Saying I’m Sorry

I am writing because I wanted to tell you that I am sorry.
 I know that you didn’t ask for that. You just went in for a routine procedure that was supposed to change your life. It did change your life-just not in the way that you planned, I know.
You were so gracious, to everyone involved. You were angry but understanding. You knew that you were human, being operated on and cared for by humans. “It will be ok,” you told yourself. “A few weeks of rehab, and then I can go home. Get back to normal.”  You know that you were told the risks. You signed the paperwork. Even though you are living out a mistake -whether human or destined, you signed- you knew the risks.
You were a farmer before you got sick. You worked hard, every day of your life. Slept less than you worked. If there was a problem, you worked through it. You will work through this.
Every time we change the dressing, we try something new. More paste, more tape, more padding, more types. Thicker, thinner, stretchy, taut. Still it won’t hold. Forty-five minutes per dressing change-the hopeful comment by each nurse trying: “This one will hold all day now!”
It only holds an hour. Your skin is excoriating. Red. Raw. Painful. We bring in everyone that we can find. Opinions? We will take them! If people can build bridges and dams, so can we. We will not be defeated. I speak with the surgeon, other nurses, other doctors. “Why don’t we try this? How about that?”
But still every hour it drains.
A week and a half pass. You are so strong. Of course, you are cranky, you are human. Of course you yell at the pain, the irritation. But you still work through it. Because that is what you have always done.
I walk by your room. I am not your direct care nurse tonight, but your call light is on. You know me anyway. We are old friends by now. I enter and you point at it. We look at each other. My heart sinks, because I don’t know what to do. I have tried everything, from the nurses’ supply to the janitor’s closet and it still doesn’t hold. I feel despair-I have been here for fifteen hours, short-staffed we are it seems again. I don’t have time for another forty-five minute change that won’t even hold…
 You say, “I have been waiting…it needs changing again…” and then I see.
 Your worn hands are holding your graying head and you are bent over in your chair. Sobs come from deep within your soul. Your body is shaking. Water is running down your hands. Crying, crying, crying. “I am so sick of this!” you sob. “Will I ever be able to go home?” you plead. Tears are falling and falling. Tears from a man who worked his sorrows away on a tractor all of his life. Who probably only ever cried alone.
 Your lights are on, but your room is dark. This room was not designed with good lighting in the first place, but as discouragement sets in, it looks like the darkest hour of a winter night.
And I don’t have a flashlight.
You are sniffling, crying so hard you are hurting your dressing. Your face and nose are turning red.
 I am standing next to you, looking down at you, my despair in the sub-basement of basements with you.
And I want to cry, too.
I want sit down and cry until I have no tears left. I want to cry because you didn’t ask for this. I want to cry because I can’t fix it- even though I have tried. I want to curl up into a ball right next to you in that dark room and cry and cry and cry. I want to cry because I have been here all day long with almost no break and not enough staff and not enough time…
But then I realize that I want to cry because I am not a self-sacrificing martyr. I have spent more of my day today thinking about myself and my own problems, my own lack of staff and lack of time and lack of solution rather than about you.
I am sorry.
 I want to you to be able to go home, to have a good quality of the life you have left. I want to find a solution. I want us to work together and find something that will work. I want to show you encouragement and strength, and a fighting spirit….
I am sorry.
Tonight I cannot.  I, the RN, the caregiver, the manager, the human, am not as strong as I thought I was. I have no more answers, no more ideas, and no more solutions. Then I remember that my strength comes from Christ, and apart from Him I am weak and I have nothing.
 You and even other nurses have looked to me for the answers- or at least to be the solution finder to this special problem. I knew in my head that I didn’t have all of the answers, or even the ability to find all of the answers. I tried and I tried. But now in this room with you, I feel in my soul my weakness and my lack of solution for you.
 I want to thank you.
In that moment you showed me.
You showed me that I could not fix this alone.
You showed me that when you or I are out of answers, God has them.
You showed me that this was more about you and your sorrow than about what nursing and medicine as professions failed or succeeded in doing.
The answers to the whys of your sorrow, the solution if there is one, only the Lord knows.
You showed me how to be a nurse tonight.
Tonight the only human action I had left to do was to kneel down beside you, hand you a Kleenex, and say, “I am so, so sorry.”
And crying with you, try again. 


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