Sunday, June 22, 2014

Exchanging the Negative for the Positive

I'm finally starting to feel better from my surgery!
After a long 4 1/2 weeks, I'm almost feeling
100% back to normal!  Yay!  :-)
Thanks to all those who have been praying
for me, who have visited, for all the FB
messages, and for keeping me company!

Even though I posted a few days ago, I'd like to apologize for disappearing for over a month…But I promise I have a valid excuse for my temporary disappearance! ;-)

In my time away I had the last few weeks of school – which included two major projects and finals.  I also had an unexpected adventure that included an ambulance ride to the ER, hospitalization, pancreatitis, and emergency surgery to have my gallbladder removed!  It’s been a busy month, needless to say.

The cool thing is, I had a negative experience with a couple of the nurses while hospitalized.  I know that doesn’t sound “cool” – but I’ll get to that.  Here’s the story of my hospitalization, and why I think my bad experience was a positive one…in the end. 

For the last few months I’ve been struggling with on and off stomach problems.  I went to see a doctor who told me that my issues were more than likely related to a glutton allergy, and then she sent me home.

A few weeks later I had a friend coming to town.  This friend and I lived together as flat mates (aka: roommates) in London and I hadn’t seen her since my time in England…It had been two years!  I was excited about this reunion.

The day before she came, I was having intense stomach pains that I chose to ignore.  Then she came, and I felt mostly okay.

My friend had plans to leave on Monday morning around 9 or 10.  However, at 5:45 am on that Monday morning, I woke up with pain in the middle of my back and feeling nauseous.  I called an advice nurse who made an appointment for me at noon, and left a message at work letting them know I wouldn’t be there that day – all before 6:30.

Before I knew it, the pain was worse.  The pain was so intense I was doubled over and couldn’t straighten my back.  Although I have a high tolerance for pain, I found myself doing the ugly cry.  (Us girls especially know that ugly cry!!  But this ugly cry was definitely uglier than the “PS: I Love You movie ugly cry.)

I woke my mom up around 7:30, who then decided it was best to call for an ambulance.  By about 10:00 I was already diagnosed with the pancreatitis, stuck gallstones, and found my way out of the ER to a room in the hospital for an extended stay.

Here’s where the fun part of the story begins.

I had to wait a couple of days before the doctor could remove my gallbladder.  To have it removed, we had to get my pancreatitis under control…meaning I couldn’t eat or drink anything.  I was only allowed IV fluids.

By the time I was allowed to have surgery, I was feeling okay.  No more intense pain.  No more being doubled over.  No more ugly cry.

The day of the surgery, I decided to shower.  I knew if I didn’t shower then – it’d be a few days before I’d have a chance to shower again.  So, I went to my bathroom to do so.

As I’m undressing out of the hospital gown, my attending nurse flung my door open and entered the room without knocking, or asking if it was okay.

As quickly as possible I caught the gown before it hit the floor, trying to cover myself.  I told her, “Excuse me – I’m trying to get into the shower.”  She said, “Oh, don’t worry – it’s just me.”  Wanting a bit of privacy, and irritated by the unwelcomed intrusion on my preference of modesty, I told her, “I don’t care who you are...whether you’re my mother, or my nurse.  I like privacy.”  Ignoring what I told her, she continued entering my bathroom to do whatever she needed to do, as I stood there trying to stay modest. 

While I recognize she is use to seeing the human body in its natural form, I also know that I’m not use to being in these situations.  I’m not use to others seeing me undressed.  Being hospitalized is not something I do often, and I still craved a bit of dignity in that situation. 

Then, I had my surgery…and the fun continued…with the same nurse.

One of the possibly side affects of having anesthesia is having your bladder “go to sleep”.  While not everyone experiences this, and while I hadn’t experienced this before in previous surgeries, this time I did.

Once awake, I called my nurse in request to go to the bathroom.  She helped me up and I tried to relieve myself, but I couldn’t. 

About an hour or so later, I called my nurse again to request more help.  She came in and told me, “I’m helping another patient right now – I’ll be right back to help you.”  Totally understanding and with patience, I waited.

I waited so long for her to come and assist me that I fell asleep.  By the time I woke up, I was extremely uncomfortable, as I really need to use the restroom.  I was still on IV fluids this whole time – increasing the need to “go” – and I hadn’t gone to the bathroom since before having surgery  (which had been more than a few hours).

Calling her into my room, she finally helped me.  Yet, my bladder was still sleeping.

Due to the side affect of not being able to use the bathroom, they decided it was best to use a catheter until everything started working properly.

My nurse tried and tried to insert the catheter.  If you’ve ever had to get a catheter – you know that this is an uncomfortable experience, physically and mentally.  After about 10 minutes of her trying, I eventually told her, “You need to get someone else to do this.  I can’t do this anymore.  This isn’t working.”  Although I requested her to find help, she continued to try.  I told her again, “No.  I’m serious.  You have to stop and get help.”  Finally, she listened to my request.

