I heard someone say something yesterday about “20/20 vision” being the clearest, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. I sort of think we ought to get rid of that “20/20” phrase having anything at all to do with clarity, because 2020 was anything but clear.
A year ago about this time, we were hearing about a virus – a virus somewhere else, someone else’s virus. It belonged in other countries, and certainly it would never come HERE, and would NEVER affect us.
Then the virus came, and just like that, life changed overnight.
I don’t remember the transition from winter to spring, or spring to summer, or summer to fall this past year. Yet, I know that each one of those seasons happened. Somehow, they came and went without much notice because the season of COVID seemed to take over, and just never seemed to want to end. It still hasn’t ended.
I watched mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters die without their loved ones in the ICU for a season, and now I see the effects that isolation has had on people outside of the hospital. One lady clings to her phone book where the names and phone numbers of all her precious friends and family are recorded. Another sits in the window waiting patiently for his next visit where he can see his great grand daughter through the glass. Another asks for photos of family he hasn’t been allowed to see in more months than he’s been able to keep track of.
As a new hospice nurse, for months I’ve been trying to get really good at reconciling my medications, making sure all of the safety measures are in place to keep my patients from falling, and equipment there to avoid any harm if they do fall. I chart as accurately as possible and update families on a regular basis. I spend hours writing as detailed a report on them as I possibly can for our weekly meetings.
But this past week something dawned on me when one of my sweetest patients with dementia looked me in the eyes with tears rolling down his cheeks, as if every ounce of his dementia had momentarily disappeared. And he said, “Honey, I just want things to go back to normal. Are they ever going to do that?”
I didn’t have an honest answer, but I knew in that moment he needed me to be more concerned with finding a way to bring him joy again, than anything else.
So I took the collage of family photos off the wall, and we spent about half an hour looking at them together. And when he got tired of that, I shared some pictures of my grandchildren. He may have thought they were his grandkids, who knows? But he smiled, and he laughed, and he even sang a Christmas carol along with one of the videos I had on my phone. And for a little while, things felt as if they had gone back to normal, and we both forgot all about COVID.
Another patient sat down beside me and began to sing, “Somewhere over the rainbow…” so I stopped charting and joined her. We sang the whole song about three times, and we laughed together. I enjoyed it just as much as she did.
Then on Tuesday, I sat on the couch with a patient and her husband, and they walked me through a photo album of their courtship, marriage, and the birth of their son and daughter.
So I’ve got a new goal this week for my patients. I’m going to smile, and sing, and ask them to show me photos, because even if it’s only for an hour…. I want things to go back to normal again, too. I really, really do.