Working in a veteran's hospital you see a lot of things. A lot of substance abuse, mental health issues and alcoholism... PTSD is rampant in our patient population. It can be a rough place to work sometimes. It wears you down. People are bitter and angry and broken... lost and many times forgotten.
It is not uncommon to have patients in our unit that have no visitors during their entire hospital stay. It is also very common to have families with very complicated backgrounds and delicate family dynamics. Often times we are not only caring for our patients but we are caring for their families too. I think one of the reasons I fell in love with the VA is because of the people. One of my deepest passions in life is to show people their value and their worth. I think that is one of the things I have always valued about my faith also. Jesus was a man who loved people... the worst people too. The rejects and marginalized people that no one else wanted to fight for... he fought for them.
If anything I hope that would be the one thing I can show people. That they are worth it. That they are valued... but most of all, that they are loved. 95% of the time it is not easy working with the patients in my hospital. There are moments though where it clicks and the 5% makes up for the rest. The moments where I am able to step outside of my own crap and realize that these guys are just hurting, broken people who need good care... those are the moments that matter.
I had a patient last week who was unlike the others. This patient had a large, close family. This patient did not have substance abuse in his background. He was a physician and a professor at a very prestigious medical school in the area. Still he chose to come to the VA for his care. His wife was saying how much he appreciated the care he received at the VA and she expressed how grateful she was too. Through foggy, tearful eyes she stroked her dying husband's hair and told him to keep fighting... and that she loved him more than anything in this world. She said that he was her best friend and that she was so grateful for everything he had given her in their life together. The love she had for that man was pouring through every tear she cried and the pain she was feeling was tangible.
It broke my heart and I had a hard time holding it together as I managed the care of this extremely sick man. She asked me how long I had been working in the unit and asked if I liked my job.
I stopped what I was doing because I wanted her to know how much I meant what I was about to say.
"I love my job. It is an honor to serve these guys. They truly have given so much and the fact that we are able to cater to our veteran's in such a specific way really is so special. I love knowing that we can give back in that way... and especially that we can give such good care to people who often times are not appreciated or understood. I really love what I do and even on the hard days I am still grateful that I have a job where I can show someone that they are valued by the care that I give."
She looked at me and smiled ever so slightly as tears began to fall down her cheeks.
In the midst of an incredibly exhausting week it was a 5% moment and even now... days later it brings a bittersweet joy to my heart and it reminds me of just how lucky I am.