learning to navigate the world, j-bear style

Tag: compassion

Dear Medical Staff

This is for you, the techs, the nurses and the support staff in medical offices and hospitals. I need you to understand something.

Compassion is what will save both sides a lot of stress.

Hear me out, please?

Yesterday, I spent the day in an emergency room. Again. This seems to be an almost yearly event and thankfully despite a very long day yesterday I actually have an answer as to why I keep having such similar problems year after year. This is good. Great, even. The visit sadly highlighted something else that needs even greater attention than what brought me to the ER.

I have bad veins. It’s a well noted fact, I have always and forever been a tough stick. There have been a few blessed phlebotomists who have quickly and relatively painlessly drawn blood or placed IVs on me but more often than not I leave situations like this appearing like I can barely retain water due to so many holes. It’s a mess. Fifteen years ago a particularly uncaring tech decided to dig around in my wrists for veins despite my protests. She rendered me unable to use my hands for several days, the pain was so great. I could not brush my hair. I could not do simple things for myself. It was upsetting that I was disregarded and rendered what felt like injured for so long and has stuck with me ever since.

Now, enter yesterday. A tall man my age or maybe a little younger approaches me. He’s with the IV team. He’s there to place an IV for fluids and blood draws. I submit to his efforts, already in pain hence my being in the ER to begin with. I ask what I always ask: Please avoid my hands if possible. I need to be able to function after all. He outright ignores me with a huff. Three sticks later, he goes for my wrist. I screamed. He cleaned up his stuff and huffed out of there declaring me impossible to stick.

I sat there and sobbed. A kind woman who works in the lobby brought me tissues.

This is for that fella, who later came back when I consented to do one last try for an IV and mocked me openly because I screamed:

You don’t know what PTSD is like. Your disregard for my simple request kicked off terror. You cannot help that you’re male and sadly, I cannot help the reaction of terror I had so acutely at your actions. If you had talked to me, treated me like a human being you would have known this. The ultrasound tech did just this and had me at ease and chatting amiably all through my test despite the fact I am usually wildly uncomfortable with strangers touching me.

You never took the single solitary moment to realize that most people aren’t drama queens, they react as they react for reasons. If it had been my son in your care, he would have done all I did and more because you’re a stranger touching him and not only are you touching him, you’re doing something he doesn’t entirely understand and it hurts! It’s a rare child that doesn’t freak out over needles, after all, and he is no different… there is just little to bring him back from that horror besides his dog right now. I cannot imagine the ugly things you’d have said about that, probably blowing off the fact he’d hear every word and understand you.

Just like I did.

Talk to your patients. Set them at ease. Show them care and understanding. It changes everything. There are nurses in that very hospital who I let one night spend the entire evening trying to get an IV in me for a test. I was covered in medical tape and holes, but they succeeded and even though it hurt and I was miserable, I could smile and laugh about it. Why? Because they all approached it with understanding, respect and when they realized humor helps me, humor. When you’re a good sport it really helps the person you’re working with be the same.

The funny little epilogue to this rant is that not ten minutes after this person left me declaring me impossible a young lady came along, got a blood draw done on me rapid fire and I never ended up needing an IV. Still got a diagnosis, still got taken care of, still survived to tell the tale.

A Gentle Sweetness

There are times I stand in awe of my son. I imagine most parents do this, especially as they see their tiny child develop into this independent person that surprises them in ways they’d never quite anticipated.

You see, my clumsy and boorish boy happens to be one of the gentlest people I know.

Oh, there’s tiny children playing with him in a play area? They’re scared of the slide? He walks up the slide from the bottom, meets them at the top, sits down and shows them how to slide down. I do not make this up. He repeats the process several times until the very little ones are following him. It is all done in pantomime: Not a word is spoken, yet every message is perfectly conveyed. He does not bowl them over, harass them or get frustrated with however long it takes to see every child ushered down the slide. He repeats, again and again, and leaves me blown away.

His big thing right now is babies. He loves babies. Baby people, baby animals… He loves tiny little new creatures of all sorts. Our friends have a beautiful baby girl and when he sees her in her mother’s arms, he lights up like it’s Christmas morning. His favorite thing to do? Run over and gently tap her nose. He knows not to be rough, or quick, or harsh.

