Friday, November 12, 2010

Thankful for a lesson learned

I stopped by the hospital today to help for a few hours. It was early in the morning and I began to do patient rounds to see if there was anything I could get for them.

I stopped by the room of a frail looking man with thinning brown hair. He was in the middle of eating his breakfast of scrambled eggs covered in cheese, hash browns, bacon, toast, fruits, juices and a yogurt.

After introducing myself, I asked him if I could get anything for him, fully expecting him to say no. Instead, he asked me to get him an Italian Ice.

"You may not have any because they were out last night" he went on to say, "so if there are none, please bring me two cups of vanilla ice cream, a Styrofoam cup, and some rootbeer so that I can make myself a root beer float."

I thought his request to be somewhat strange because of the time of day and the fact that he was still eating his breakfast. But I told him I would go and check on the Italian Ice. Before leaving his room I mentioned to him that if there were none, he would have to wait on the rootbeer float because we were out Styrofoam cups for the time being, but that more would be arriving soon.

He said that would be fine, so off I went.

Less than one minute later, I returned to his room with the Italian Ice. "It's the last one!" I said as I handed it to him. He took it with a smile and I continued, "I will check back on you later, when the cups arrive to see if you still might like to have a rootbeer float." Then I left his room and went off to the next patient.

About 30 minutes later, I was walking past the nurse's station when the charge nurse said to me, "You forgot to bring my patient a rootbeer float." She seemed annoyed which surprised me. It hadn't been that long since I had brought him the Italian Ice. I had forgotten to check to see if the cups had arrived but I hadn't expected him to be that anxious to get his float.

I went to his room, and after knocking on his door, I slowly walked in. He was eating his rootbeer float. "Are we still friends?" I asked him with a smile. "I'm so sorry I didn't come sooner and that you had to ask your nurse to get you the float." I said.

I expected him to say it was OK, not to worry, etc. Instead he said, "You need to start carrying around a notebook so that you can write these things down. I know you get busy, but you shouldn't forget."

I wanted to tell him it had only been 30 minutes, that he was still eating his breakfast for heaven sakes, that he had JUST eaten an Italian Ice, that there was only one of me and 32 patients and that I WOULD have come back eventually.

Instead, I said, "You are right. I need to do that. I shouldn't forget."

I have been thinking a lot about this man and what he said. At first I felt like I was being unfairly criticized. I'm a volunteer for crying out loud! I often do get busy running errands here and there for this nurse or that and most days only get to each patients room once in four hours. But then I realized that he was trying to teach me an important lesson. He was trying to teach me how to give better care and to realize that these patients are relying on us to do things for them that they cannot do for themselves. And that thirty minutes can seem like hours to someone sitting alone in a hospital room.

A rootbeer float seems like a trivial thing to you and I, but to a patient who perhaps hasn't been allowed to eat anything but a clear diet for days and has just been cleared for a regular diet again, this type of thing can be huge to them.

I'm grateful for this man. Grateful that he took the time to teach me this lesson instead of just saying that it was OK.

Today, I am thankful for the lessons I learn each time I walk through the hospital doors.


  1. I LOVE this post! Made me smile.

  2. You are such a better person than I am, I think I would've dumped it in his lap.