1. Diggins, Kristene

Article Content

Tiptoeing into Andy's hospital room, I gently pushed open the door. Stepping around the corner I saw Andy in bed with his oxygen mask and various IVs. I was taken by surprise. Watching him struggle for each breath, I wondered how Andy's condition had deteriorated so quickly. I had seen him in the office only a day earlier, where he reported shortness of breath, so I had sent him to the emergency room for evaluation. Although he had a history of heart disease, his previous visits had been normal.


Andy's evaluation showed that his heart had worsened. Surgery to relieve blockages could not be performed due to kidney failure. So Andy lay grasping for each breath, waiting for his heart to beat its last.


When he saw me, his eyes lit up. He immediately grasped my hand and held on during the whole visit. His bubbly personality became greater than his health condition or the dreary room; in no time he was telling me stories of his days in the war. As he told his stories, he would start to laugh, as usual, only now he had to catch his breath between words. But the light that shone from his face was surreal. He was thrilled to have company, and in that moment he didn't care about his physical condition.


As much as I wanted to be encouraging to Andy, I left discouraged. I had tried my best to provide the best care possible for Andy. But I felt like a failure. There must have been something else I could have done for him. Seeing him in that condition took the wind out of my sails. I want so desperately to help my patients with improved health. Sitting by Andy's side, I realized I cannot always do that. I was momentarily overwhelmed by defeat.


The drive home brought perspective. I remembered Andy's smile. I thought about how he attempted to tell me the same stories he had told in the office. Remembering his face, I realized Andy was not feeling defeated. I recognized that in some cases there comes a time when the best care I can provide is simply my company. The Lord subtly reminded me of the importance of trusting his ways and not leaning on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). What our patients need foremost is someone sitting beside them and squeezing their hand, providing the empathy we all desire.


Although that day with Andy caused me to second guess my role in healthcare, I'm glad his smiling face comes to my mind each time I remember that visit. The Lord provided Andy and me with the peace that passes understanding as promised in his Word.


"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV).


As a nurse, I will always aim to offer improved health for my patients. But there will be times when the greatest gift I can give is simply the empathy that comes from being a fellow sojourner on the road of life. Only as I let go of my own feelings of failure and cling to the promises of God's Word can I truly offer this empathy to each patient who comes my way.