I would be lying if I said he has not had a few run ins being just a little bit too exuberant around animals, specifically cats. He learned, through Loki’s very vocal manner, that one does not grab tails abruptly. Loki was not harmed, nor was J. A very important lesson was carried away and he has been much gentler in his approach of both Loki, his aunt’s cat, and Lenny, his grandparent’s cat. That’s the key thing: He learned, and quickly at that. This bodes well for Dog to be Named Later.

Maybe I am odd, and it would not be the first time, but this all seems so amazing to me. My experience with both male children and adults has not been positive. They have always been brash and harsh and hard for me to be around with rare exceptions. My son’s family tree has a few very bad apples on it and yet here he is, a shining example of all that is good. He is a rough, freshly mined stone right now, slowly being worked into the magnificent gem he’s meant to be. If this is how he at the start of the process, I am that much more eager to see the grown man he becomes. If he manages to retain even just a sliver of this natural compassion and concern towards the world around him he is going to do great things in his life, even if the ripples never extend far beyond a small area. The lives he will be touch will be changed for the better, and I can think of nothing more noble or wonderful for my son to leave his mark with.

Just think, in less than a month, he’ll have a sidekick to help him on his way to doing that too. We can’t wait.

How Compassion Works

I had a stunning example of how compassion works and how compassion does not works today. Here’s what happened:

We went to a local chain hair salon to get J a haircut. Haircuts and J, apart from his very first on his first birthday,  have always been a tremendous struggle. Everything about the process is just torture for him and though I prepare him – social stories, showing him via toys what’s going to happen, etc – it just has never been truly successful. It’s overwhelming, all those sounds and smells and people touching you, but when you’re blessed with a gorgeous and ridiculously thick and fast growing mane like J’s it’s a necessary evil.

So, the bad first:

The stylist who ended up cutting his hair did a good job. I cannot deny her that. She did the best one could with a squirming, crying child as I held him on my lap. That part I cannot lay at her door, she could never have helped it.

It’s how she spoke to us prior to the cut that I can.

A lovely young woman greeted us when we arrived and was very gentle and understanding with J. She pushed nothing, let him take his time, spoke to him directly and attempted to connect with him. He recognized this and despite tears, he started to slowly warm to her. She gave us leave to use her chair and explore her work station for however long we needed as, sadly, she was leaving. We sat down, worked on a lollipop and worked on reclaiming J’s calm.

Our stylist used the chair next to the one in which we were sat. The woman had a client in her chair, who I will talk more about in a moment. She ignored J mostly and when her client was done, she walked over to the computer and finally mentioned he hadn’t been put in as waiting. She bluntly informed me that if he wasn’t going to sit, she wasn’t going to bother because they had plenty of people waiting.

Um… Weren’t we people?!

I insisted we’d get through it and she answers along the lines of “Fine, but he needs to sit still, it’s not worth me getting cut.”


He’s not tantrumming because it’s fun. He was losing it because he was terrified and being spoken to like we’re things, yeah. That doesn’t help. I bit back my utter horror and embarrassment for his sake and we got through the haircut. Notably, the only thing cut in any of this was hair. Shocking, right?

Then there was the good.

As we sat in the first woman’s chair getting used to things the client beside us, a man with salt and pepper hair, chatted J up. He pointed out how he wasn’t being hurt, how it wasn’t hard, and just generally tried to truly engage him. He asked him questions, made a few comments about his beloved blue bear, got him going about Thomas… He had no idea what J was dealing with or that his compassion and patience with the screaming little boy beside him was above and beyond. He just did it. It helped, a lot. It got J calm enough to even begin to entertain the idea of going through with it and though he cried during his cut, he did not fight as usual. He let me hold him, and we got things done.

Empathy, understanding, the realization that just talking to someone can be an amazing thing… Funny the wonders that can create!

The woman who cut his hair made small talk about knowing kids on the spectrum and such, but she never took to heart what these kids deal with. The man who never knew he was encountering such a child just did what I wish the whole world would, saw a child struggling and did what he could to help when he saw his actions effective. J looks incredibly handsome now and I will have to snap a picture later, just wanted to get what was eating me about that encounter down before I forgot about it.

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