Understanding What Patients Lose
This week the unthinkable happened to me. The job of my dreams no longer exists as I know it. This was my special job. I looked forward to work every morning. I loved what I did and the people I did it with. That no longer exists. I'm still working but I feel as though I've lost part of my body.
And that must be what my patients feel when they have a stroke. Suddenly, and without warning, part of their bodies no longer exist. They tell the arm to move but it doesn't. They try to stand up but fall over. They can see their worlds around them but can't participate. Doctors are very good at telling patients why they had the stroke. Sometimes they can even limit the damage. They can tell someone what to do to avoid a second stroke. They just can't fix the current one.
The sense of loss must be devastating. I understand why some don't want to get out of bed and why therapy is too much effort. Just like my patients, I'm looking around me and thinking about the things that were. I want what was. I'm not ready to think about making the best of the situation. I want to fix it. I'm feeling the same emotions as a stroke patient the first time I make him stand up and attempt steps.
Doing the same things only differently isn't the same. I will never say that to a patient again. Nor will I be able to promise someone that things get back to normal. Certainly many people return to their previous lives but the definition of normal has changed. I have new respect for those patients who look forward to therapy and try no matter what. That is more than I've been able to do.
I stand outside rooms longer before entering. I need the time to find my center so I can give my all to each patient. Each patient is a little harder than the previous one. I can't stop. They still need me to be at my best. Just like my patients, I keep looking for signs of return. They seem to instinctively know that is progress.
Focusing has been a challenge. I haven't ridden my horses in days. I can't concentrate enough to do so safely. Many times, patients talk to me about not being able to see how things can get better. I understand that emotion. I understand about wanting to do something you've always done and suddenly not being able. I've always thought if I had a stroke, I'd be the poster child patient. Now I'm not so sure.
My patients have one advantage over me. They have an entire medical team determined to help them. Each team member has specific expertise to help the patient, be it physician, therapist, nurse or technician. Everyone contributes. I have myself and two horses who know I'm sad but don't understand why we don't ride.
I don't know how this plays out. But if I could set the clock back, I would.