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...