As I walked around the Satellite Dialysis, I thought I would strike up a conversation with the patients, and at this time of year, what better to start with than, “What’s your plan for the holidays?” I just started with an informal conversation, but decided to write it down so I could capture all of their thoughts and emotions.
This time of year, people reflect on what they’re thankful for. Based on what I’ve heard from patients at Satellite Dialysis, they have so much gratitude for the staff caring for them, and felt like we were their family. It was a true heartfelt “thanks” for the staff and what they do for them. The patients are very aware that the staff starts their day earlier than the doughnut guy to give them the best possible care. Some declared they’d never seen a staff member miss work since they began their dialysis treatments. They look to their caretakers to create a comforting experience, and they talk about them time and time again.
To one patient, she knows that a special meal is coming her way.
“I love cranberries,” she said.
To us, it may be nothing. We can have cranberries any time we’d like. Most of our patients live in a nursing home or assisted living – they come to dialysis with the brown bag snack, the PCTs add excitement by simply acting excited to open the brown bag, and opening the foil to see what’s underneath.
For some, it’s hope. They’re hoping to be visited by a family member who they don’t see regularly. One woman looks forward to the visitors who make the hallways a little busier.
“I don’t know them, but I love watching them,” she said.
For some, it’s about reconnecting. My most meaningful conversation was from a blind, chair-bound Japanese woman. First, I thought she didn’t speak English, but she can. She loves red lipstick and she has no family – they are all deceased. Then she remembered – she has a brother. I told her to call him, and she did! Well, maybe some of our conversations are just to try to reconnect or remind others that calling a relative is a big event. And this is awesome – her brother came to see her after a long absence.
It can also be repentance for some. One patient became angrier, the longer she spoke.
“Why am I sick?” she asked. “Why are my sisters married, travelling and making money? I have nothing to be thankful for. I lost a lot.”
I wondered, who was she really before? I try to imagine the thought of being completely disarmed from my dreams.
It is a recollection to some. One patient’s debilitating illness deprived him from participating in any activities; however, before being in a wheelchair, he savored the moments with his sixteen grandsons.
“We cooked, went to church, welcomed family, and welcomed friends with their cool new clothes. It was an all-day affair. Now, I have a boring life,” he said.
But then, the phone rang and he excused himself to answer. I left and hoped that the phone call was his Thanksgiving invitation.
Another said she feels blessed as a capable being to be needed by someone.
“I love listening, and giving. I don’t feel forgotten, she said. “I love singing, as much as I can, participating in church activities and still get excited preparing for Thanksgiving, then Christmas and all celebrations, as tiring as it can be.”
Who knows? Maybe when I get old someone will ask me, “What’s your plan for the holidays?” If each of us takes five minutes to talk, we can be hear a life story waiting to be told. It can even be heartache, a hurt, released and forgotten just because you were there to listen. Nevertheless, it is five minutes worth making time for.