Patience: Is Pain Worth The Wait?

My patient’s bony, bird-like hand gripped mine with extraordinary strength as she called, “Hurry up! Hurry! It hurts! Can’t you be quicker about this? Just get it over with!”

My counterpart never skipped a beat as he bent over her other arm, needle searching for her elusive veins. “I cannot hurry this process, Joyce*. This is something that needs to be done carefully.”

“I wish you could hurry! Oh! My, that hurts!” Joyce squawked.

I peered over the bed, saw a flash of blood, and held my breath, hoping he had established an IV. If not, it would be up to me to meet the challenge. He connected the catheter and syringe, depressed the plunger, and boosh, her vein disintegrated from view under a bleb of saline. Brian* shook his head. “I’m sorry Joyce. Your veins are very fragile and difficult it didn’t work on this arm. Okay, Noël, let’s try the other side.”

I’d found a vein. It was just in a terrible spot. Plus cute, little Joyce was 90+ years and her skin didn’t quite have that elastic bounce anymore. I needed Brian’s hands plus mine to get her arm in the best possible position.

“Ow, ow, ow!” She yelped again.

I tried to tune her out as my needle slid right next to the vein. Next to, not into. I clenched my jaw and tried to concentrate, to see through the tips of my fingers.

“Please hurry! I don’t like this!”

Sweat began to bead on my forehead. D-it! I thought. You have got to get this in! This is her last option! Don’t blow this. Please don’t blow this!

It seemed like hours. And honestly, I had lost track of the vein as it slipped deeper into the tissue of her arm. Suddenly I saw that burst of promising red. Blood! Mentally willing my hands to steady, I advanced the needle a hair further, then the catheter, then attached my tubing, and…it flushed with saline beautifully. I was in shock. When Brian tried, the vein remained intact.

After the dressing was in place over her IV start, I finally teased her, “Joyce, you almost gave me a heart attack!”

“Well, now that would have been a sight!” Her blue eyes were merry. “A young nurse keeled over her elderly patient’s bed!”

I could have kissed her for calling me young and kissed her again for her vein holding it together, giving me an extra boost of confidence with my IV skills.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you metaphorically been the patient in the bed, hoping something painful would hurry up?

I was thinking about that concept this week, especially after my encounter with Joyce. How many times have I cried out to my parents, my husband, God, the universe, anyone who would listen that I want this painful thing to pass? For me it’s been nursing school, being a new nurse, trying to figure out who I am, challenges with coworkers, unemployment, being hurt by friends, memories and nightmares about my first marriage, starting a new job, moving to a new city, losing my grandmother, the list goes on.

I don’t think much of anything can be quantified as “100% of the time, this should happen”, but often our painful processes cannot be hurried. And for the end result to be the best result, we have to be patient.

What process are you going through right now? What is requiring your patience? How do you reach deep within yourself to remain steady with the course?

I must also ask, what have you been patient with that needs to stop? Are you being hurt physically or emotionally by someone? Do you continue to put yourself in a bad position that is unhealthy? If so, maybe you need to throw in the towel and learn when to say “Stop!”.

*names have been changed for privacy purposes

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