I JUST WANTED SOMEBODY TO LISTEN

a night janitor with a fifth-grade education, late sixties, living alone

children scattered

but a devoted sister nearby

when he was young and strong, he never imagined that one day it would take him

two hours

to crawl across the floor to reach the phone to call the ambulance

the patient arrived at the hospital for swingbed therapy very weak after that piteous crawl and the grueling illness that followed

with tired tears oozing from closed eyes he repeated for the third time in two days his crawling story

he remembered the horrors of being alone and crawling and sick with fears of

A SOLITARY DEATH

on that floor

his listener was touched and leaned over his bed and patted and kissed him, saying

“you don’t need to worry any more…you’re here and safe and warm

and

people are all around you and we’ll take care of you”

the patient cried a little more

and said…

thank you

I just wanted somebody to listen

I was scared I was going to die alone

the patient and his sister came back to visit after his discharge

he was so, so happy

strong and walking

smiling from ear to ear

in the presence of those who had comforted him and encouraged him

and

listened to him 

a brother and sister who started out young together

and then

grew old together

*****

This experience with this patient crystallized for me the importance and value of patient and empathetic listening in the healthcare setting (and also, of course, in our lives away from our work environment). Because the patient appreciated the time taken with and care shown to him, he did indeed feel safe and trusted me, and his therapy progressed in its own time as a result of the agape love we shared.

Mrs. Hate might expound in her “diatribes” how hard it is for healthcare workers to attain the extra time many patients, especially the elderly or lonely ones (and aren’t elderly people often the most lonely?), need and deserve. She, however, was most fortunate and blessed in that her particular job allowed her many opportunities to spend extra time with those she cared for. For that, Mrs. Hate is eternally grateful.

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8 Comments on “I JUST WANTED SOMEBODY TO LISTEN”

  1. Sometimes, the best gift we can bestow is “listening.” Too many people are unheard.

  2. mrshate says:

    Amen, Madam English Professor. My job in the healthcare field offered me many, many opportunities to listen. With appreciation to the poet Emma Lazarus, my experiences were along the lines of “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” The patients often said I was a blessing to them, but they blessed me just as much, if not more. I just wish I had known in my twenties how fulfilling working in healthcare can be…but that’s another story for another day. 🙂

  3. ivyon says:

    Your post really touched me. Very nicely writen and more important, very kindly done. 🙂

    • mrshate says:

      Wow! Wow! I’m so happy that you were touched by my honoring of this very special patient. I had several more memorable experiences with him; your appreciation of this post motivates me to get them written and posted. Thanks so much, Ivyon 🙂

      • ivyon says:

        You are so welcome… I was not aware my comment would have such an impact, but I am very happy it did. 😀
        I would read them, I love real people stories, more so if they have a great ending like this one. It leaves me with smile. 🙂

  4. mrshate says:

    I have a good many patient stories. I realized one day at work that I was experiencing so many wonderful things that I wanted and needed to write them down. I plan on posting a “patient story” once a week, so you can be looking for them!! The sad thing is, I retired early so I have no more patient interaction, and the stories I collected over several years are the only ones I have. 😦 I’d love to go back and do volunteer work some day, but am extremely busy with family now. Hope things are well for you in Croatia—looked on map and had no idea Croatia was so near Italy and Austria!!

  5. Kelly Grace says:

    Very touching. It is so sad how many of the elderly live all alone and at risk of this kind of episode. Next time I watch Call the Midwife, I’ll remember Mrs. Hate who is really a very compassionate person.

    • mrshate says:

      Maybe a change to “The Discourses of Mrs. Compassionate”?? 🙂
      No, “Mrs. Hate” is in honor of her nephew 🙂 (see another post)
      It was very hard for this patient to come to terms with the “aloneness” and fear he experienced during those two hours…he kept reliving it. We who are younger and stronger…well, it gives you a little window into what old age and failing bodies can be like. And I guess that’s true of any debilitating physical experience.


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