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Monday, March 7, 2011

There is No Way to Explain It. At All.

Patients never cease to amaze me.  Their stories, their lives, or the absolute squalor they live in.  Good or bad there is always something each person offers that varies from normal.  I drink that stuff up with a straw.  Its the best part of my job, the most humbling part of my job, and, in this case, the most jaw dropping part of my job.  Oh, and sometimes when I say "my job" I am referring to both EMS and nursing, because that is what I am after all, an EMT and a nurse.  This story in particular happened while wearing my nursing hat in clinicals.

*This is not my patient.  Image courtesy of Google.

I had been warned about my patient by several people before I even met her.  "She's crazy."  "She's been violent and agitated recently."  "She's only here because no facility wants her since she has been combative in the past."

Great... I thought.  Of course I would get the crazy lady for my clinical rotation.  The fact that my teacher told me she thought I could handle the challenge didn't make me feel any less apprehensive. Sure, I've seen my fair share of crazies confined in the back of the ambulance with me, but at least then you are only confined with them for a few minutes at the most.  I was facing a full on shift with an apparent certifiably nuts lady. 

Despite all the forewarning I took a deep breath and walked into the room.  The little old woman was no larger than a ten year old and weighed maybe eighty pounds.  She was a peanut of a thing and I chuckled at the thought of her being combative.  Even knowing her medical history I went over to her bedside, knelt down to her level, and smiled while introducing myself.  I was greeted back with a bright smile and a profoundly inquisitive lady.  We hit it off wonderfully.

Every body system I assessed, every instrument I used, and every number I wrote down she questioned me with deep interest.  I obliged her questions with in depth answers that she drank up with a spoon.  Acute Psychosis?  This woman didn't appear to have any.  

Nearing the end of my rotation for the day the sitter who was in her room in charge of making sure she stayed in bed, didn't attempt to pull out IV lines, or otherwise cause harm to herself, asked if I would sit in while he took a break and grabbed dinner.

Sure!  I said, cheerfully.  The woman had been a peach for the entirety of my shift so I anticipated nothing less.

Not long after I sat down in a chair across from her bed the old woman closed her wrinkled eyes and began mumbling.  Her narrowed mouth traced words I couldn't make out and her brow furrowed and raised with unknown expressions.  I watched her for a few minutes contemplating what to do.  My psychology teacher flashed in my head with big reminders not to play into a patient's delusions, but I really had to know who she was having a conversation with. 

"Who are you talking to?" I asked.

The woman mumbled a couple more sentences and then slowly opened her eyes, looking directly at me.  

"Your great grandmother."

"Who?" I replied, half not hearing her mumbled soft voice clearly, or not wanting to hear her.  I wasn't sure.

"You're great grandmother Coleman."  the old woman said and then closed her eyes again.  She added, before she began mumbling again. "I talk to people all the time, living and dead.  They come to me.  We talk, and sometimes I listen.  You should try it sometime."

I was dumbfounded.  Speechless.  In awe.  And frankly, freaked the heck out.  Why?  Coleman is indeed my great grandmother's last name.  The old woman laying in bed had no way of knowing that since my last name is my husband's and she in my great grandmother on my maternal side with a last name even different than my maiden name.  How she picked that specific name out of the blue I could not begin to tell you.  The only thing that really made me wonder is that my great grandmother, well into her ninety, is still well and living.  I haven't talked to her in years besides Christmas cards, since we are hundreds of miles apart.   

After that encounter with the old woman who claimed she was speaking to my great  grandmother and correctly told me her name my shift ended and I left the hospital floor that evening with nothing more than a brief goodbye.  I couldn't manage anything else. 

Who knows if that woman was really somehow communicating with my great grandmother or not.  I'll never know.  I'll also never know how she knew her name and I never even asked what they were talking about.  I couldn't formulate the sentence.  

What I do know is that I can't explain away what she said to me...  


Regan said...

I would have been calling my great grandmother and telling her that fantastic story. She might get a kick out of it! :) There are many things in life that are unexplained. I've experienced a few things in my life that I will never begin to understand but will always remember.

Misty Dawn said...

Like Regan, I was going to suggest you call your great grandmother!
I've got goosebumps now... said...

That is really eerie. Let us know if you find out more.

(Oh, and that Disney pop-up was a little annoying while I was trying to read this..... I'm just sayin')

Jen at Cabin Fever said...

Thanks for the input about the ad. Its something blogHer has randomly chose to do for one day. I will have to look into it and maybe try and remove it if I can. If I had other sponsors I'd love to discontinue some my ads, but they are currently funding my photo contests :) Give and take.

Rosanne said...

I would definitely be calling my great grandmother to see if she had some weird random conversation with your patient. That made the hair stand up on the back of my neck!
That pop-up ad was annoying...but I find it kinda ironic that it is for a movie about a mother from mars. :)

T Lee said...

the old lady explained it: she talks to people, dead and alive, all the time. i would also be calling great grandmother!

i am not of the thinking that something has to be explainable to be possible. if i were, how could I believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

i'd want to ask that little old lady what great grandmother said to her!!!

SharleneT said...

Not the least surprised. The mind is deep and we barely can scratch the surface of what's possible -- so, like all timid souls running back into the cave -- we deny it. Can't happen. Not true. The woman is crazy. (Truth is, we're terrified of the unknown and need the safety of our own parameters.) Should have asked what they were talking about. My guess is your upcoming child.

But, your grandmother probably was having a spiritual conversation and may not recall under questioning. It's the beauty and joy of who and what we are as human beings. And, quite frankly, this experience is one of the reasons I can have a spiritual life, because of experiences that prove the nay-sayers wrong. You'll discover that many people coming to the end of their lives are able to view and speak to 'spirits' (living or dead) as this world releases its hold and the mind is freer to accept the next levels.

Lucky lady, you.

kittyhere said...

Whether or not your patient has a 'gift' what I found important about your story is that you treated her with kindness. My mother has had periods of serious metal illness but most of the time it is 'controlled'. I often worry that medical professionals may look at her history and not treat her with the respect they would give someone without that history.

Jessica @ One Shiny Star said...

Considering there were not IVs ripped out or gnashing or teeth... you faired pretty well. :) Coleman is a rather popular name though, and if your great grandmother is still alive... I would probably just chuckle a little bit. But still - call your Great Grandma... maybe the two know each other? :)

Beth said...

That would freak me right out! I thought for sure your story was going to end with "and then I got a phone call saying that great grandma had passed away last night." I think you need to call great grandma and see how she is doing!

tonkelu said...

The image you used- that you just randomly pulled from Google- looks like my grandmother. It's not. We wouldn't have photographed her in such a heartbreaking position. And while your post is interesting and intriguing, the thing I can't get out of my head is that photo. It just seems so crass and disrespectful.

Leslie in Montana said...

I too appreciate that you were so kind and caring...I think she sensed it too. Thank you for that. :)

Fire Wife Katie said...

Oooh, spooky! That was one heck of a lucky guess... or not!!

Smile Steady said...

Ahhh! That is bizarre! I'm like you though, these patients never cease to amaze me!

twobarkingdogs said...

ok. weird enough. hate the photo too. but seriously? you have a great-grandmother that is alive and you don't talk with her? you have, of course, heard about telephones, right? they are wonderful things, and they can call people hundreds of miles away, not just around the corner for pizza delivery.

go call your great-granny.

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