Our neighbor is an avid cyclist and has completed a 100-mile run. I asked him if he has ever woken up on the morning of an endurance event feeling tired, as our energy level can vary from day to day. He said that he gets in a zone on days when he is contending and is very competitive and focused. I think the same applies with patients. When a health hiccup arises, we concentrate and focus on doing what we have to do to overcome it. I believe so much in life is mental and continuing to fight is a testament to the human spirit.
Following two hospital stays in July, I became anemic. So much that I had to receive iron infusions and B12 shots once a week for four consecutive weeks. As I entered the infusion therapy center, an identification band was placed on my wrist and I was escorted to an open room filled with patient stations. The chairs reminded me of the chairs I sat in when I had dialysis treatments. There were small curtains on either side of the chairs to provide privacy. As I looked around the room I knew we were all battling something, as this facility takes care of very sick people enduring chemotherapy to patients like myself in need of a boost to increase red blood cell count. We were all there doing what we needed to do in hopes to feel better.
After my vitals were recorded and I reviewed my health chart with a nurse, an IV was administered. The nurse connected the bag of liquid iron to the IV tubing and began the infusion therapy. Iron is very dark brown in color and can be harsh on the veins. My veins are quite tiny and fragile. I quickly learned my veins’ sensitivity to iron. This made each treatment difficult as my veins would weaken and multiple IV’s were needed. During the final session, the nurses were unable to find a strong enough vein and had to use an ultrasound machine to locate a deep vein by the artery in my left arm that could withstand the iron infusion. Although many IV attempts failed, my veins became visibly red and sore from the iron, and an ultrasound machine was needed to find a deep vein, the nurses and I remained focused and did what we needed to do in order to get the necessary medicine in my body.
As I watched the dark brown liquid iron flow into my deep vein (only detectable by an ultrasound machine) I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation next to me. Although a curtain blocked the visibility of the patient next to me, his words spoke loud and clear to my heart. The elderly man had a long conversation with his nurse. I did not hear what his health condition was, but it was evident that he was very ill. He stated his frustration with his doctor, confusion with his health care plan and why his blood work results were not improving. The man expressed his thoughts of wondering if he should give up and if his doctor is not helping him because he wants him to die. He shared that his wife is the optimist and he is the pessimist. This man that I could not see, I now wanted to help. I was impressed with the advice the nurse provided and the compassion she showed. The nurse shared that he has to be his own advocate, to keep after his doctor and to not expect instant results after one infusion therapy. The man replied, “I just don’t know if it is worth fighting for.”
I sat in my chair filled with varying emotions. I wanted to pull the curtain back and console him. I knew he was having a hard time, but I didn’t want to cross the privacy line. The nurse expressed a lot of the thoughts I would have suggested to him. When his treatment was completed, he got out of his chair and took a few steps past the curtain and into my view. He happened to look my way. We made eye contact and without thinking, I said, “It’s worth fighting for.” He paused a moment and responded, “I know, it’s just hard sometimes.” I sympathetically said, “I know.” We gave each other a compassionate smile and he walked off. Few words were spoken, but I felt I had to say something. As patients, some days we are more energetic than others. Like the man in the chair next to me, some days we may feel more defeated than others. No matter what our energy level is, we must stay in a positive mental zone and do what must be done to take care of our health. Why? Because ‘it’s worth fighting for’ and because you’re worth it.