The Alarm Clock

It is easy to get caught up in seeing people through only one lens. Sometimes it is the way others present themselves; sometimes it is assumptions we make. Even when we think we understand what someone is going through, it can be hard to truly understand what they are experiencing unless we get a chance to walk a mile in their shoes or see the world through their eyes. In nursing we sometimes assume that we truly understand what our patients are going through. And to a certain extent, we do. We understand their disease process more than most and we have cared for patients with cases similar to theirs before. But even then we truly do not full comprehend what it is like to be them, to live their lives, to endure their trials.

I had a patient recently who taught me to not be so quick to make judgements. This patient had been in the hospital for a lengthy time, a recent double below the knee amputee. And while she had every reason to be miserable and depressed, it got to be trying dealing with her day in and day out. To be perfectly honest, my sympathy was wearing thin. Afterall, I had cared for other patients even sicker than her who managed to have positive attitudes and were a joy to care for. It was hard to deal with her, until one day I saw something that opened my alarm clock.

I walked into her room one day and saw the alarm clock on the table next to her bed. I learned that she had a child starting middle school and even though she was stuck in a hospital bed, she wanted to be a part of her child's life experiences. She set the clock every night so that she could call her child in the morning and wake the child for school. She may have been physically absent, but she was doing everything she could to be there for her child as the child transition into middle school.

Suddenly I saw a true glimpse of this patient. She wasn't just a patient; she was a mother who was just trying to be a part of her child's life in whatever way she could. No wonder she had been depressed. On top of all her health issues, she was also missing out on her child's life. I could only imagine the pull toward home that she must have been feeling while laying in that hospital bed. Every time I walked into her hospital room I felt a pang in my heart when I looked at her alarm clock. I finally saw her for more than a patient who could be difficult. She was a mother, separated from her child, who was still trying to parent, even from a distance.

We truly don't know what anyone is going through. The best we can do is to not judge anyone, regardless of how they may be acting. And if we keep our eyes open, we might see something that helps us understand just a little of what the other person is going through.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."- Ian Maclaren