(this is a story of an elevator encounter of the life-altering kind)
It was his eyes that told the story. They were the sort of eyes that you could go swimming around in,lose yourself in the passage of time...and wake up to find that 20 years had gone by,unbeknownst to all involved. There was a lifetime in those eyes.(magnetizing)
It was the summer of 2003,& I (was very single & uninvolved,ok folks?) had gotten on the hospital elevator,punched my floor number,& was set to tune out the various individuals on board..for I could think of nothing else beyond my impending "Diabetes & Driving" impatient study.(involving a simulated driving game & "controlled" hypoglycemia,I would murder virtual cows right & left.)
"Are you going to the hole?"
I semi-turned, & looked at the person who had asked the question. "The Hole?"
"Yeah-admission?You look like you are." He coughed,& the spasms wracked his thin frame. It had the sounds of cystic fibrosis,of chronic disease,of a life spent in places like this against one's desire & will.
"Ah,yes,the hole. I am indeed."
(I wasn't quite sure I wanted to spill out my medical history in the very public elevator to a guy I didn't know) And did I really have "the look?" I thought PWD were not supposed to look sick. Not like I had any wires or tubes coming from random orifices on my body.(yet)
"Take my advice...don't let the residents near you,they're real bloodsuckers & can't hit a vein to save their lives."
(this advice did not seem to phase the several white coats on board,although,I laughed. Loudly.)
"Duly noted". I was looking in the eyes,& feeling sorry for the suckyness of the situation for people with such chronic diseases & lucky just to have diabetes. We were the same ages...& yet I would likely live 40 years beyond what he would. I didn't know the half of the depths of the disease & dying process. And yet,he was living with his disease in the same way millions must...most of the time,it felt like I was ignoring mine.
The elevator clanged,6th floor.
"Take care." (I felt I needed to say something) "Hope you get out of here soon."
"Yeah,same to you. Stay cool."
IV pole in hand,he took off towards the nursing station on the heart/lung floor. And I continued onto the 8th floor,where the diabetes study awaited.(it was the most grueling,most demanding study that I have ever done,& 48 hours into it my electrolytes would drop(caused by the blood-letting & insulin clamps)resulting in them dropping me from the study early. I had no complaints to that,since they were still giving me full compensation & I just wanted to go home & die quietly,it was the first time my (as yet undisclosed) Bartters Syndrome would cause a problem & it would take months of unsuccessful dosing before I would see a nephrologist,& be diagnosed. At that moment,however,6 additional hours into IV's I just wanted the Endo to let me go home.I hoped I would be ok,and I no longer felt like I was having a heart attack right there,& although still very shaky I could walk out to my car & drive so she let me go.I went home & crashed for the rest of the weekend.)
I couldn't shake the sense that not only old people die in hospitals...22 year olds did too. All. the. time. And yet,they were one heck of well-adjusted individuals...they lived their lives knowing that day was sooner,rather then later. I think most PWD think "it will never happen to me" whereas most other chronic diseases know it will happen to them.(I'm not saying diabetes is a cakewalk but compared to CF it is)
That day,I got another perspective on life with a chronic disease.(& another idea of what I wanted to do with my life,should I ever become an RN(research,peds,or a CF nurse coordinator) This day, I still want to do something along those lines...& next semester, I shall be joining those nursing student ranks.(at last) The world needs more then a few good nurses.I know what being a patient is like...& that will make me a better nurse.
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