, we are a subject to the pains of being human. I believe He did tear off His flesh to give us the hope that we see in that Revelation passage. He is in the business of dignity too. He gives us hope and strength to stand firm in the shadow of death.


Thanks for reading. - Z