What good is it to have a crisis if we don’t learn something from it? Here are 15 lessons I learned and relearned recently that I hope to remember for many years to come.
- WE ARE FORTUNATE TO HAVE HUNTSVILLE HOSPITAL IN NORTH ALABAMA. Yes, I wish Hartselle had a good healthcare facility, but since we don’t, it is extremely comforting to know that Huntsville Hospital is only 40 minutes away. It is considered to be a premiere hospital, and it excels in the area of heart health — which is exactly what I needed.
- To all of my women friends: if you experience chest pains that radiate up or out, go get checked out immediately. It might be your gallbladder, or it might be heartburn or stress, but you just won’t know until someone with skill and diagnostic equipment determines what is going on. And, if it IS your heart, you want to be IN the hospital and not home wondering. Just FYI, if the pain radiates to your left jaw that is more telling than your right jaw. Also, shortness of breath, feeling feverish or pain that returns are prime indicators.
- NEEDLES MAKE ME UNHAPPY. I started to say “I hate needles,” but I try very hard to avoid the word “hate.” I have one really good vein in the crook of my right arm, but anytime a tech starts looking elsewhere I get very tense. The back side of my hand used to be my most dreaded place for a needle, but thanks to 4 days in the hospital, I’ve found new places to dread. I did learn that as a patient I have the right to ask for the ultrasound team to come in to find a good vein, rather than having a tech or a nurse keep digging with what feels like an ice pick. Keep that piece of advice in mind if the need arises for you.
- A hospital is not the best place to be a food writer. Bless ’em. The dietary staff has a formidable job. I understand. And, every time a member of that staff came in my room, they were extremely courteous. MANY patients are on restricted diets, and they have to be mindful of ALL of them. I was given several options at each meal, and the food was nutritious. I certainly didn’t DREAD the meals, you understand. And, under the circumstances, I wasn’t about to ask for something “not good for me” to be brought in. How else can I say it? It was “hospital food.”
- Pajama pants are good to wear under hospital gowns. Not only do pajama pants keep you warmer, they preserve at least a semblance of modesty when there is very little to be had during numerous procedures and constant tests.
- I appreciate good hygiene. Oh, the joy of being able to take a shower and wash my hair! Oh, how good it feels to brush my teeth! By Day Two, I had finally obtained a tooth brush, but no showers were allowed during my stay (because of the heart monitor). That made me feel even worse, and I was hyper-aware of how good everyone ELSE smelled. Sponge baths help only a little. I have taken some record long showers since I got home and hope to never forget what a privilege it is to have lots of soap and hot water.
- A good night’s sleep is a blessing. Hospitals are notorious for being places where no one gets to sleep more than a few minutes at a time. The necessary interruptions are relentless. I completely understand that everyone has a job to do, and I really appreciated it when my night nurse saw something “unusual” on my heart monitor and came quickly to check on me TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW. Really, that’s important, and it let me know that I was being “watched” even when no one was in my room. (A small hint of what it means to be watched over by God, don’t you think?) But, truthfully, I am a spoiled American. My bed at home is an oasis, and my mattress is one of my favorite material items. Hospital mattresses . . . and blankets . . . and pillows, on the other hand? I repeat. I’m a spoiled American.
- Everyone has a story. Techs for taking vital signs, techs for drawing blood, day shift RNs, night shift RNs, RNs in training, people pushing wheelchairs from place to place, people carrying meal trays, people who come around to help heart patients take their important laps around the halls, E.R. personnel, X-ray technicians, doctors of all kinds, fellow patients, etc. etc. etc. They all walk into that hospital day after day with their own stories, their own challenges, their own joys and sorrows. It only takes a question or two for those stories to come spilling out. I certainly love it when someone takes time to ask a question that gets me talking, don’t you? Really. Deep down. Don’t you want someone to care that much?
- Hospital stays provide a new perspective. A walk down any hall (with your hospital gown carefully tied, of course) lets you see that so many people are far worse off than you are. You are actually one of the lucky ones. In the E.R. on the first day, I witnessed a patient come bolting out of a triage room hurling expletives at the nurse who had been trying to access her condition. I was immediately grateful for security personnel and the fact that every person coming into the E.R. has to be scanned and searched for weapons, etc. On Sunday night while I was going through some dreaded preparation procedures, 23 people lost their lives in tornadoes only a few hours away and dozens of others lost their homes. I should have had ZERO complaints. Then on Monday, I had to wait SEVEN HOURS for my heart catherization to begin. That was frustrating, and my anxiety level was rising, BUT I found out that the reason for the delay was the fact that six people before me had developed emergency situations during their caths causing their procedures to take more time. In contrast, mine went like clockwork. Colossians 3:2 – “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
- Healthcare professionals are wired differently than I am. They are hyper-attentive to details. They don’t mind blood and guts, and they have servant hearts. I have a renewed appreciation for everyone of them. Romans 12:6 – “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
- God knows the Big Picture, and it’s evident in the smallest details. One in particular that I had to smile about was this. I was in the middle of preparing food and the house for company coming that night for dinner when my chest pains happened. The dinner, of course, was cancelled, but as a result of my preparations, I walked back into a clean house with food in the fridge when I finally got home. All we had to do was heat it up. Who knew I would be the one reaping the benefits from my efforts? God did.
- I know that I am eternally prepared for the moment death comes, but I still have things I want to say and do before I die. In a vain attempt to keep things light as Steve and I were driving to the emergency room, I tried to tell him things I hoped he would include in my funeral, what clothes to bury me in, how to dispose of some of my possessions, etc. He didn’t like that very much, of course, and I don’t blame him. I remember, though, that my stepmother June had taken the time several years before she died to write letters to her children and to my dad. She had them in her Bible where they would be certain to find them. Those letters are priceless treasures to their recipients. I need to follow her example.
- Pain signals that something is wrong with our bodies, but fear is detrimental to our health. The more nervous, agitated, anxious, yes, fearful, I became during the procedures over a span of four days, the higher my blood pressure and heart rate climbed. That, in turn, made the procedures much more difficult. More than anything, I needed to find peace and calmness — internally and externally. God keeps whispering in my ear, “Peace, be still, Connie.” I need to listen.
- God wants me to be content operating in a lower gear. I confess to being a card-carrying overachiever. When someone gives me a task, I am never satisfied with a B or a C. I HAVE to make an A+. I disdain laziness, and I relish days with a to-do list and productivity goals. Now I’m searching for ways to better manage stress. Perhaps I will take on fewer tasks and allow myself ample time to complete them, rather than skidding on two wheels up to the deadine. Who wants to hold me accountable in this area? God loves me whether I make A’s or not. Romans 8: 38-39 – “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen? Amen.
- I am loved and people truly WANT to pray for me. When I “come to the end of myself” and put down the facade I carefully construct of being able to “handle it on my own,” I invariably find that my friends and loved ones are ready to lift me up, to intercede to God Almighty, to express their love and concern, and to help me bear whatever burden I am carrying. God hears my prayers, even the ones that I can’t put into words, and He is listening to the cries of His children everywhere all the time. He’s got this (whatever “this” may be at any given time), and He Is Able.
James 5:16 – “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Romans 8:26 – “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
1 Timothy 2:1 – “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people”
Daniel 3:17 – “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.”
God is able. Period.