Thursday, 19 January 2017

Being Heard


I once nursed a woman who had been seriously ill for several months.
For much of that time she was unconscious, floating between life and death and that strange half world in between,  where the body is propped up with drugs, and machines and that tenuous strength a body shows when the chips are down. Later during her admission, her sedation was finally turned off and her tracheostomy uncuffed in an attempt to get her body to function on it's own.
In the middle of the night as I was administering medication through her nasogastric tube, her eyes opened, they were watery red and tired .
I asked her if she was in pain and she shook her head .I asked her if she knew where she was and she mouthed the word " hospital" and as I pottered around doing nursey things she reached out a weak arm and touched my face with her hand.
Moments later she cried out with an unearthly wail.
This was followed by another and another... each one louder than the last and there was something almost animalistic in the way it sounded.
I hurried to the bedside.
No she was not in physical pain, that was the first question I asked again, but again and again she cried out like a baby does when it is distressed in the night .
I tried to placate her. I massaged her hands with cream in an effort to sooth her and I tried to engage her in a way of diverting her distress but finally, as she half spoke half whispered the words " I want to " I realised that finding her voice was a final statement of " I'm here and I feel so bad" 
Her cries validated her.

It was hard but I gathered my nursing notes in order to write a report of the night and closed the side room door to the main ward. With them on my knee I quietly sat next to her and started to write my notes as she shrieked and wailed like an banshee.
Twenty minutes later she had cried herself to sleep..

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Postscript to this week's dog attack.

Arrrhhh the power of the blog......this afternoon the owner of the husky called around to the cottage to discuss the dogfight on Tuesday evening.
She had read the blog and wanted to put things straight which was very big of her and we had a frank and open discussion about the incident.
The husky, as I thought,  is a somewhat damaged animal. She is clearly cared for by a devoted owner who understands dog psychology but the bitch indeed sounds a bit of a nightmare to care for due to previous abuse and trauma and by the sounds of things the owner has done everything in her power to rectify her problems.
I finally suggested a dog trainer I have heard of who specializes in aggressive large dogs and we parted on good terms.
I wish her and her dog well.



55 comments:

  1. I have to constantly remind myself to listen to others without wanting to reply! Thanks for the reminder again. Glad that you and husky owner could have a talk. I hope she uses the dog trainer for the dog's sake and that of the neighborhood.

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  2. Oh, John. There's so much more to this world than we realize, isn't there? We MUST listen to understand.

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  3. Both the above postings supply the reason why you have such a large and devoted following, J.G. You are truly unique - always yourself, never trying to emulate another.
    Thank you.

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  4. You are so right John and I am the absolute worst at listening. I'll try harder.

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  6. Oh John, I thought I was going to make it through today without crying over something ... you did it again :)

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  7. Speaking of the dog attack--I have seen guide leashes that go over the dog's mouth. She would not be able to bite other dogs.

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    1. Those are great, they are to prevent dogs from being strangled by an ordinary leash and collar also.

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  8. How fortunate that the husky owner is a decent, fair-minded human being. I am pleased, for your sake that the dog's owner is not a brainless tattooed Brexit voter called Big Gaz. The conversation might not have gone so well.

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  9. You have a wonderful ability to understand and empathise with people John, coupled with a generosity of spirit. So good to hear you parted on good terms with the husky owner.

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  10. What happened to the woman John - did she recover? Did you find why she cried?

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  11. I read a philosopher once who said that in a dialogue, it is the 'listener' who is the 'communicator'. I found that very helpful -- especially when I remember it!

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  12. Be a good listener now once again on my important reminder list.

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  13. I'm a little bit in love with you x

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    1. Errr, think you'll find it was me!

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  14. Glad you sorted the dog situation amicably. It'd be a shame to leave bad feeling in the air.

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  15. I have to remind myself quite often to be a good listener.

    Glad things went well with the talk, and I wish the owner of the dog all the best of luck with its future training. It's hard to love an animal that is "difficult" - more power to her for doing it.

    That poor woman in the hospital ... did she survive her medical issues? Did you ever get to talk to her afterward?

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  16. Powerful stuff John. I'm so glad the dog owner made contact with you... I wish her well.

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  17. I'm glad the owner of the husky got in touch with you, hopefully she will work with a trainer to help her dog. A well trained large dog that knows its and the world limits and expectations is a much happier and secure dog.

    I sometimes think that listening is a dying art. In everyday conversations as well as in radio and TV interviews almost as soon as a question is asked you can see the next one being formulated in the askers mind instead of listening to the answer to their previous question. Too often people want to relate what you are telling them to their lives and give you their past story .... rather than listening to the one you are trying to tell. It's demoralising when you think what you are saying has no worth.

    Your presence with the poor wailing lady probably saved her from tipping over into a black hole of nothingness in her mind, and probably/hopefully the sleep she cried herself into was the start of a path to recovery.

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    1. I hope so, itu psychosis is a real issue with some long term patients sue

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  18. John, On one of the posts below - as usual hundreds of comments - I've unearthed a spammer. I've marked him up in my message in BLOCK CAPS so you can easily refer to it. I used to get no end of these and so I look for them subconsciously now!

