Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

I've been tryin' to get down...
 to the heart of the matter...
 but my will gets weak...
and my thoughts seem to scatter
 but I think its about...
The Heart of the Matter  
Don Henley

 I woke up early on Monday and as my eyes slowly let the light seep in a sadness washed over me. I looked at the clock just as it turned 6:00am. My stomach began twisting all sorts of ways, knots starting to form.
For a brief moment I panicked thinking that I was coming down with something. A stomach flu of some sorts... until it hit me. Today is my sister's birthday.
I haven't spoken to her in years. I wouldn't even know how to reach her at this point. This is not uncommon in my family. We are disconnected, broken and dysfunctional. The few of us that actually have communication with each other are a tiny handful and the times we actually see each other are few and far between.
I have faint memories of childhood where we celebrated holidays and birthdays... all one cohesive bunch. It seemed as if things were okay... happy even. Maybe that was simply due to my innocence or maybe it was just the inability to see the truth of our family dynamics. At that point I guess anything was better than the abuse I had endured in my previous home. Eventually the facade broke down though and reality set in. There hasn't been a holiday in years that wasn't filled with anger and fighting and frustration and plastered on smiles.
This is why we don't speak... this is why my interaction with my family is minimal and surface level if that.  
If I am being truly honest, it is for the best. I read a blog post recently on the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Reconciliation is a two way street filled with repentance. There is little if any of that in my family.
So... I forgive but I do not reconcile.
Fast forward to the next day... work is hectic and busy so I hurriedly settle into report. As I sit there listening to the typical rattlings of the ICU... Intubated 2 hours ago... tachy to the 120's, septic and febrile... I hear "Registered Sex Offender."
My fist clenched around my pen and I took a deep breathe in.
Not today... I don't have it in me to do this today. I have taken care of child molesters and sex offenders before but today, I just can't do it. As I look around the unit and see the chaos... our charge nurse scrambling around like a chicken with her head cut off, I realize that I won't be able to switch assignments and my stomach begins to twist and turn... here we go again.
He remained on the ventilator the entire night so luckily I didn't have to force any interaction. I took care of him to the best of my abilities and went home the next morning exhausted.
I come back to work the next night and I have the same assignment... only this time he isn't on the ventilator and now he is surrounded by his entire family. For the first 2 hours of my shift I was on the verge of tears. Face flushed with anger and fear and disgust all rolled into one big, emotional ball. I tried to busy myself in my patient's room next door, hoping to get the composure to be this man's nurse. Praying to God that I would find someway to detach my own experiences with the horror of what this man had done. Eventually, I knew I couldn't avoid it any longer and I went in to do my assessment. He was a little disoriented but pleasant and joking with his family. I went through the motions and when he was unstable I did everything I could to be reassuring for him. After we got him settled and his vitals were stable he looks at me and says, "You know what... you're a good nurse. I'm really starting to see the skill level of people here and you are a good nurse. You have a very bright future, Andrea. Thank you for taking such good care of me."
It might have been the way he said it or the fact that I was so emotionally drained... or maybe it was the sense of relief I felt knowing I had managed to hide the truth of what I felt towards this man. All I know is that in that moment all I felt was sadness. The only thing I wanted to do was run out of that room... away from him and away from it all. Away from thoughts of anger and abuse and my sister. I wanted to be at home in the arms of my husband where it was safe. Where I could cry and cry and cry... all night long if I needed to.
Instead I just smiled at my patient and said a very quiet, "Thank you." I finished what I was doing and I went into the bathroom and cried. I cried and I prayed that God would give me the strength to forgive.


  1. Oh my gosh, Andi. Thank you for your raw honesty. I am wishing you a world of peace. . . . the peace your childhood didn't afford you. I am praying you hold it in your hand never have to let it go.

  2. Sending you all the love I can. My family has wounded me deeply as well so I have some idea of the pain you feel. Hug Chris, know that your little family you've created is one of happiness and love and strength. xoxox