Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dear BYU, I couldn't say all of this.

The Best Way To Spend My Summer

When I first walked into the floor, I was nervous and wasn’t sure what to expect. I felt like maybe I was in the way and didn’t belong there. But soon nurses, PCT’s, and therapists reached out to me and helped me feel included in several ways.

On my first day, I just stood there, scared to ask anyone what I should do, but one outgoing nurse, Fenise, soon had me getting meal trays, handing them to patients, and even sitting down and visiting with them. I soon discovered that all the patients had one thing in common: they loved to talk. Everyday at breakfast, I was invited to sit and tell about how I was “wasting my summer away in a hospital.” All of the patients had diverse and different pasts and I found myself drawn into the stories of their lives. Each week there was a new patient to meet, a new story to be heard, and a new friend to be made.

One important thing that my internship did was help me learn that I can relate to a variety of people. No matter how different from a person you may think you are, there is always something you can find in common. I found out during therapy that one of the patients loved to sing, something I am passionate about. He told me about all the places that he had traveled to and all the people he was able to work with as he sang in choirs and directed them.

I also became more empathetic. One of the patient, who was just a year older than me, crashed on his scooter, something I drive daily. I remember his first day in therapy, when the occupational therapist asked him a series of questions. They ranged from “How many days are in a week?” to “What happened in the Civil War?” As I watched him struggle to answer questions that would seem easy to most people, I found myself relating. His situation could have easily been mine if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet when I crashed on my scooter.

There was another patient who recently had his leg amputated due to diabetes. For over 70 years he had a perfectly functioning leg and suddenly because of one wrong slip with a nail clipper, he contracted an infection and he learned that he was going to lose his leg. And yet, he was incredibly upbeat and enthusiastic. Each morning, when I greeted him, my greeting would be returned with a resounding, “I slept horribly, but I’m alive!” Or in therapy, the therapist would ask, “Do you think you can do this?” and he would quickly respond, “Well, I can most certainly try!” In moments when I might feel frustrated with what I’m going through, I can always look back and remember his extremely optimist attitude during a very difficult time in his life.

I remember one patient who had a severe brain hemorrhage and lost most of her mobility. She was about the age of my mom each day I watched her struggle with the effects of this sudden impairment. One particularly hard morning, I was trying to encourage her to feed herself. We tried eating one thing at a time, first the grapes, then the eggs but she kept getting distracted. At one point, she started to cry because she hadn’t had her pain medication yet, and she was clenching the fork too hard. I gently rubbed her back, and massaged her hands to help her relax before the nurses could come. During the rest of breakfast she got frustrated and confused. At one point, I asked her what she wanted and she said, “Just to eat my breakfast in peace!” At moments like this, you could get frustrated and want to just leave. But this internship taught me that as the medical professional you have to patient and recognize that in this case, the patient is literally “not in their right mind” due to brain damage. You have to be very patient and understanding of what they are going through.

Overall, this internship gave me a whole new confidence within a hospital setting. I know how to behave properly around a doctor to show that I’m interested, but not get in the way. I learned how to interact with a variety of people, both patients and staff, and how to be a team player. Doing this internship was probably one of the best ways to spend my summer and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to do this. Now I can’t wait to start my own medical career.

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