The silent patients speak

The silent patients speak by Jim Davidson Have you ever thought about the thousands of people in this country who spend countless hours confined to a bed in a hospital or a nursing home, who for one reason or another cannot speak for themselves or make their wishes known? If I had family or loved ones in this condition, I would want to know they were receiving the best possible medical care, but I would also want to know that the people who were taking care of them were thoughtful, tenderhearted and kind, especially in light of a touching article I read a while back.

This article is titled The Silent Patients Speak, and it was written by Anita Wildhaver, a registered nurse. If you have never had a reason to contemplate the plight of people in this condition, I believe the message this article contains will speak to your heart.

"Though we can't speak, see, or move of our own will, we are living beings. We are your stroke patients, the brain damaged, and all your other patients who by illness or injury are locked inside the dark, silent shells of our bodies. We can't cry out in pain or discomfort, regardless of how severe they are. We can't express anger, despair, disgust, nor even happiness. But hear us, you walking, talking, feeling, doing beings. Some of us are aware. We hear, think and know. We are not living vegetables, nor do we think we would be 'better off dead.' We still have enough self-respect to be embarrassed at hearing your conversation about your personal problems and your sex lives.

"We are frightened by your conversations that relate the latest gossip about the questionable ability of the doctor who is responsible for our care, for his knowledge must be used to save us, if we are to ever recover. We feel shame at having our bodies exposed for any and all to see. It does matter to us that we lie in feces or urine for hours, and our muscles ache with pain from the strain of remaining in one position without being moved. We can feel our mouths filled with mucus, drying and caking to form ulcerated areas. We can feel the stomach cramps from ice cold tube feedings with all the speed and lack of concern of pouring water down the drain.

"We can feel the pain of our skin breaking down from poor and careless nursing care. We can also feel joy � the joy derived from the firm, gentle touch of a person giving us good nursing care. We can rest more carefully when we are bathed, when our mouths and lips are cleansed, when our bodies are correctly positioned, when good skin care is given, when our beds are made neat and straight. We can appreciate being told when procedures are about to be done, before they are begun."

Thanks, Anita, your words have so much meaning and hopefully, my sharing this will help some of these dear people receive better care. The vast majority of people in the nursing profession are kind, thoughtful and considerate, and highly qualified from a medical standpoint. Unfortunately a small percentage are not. Then, too, because of human nature, we all have bad days from time-to-time, and get up on the wrong side of the bed. Still other people have so many personal problems and are so wrapped up in themselves that they just don't think at all.

Sometimes all it takes to make tremendous changes for the better is a simple reminder of things we know but have forgotten. As Will Rogers once said, "it's just as important to be reminded as it is to be educated." If you know someone, either a nurse or a patient who might benefit from this article, why not take a moment and share it? It could result in some of the greatest blessings you have ever received.

(Editor's note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72032).

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