I must have been low on blood. Or my veins were just rebelling. Whatever the reason, the registered nurse on duty late that evening could not draw the required blood from me despite poking me countless times. When the tears streamed down my face, she looked aghast and shook her head in frustration.
“I’m sorry for being a baby,” I cried softly.
The nurse put her hand on my arm and said, “This isn’t your fault. I just hate hurting you. Let me go get Logan.” The nurse disappeared in a rush.
Logan, an RN on my floor at Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, usually succeeded at drawing my blood on the first try. Plus, Logan and fellow RN Joe were favorites of mine because they both worked as hard at giving me pep talks as they did at taking my blood, monitoring my vitals and testing me verbally and physically to be sure my swelling brain wasn’t adversely affecting my thinking.
Logan hurried into my room with a sympathetic look on his face and asked if I was all right. I had not cried during any other blood draws but now could not seem to stop. It was the middle of the night, I was exhausted from lack of sleep and pain, and upcoming brain surgery weighed heavy on my mind. But seeing Logan cheered me and gave me hope for an end to the pain of repeated stabs with a needle.
That hope evaporated when Logan said, gently, “I’m sorry she hurt you. But she’s new at this – there are so many new ones – and she’s got to learn and learn quickly. We all have to practice, and it’s tough on everyone for a while.”
“I understand,” I whispered. “Let her try again.” I beckoned to the other nurse. “It’s OK, really. We’ll get it this time.” Logan nodded to the nurse and moved to the side so she could approach and try again.
“Ouch!” I said after another unsuccessful poke and dig with the needle. I hadn’t meant to say it. But it hurt.
“I’m sorry,” I said again, and both nurses shook their heads. “I know you’re trying, and I don’t want to complain and make it worse or seem ungrateful for your care,” I explained.
Logan stepped in again and showed the newer nurse one of his methods. The needle hurt much less as it went in, and there was no digging around. I sighed in relief as he took my blood and left. The other nurse looked at me and smiled.
“You have such a gentle personality,” she said.
I cringed inwardly. I would rather be brave and bold.
“Value who you are a little more,” she admonished. “Being gentle, and kind – it’s appreciated. But you have nothing to be sorry for. You’re in pain, and it’s all right to let us know that so we can help. Allow yourself to be human. I’ve seen much louder and meaner reactions to pain than what you’ve shown!”
“Now, I think you need to sleep. I’m going to put off your next test for a few hours, so you can rest without interruption,” she said, and with a pat on my arm, she was gone.
These were some of my most vulnerable moments, and I am grateful for nurses like this one who worked hard to take the best possible care of me. She gave me her time, heart-comforting compassion and words of wisdom that helped pull me through.
And this nurse’s words have begun to return to me every time I say I’m sorry for things that shouldn’t need an apology: When I’m afraid someone won’t like something I’ve said; when I go for a walk or read a book instead of watching television with someone; or when I ask for help with a chore.
I’m sorry, but apologizing is a tough habit to break. But I admit I am ready to quit being sorry, continue being as kind as I possibly can, and simply enjoy being human.
Dawn Kessinger lives in Lima.