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    1. Ive had a few of these buggers recently! They really get on my tits

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  19. OMG I'm in love with you too!!

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  20. Thanks for the reminder! Listen carefully. Even at the risk of repeating myself: You are the right man in the right spot.

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  21. It seems to me that there is a link between your two stories John. Your compassion and insight (and experience of course) as an intensive care nurse have given you the ability to deal with all kinds of thorny problems. I hope the husky owner takes your advice.

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    1. There was method in the madness pat

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  22. I suspect your Samaritan work reminds you each shift how important listening is. And how tiring it can be.
    Love that the dog owner came round. And hope that the dog trainer gives her and the husky some support.
    Your blog is a powerful tool. Thank you for who you are.

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  23. Being there, listening, can caring, makes such a difference. Maybe the big dog, is crying out to let the world know she is there and is in pain.

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    1. From what i heard about her...that dog is a lost soul

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  24. When you are in hospital ill, fearful, in pain there is no one more wonderful than a caring, empathetic nurse. Thank you. -Jenn

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  25. Thought you often times try to be crusty and jaded, I love your tender heart. She spoke and you listened.

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    1. I am in fact crusty and faded

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  26. it's so difficult having a taxing dog. we have tried everything with teddy and as much as we love her, she is very problematic. we went through several trainers. i think she bit every one of them.

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  27. I'll say it again, John: reading this blog means getting tossed between hysterical and hilarious encounters with dogs and villagers and then, without warning, sitting with you facing life as it is when people get hurt and vunerable in pain and solitude. Thank you, we need to listen more!!

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  28. Like the Weaver, I found these two parts of your post to be excellent companions. Then my mind wandered a bit over to Shakespeare and his character's advice to "neither a borrower nor a lender be," and thought being able to be a listener was even better advice. xo

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  29. I had a student who was severely brain damaged and was 18 or 19 and topped the scale at over 200 lbs. He lashed out and had a bad temper. Everyone was scared of him. His parents were in denial about how dangerous he had become. Unfortunately he ended up breaking my aide's jaw in an unwarranted attack. She forced the issue by bringing the authorities in on the matter. He was placed in an institution and the parents didn't have any power over his placement.

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    1. I wonder how this is related?

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    2. Maybe if the parents had listened to the warnings about how dangerous their child had become they could have arranged placement and care for him that was more suited to the family's needs, rather than have it imposed on them?
      Sorry - posted in wrong place by accident first time around.

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  30. Very glad about the dog, hope it goes well. It is a lot of work but worthwhile to change a dog's life for the better - when the anxiety is replaced with joy you'll do pretty much anything to keep it that way. The spoilt dashie pup came to us after a decade of hard graft with our own rescue dog - the more we know our rescue, the more of her story is revealed and honestly I was just too heartbroken to do it again. It's like peeling layers from an onion and then working out how to manage the new revelation. The dashie is comic relief in more ways than one. Am sure we'll have more rescue dogs in the future, almost all have been rescues, but not just yet.
    Sometimes what you hear when you properly listen, human or animal, has enormous impact on you. That something so gentle can have had such horrific experiences still knocks me about.

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  32. If I was very ill, hospitalized for along time, I would want you near . . .
    for your care . . . for your LISTENING to UNDERSTAND.
    Happy to hear about the visit and "ending with good terms" with the Husky owner. Good heart you have John . . .

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  33. Maybe she could start by exercising the dog in a more isolated, dogless, area. Most dogs are trainable, I hope hers is too.

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  34. Hi John, have found a comment section. Thankyou for visiting my drivel.
    Listening? Many years ago, drove a taxi. One of my regular fares was ... um, difficult. Wheelchair bound, obese, difficulty speaking without dribbling. His destination was always the Adelaide Hospital. Callow youth that is was, assume that he was going for 'trearment'.
    However, over many journeys, began to understand that he was, in fact - consulting Neurosurgeon, recovering from a stroke.

    Utterly altered my attitude towards those of us who are unable speak with the fluency most of us expect.

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  35. You did that dog and owner a good turn...and you're right, we don't listen nearly well enough. Was your patient eventually able to communicate everything she needed to?

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  36. My mother-in-law was hospitalised for 3 months before passing away after a stroke. I spent a lot of time with her also because I fed her through a nasogastric tube with a syringe. No one had time, or the patience, to "listen" to her. She "spoke" to me from her heart through her eyes. She was in pain, had sores in her mouth, from medications, that no one had noticed, but her greatest pain was that her family thought she had left long before - on that very day she had the stroke; they had no time for her.
    Greetings Maria x

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  37. You are obviously in the right profession.

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  38. Sad but touching recount of someone really suffering their situation.. she was fortunate to have you there.

    Glad the Husky owner saw the necessity of her visit. I hope at least she does invest in a good strong harness and muzzle for her dog if she plans to walk it anywhere - that would be sensible regardless of her understanding of the dogs issues.. her responsibility if she takes it out on the streets is to everyone else's safety first, then her own and her dog!

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