The clinic that I have been working at for the past three years has been a blessing… and also a curse. Working just about every single weekend for the past 19 months has been brutal, and I am so happy to say that it is finally coming to an end. There has been a ton of good with this job, new friendships made, nice paychecks, laughter, smiles and contentment. But also a ton of not-so-good with this job, a lot of tears, stress, breakdowns, frustration and bad days. But overall, I am so thankful to have had this experience. There are things that I’ve seen and experienced here that I would not have otherwise, and they are things that will stick with me my entire life. My compassion has increased tremendously, seeing so much heartbreak in this world, and also so much joy.
Over the years, I have come across so many different people in so many different situations. I have sat at my desk, shift after shift, watching and listening to the people who have come through the office. I don’t think that they would ever know how much they have touched me.
- Not too long ago, a man came in with some leg pain. He was an older fellow, and was on crutches and was really in a lot pain. He asked me how I was doing, and I returned the question, knowing that the answer would be not so good, but instead he enthusiastically said that he was good. This was very surprising, since the majority of patients are super grumpy – especially if they are in pain. He wobbled to his chair and sat down and was pleasantly chatting with the other patients and myself. When it was his turn to go in he stood up and when set up his crutches he realized that he had them lopsided! So with that, he adjusted them, stood up properly and said ‘Well, my good day just turned gooder!!’
- There was a bipolar woman who came in once, who had a disabled child and together they lived very hard lives. She found comfort in the realization that he was an old soul, so advanced that he was living his last life and would not be reincarnated again. He was here to teach her, and here for her to love and take care of. It was an incredible story, and something I think of often.(http://dontswimpastthemoon.blogspot.ca/2013/04/everyone-has-story-dont-be-so-quick-to.html)
- There has been so much new life come through this clinic. Pregnant women who are full of life, with their big, blooming bellies. So many brand new babies, only a couple of days old. So many toddlers, so many children. So many parents thrilled about their new little loves. It has warmed my heart to see their joy, to see them so full of love. It has made me so excited to be able to one day experience it for myself.
- Just a couple of months ago this woman came in with her sick toddler. He was so sick, and so tired, and so upset. He was screaming at the top of his lungs. It was a busy day so we were running behind, and he was the last patient of the day. They had to wait a VERY long time, and watching him struggle was very tough. But this mother was incredible. (Especially in contrast to so many other episodes like this that I’ve seen.) This women held her baby, rocked him, sang to him, cuddled him. For the entire couple of hours that they were here. She did not get frustrated, or upset, or neglectful. She was peaceful and calming and loving, unfaltering. I was in awe. I’ve never seen that kind of unwavering patience, especially in a situation that can inevitably turn you irritable. I admired that woman to much, her understanding of her child and her willingness to love and give him the patience that he needed. When they were the last ones waiting and he had finally tired himself out and was sleeping on her lap, I expressed my absolute admiration for her. I truly do hope that when I am in that situation one day with with my own babies, that I will remember her and what she has taught me.
- There was a homeless man that came into the office. He had been hit by a semi-truck a few months back and was still in a lot of pain. This man’s story tugged at my heart, he was so misunderstood and so confused, and so unsure of his place in the world. The reason for his homelessness was his mental illness, something he wished he could overcome, yet ironically, the illness was an obstacle in getting a handle on it. It was heartbreaking to hear of his struggles. His battle with wanting to commit suicide, and wanting to live, his loss of family, his loss of a home, of work, of a support system. I used to think that those that were homeless were lazy, or unintelligent, or were in that situation through their own fault. But (through my education, of course) and seeing this man, I understand that there are some things that you can’t just control. And unfortunately, that was this case for this man.
- There have been an unbelievable amount of women who have come through this office who have lost their babies through miscarriage. I have seen so many tears shed, so many supportive hugs from husbands, mothers or friends. I have felt my heart cringe for their loss. I have gained understanding that it happens for a reason , that miscarriages happen because a healthy baby would not be born, that something biologically was not right and the body was eliminating its own mistake. It has been sad to see so many of these, but it has prepared me for the possibility of this. The strength of these women is admirable.
- There was a young man who had come in with night sweats and headaches. The severity of these symptoms led the doctors to send him to the hospital, since they knew it was a problem bigger than what we would deal with in our clinic. This man was diagnosed with diabetes and a brain tumor. In the same visit. He was young, and lovely, and I’m assuming he was smart and fun and had an amazing family and amazing friends and was living an amazing life. One of those is bad enough, but together – I can’t even imagine. That was definitely one of the saddest things I’ve seen during my time here.
- There have been so many sweet old couples in love here. Joking around with each other, making fun of each other, worrying about each other, supporting each other. It always makes me so emotional – so happy to see them happy, and if they’re going through a rough time, so sympathetic. Their relationships are often so inspirational, and I love seeing them at that stage of their lives together. I’ve loved hearing about how their children were born in their building, and them telling me that they were my age when they had their children (and often being encouraged by them that it’s time to start my own family now!). I’ve loved the contrast between the young, beginning their lives, and the old, struggling with the changed bodies and their hardships of old age. It’s broken my heart many times, but also made it swell with inspiration and hope.
- There has been a mug that one day showed up in the kitchen that I fell in love with. It is covered in colorful birds and flowers, it is the perfect shape that holds the perfect cup of tea. I used it every single morning of every single shift – I would even hand wash it if it was dirty. I loved this mug so much that I asked every staff member I worked with if they knew where it came from. I tried to search it on the internet so I could buy some for my home. I even contemplated it just stealing it and taking it home with me, because surely no one loved it as much as I did and what if someone broke it. Then one day, a patient came in and casually asked if a mug was found here that she left months ago. She described it and I immediately felt my heart drop – “I think you’re talking about my favorite mug…”. We talked for a moment about how great it was and how much I’ve loved it! Then I sadly went back to the kitchen to wash it so I could give it back to her. I walked back out to the waiting room with it and when I went to hand it over to her she told me that she wanted me to keep it. She could tell how much I loved it and wanted it to continue to make me happy! I tried to refuse – I mean, she came back looking for it, for goodness sakes – but she wouldn’t take it. So it currently is in my kitchen, making me happy daily.
I have often left work in tears, and with a heavy heart. It has been hard to watch such awful things come through the clinic. I have also left smiling and inspired, touched deeply by all the wonderful things here, too. There have been times where here was a an awful manager I had to work for, or times I have been frustrated by my co-workers, or been talked down to by doctors. Times that I have really struggled to enjoy my job here. But also there have been times where it has been great. Times where I’ve befriended a nurse or doctor and we laugh all throughout the day, times where there was a new system that really worked smoothly and helped with the workload. Basically, this job has been a serious roller coaster. I think what makes me proudest about having this job, is that even though there have really been a lot of struggles along the way, and even though there have been many times that I just wanted to leave and never come back – I never did. And finally, as there is an awesome manager making great changes and great nurses that make work enjoyable, it is now – during a time that it is not a struggle, or stressful, or emotionally consuming – that I have decided to end my time here. I am grateful to be leaving on good terms, leaving when things are good, and I have pushed past the toughest of tough times to get to this point.
I will never forget the lessons that I have learned through this experience.