When my nurse returned with help, the lady who came to help took one look at me, looked at my nurse, and exclaimed with attitude, “What is THAT on her face?!?”  I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes or something in reaction to her statement (Yay for pain meds??), as she then asked my nurse with persistent attitude, “Oh.  Is that something she’s had for a while??”

The lady talked about me, in front of me, but not to me.  She ignored the fact that I was there.  She ignored the fact, and forgot, I’m not just “something to look at” that is different.  She forgot that, although I am a patient, I’m also a human.  A person…A person who has feelings, who can hear her comments infused with attitude, and who could see the expression of her face during her reaction.

I know that it’s possible that she may of thought, “Maybe this is a reaction to medication or something else.”  That’s a reasonable possibility that I completely understand. However, the way she went about it was all wrong.  If she had that concern – she should have either asked me about it (kindly), or if she chose to ask the other nurse about it, she shouldn’t have done it in front of me in that shocking manner. 

As the assisting nurse started to help with the catheter, both she and my nurse started calling me by the name of “Carl”.  Thinking I must have misunderstood them the first time or two, I ignored it.  But by the fourth time of them using the name, I spoke up by saying, “Ummm…My name isn’t Carl.”  They replied in shock, “Oh, it’s not???”  I told them (again, remember, I’m on drugs, in a lot of pain, am frustrated, and am a little more blunt at this point), “No.  It’s not.  My name is Crystal.  That would be an ugly girl’s name.”  They told me, “What??  Crystal is a BEAUTIFUL girl’s name!”  Sarcastically I said, “No.  The name you’ve called me about four times – Carl – would be an ugly girl’s name.”

Once the catheter was in, I started to cry.  The whole thing was uncomfortable, I was in pain, and was miserable from surgery.  My nurse then told me, “It’s okay to cry.  I once got a shot and cried too.”

…What???  A catheter and shot are NOT nearly the same thing - at all.

During the rest of my time with that nurse, she would ask me, “What is your pain level?”  I’d tell her, “I’m at an eight right now.”  She would then say, “Oh, so you’re not in any pain?”  Or, another thing she would ask, “Do you want or need any pain medication?”  I would tell her, “Yes, I do.  I’m hurting really badly.”  She then would say, “Okay.  You don’t need any medication??”  I’d then explain, “No.  I do need pain medication!  I’m at an eight on the pain level scale.”

That nurse was an adventure…A frustrating adventure, but an adventure all the same – and a story to tell.

Before I get to the good, positive part, there is another story I need to explain.

Three weeks after surgery my doctor wanted me to have blood work done, making sure all my levels were okay and that the pancreatitis was completely gone.

Walking up to the check-in counter, the lady asked me for my medical record number and to see my ID.  Then she turned our conversation straight to my birthmark.

Instead of asking me about my day, or whatever, she asked me, “What kind of make up do you use to cover your hematoma??”  Mentally, I thought, “Hematoma??  It’s not a hematoma – but I’ll ignore that.”  I told her, “I use Cover Girl.”  She proceeded, “Oh, you should try using Bare Minerals!  It covers things like that really well.  I have a red spot on my nose, and you can’t even tell it’s red – can you??”  I then explained, “No thank you.  I don’t feel the need to hide my birthmark.  Even if it is a little frustrating at times, I figure it gives me a unique way to help and educate people – so why not embrace it?”  She replied, “That’s true.  I guess other people are more bothered by it than someone like you, who has it.”

I really don’t think the lady meant any harm in her statements and recommendation.  Her voice was 100% friendly and had no indication of attitude; unlike many other situations I’ve encountered.  Yet, I still felt bothered.

Going into the hospital to have lab work done, three weeks after surgery, I really don’t want to focus on my birthmark.  That’s not the intention of my visit.

I also did not ask for make up recommendations.  It’d be different if I had asked, “Your make up looks really good!  What brand do you use?” - but I didn’t.

There’s also the issue, especially in a hospital setting, of her assuming I had a hematoma.  In a sense, she was assuming a diagnosis for my birthmark being something different.  And had I tried the make up she mentioned, and had a reaction, the hospital is then liable due to their staff member’s advice.

And personally/mentally?  Her recommendation of changing make up interpreted in my head as, “Here – try this make up so you can hide your face.”…And that hurts.

Some people tell me, “She’s only trying to help”, or “She sees you wear makeup.  Maybe she thought you were trying to hide the birthmark.”  Both are valid thoughts, but my opinion?  There’s nothing to help…and in this day in age, I have a laptop, an iPhone, and I know how to use Wi-Fi access.  I’ve tried other make up.  Ican’t stand them, and choose not to use them for many reasons other than the discomfort and expensive cost of the special brands.  However, even if I hadn’t tried them yet, if I wanted another make up option, I know I can ask friends, go to Macy’s, or Google my options.

Besides, if a woman with curly hair walks up to her counter, does she tell them, “My dear girl – your hair is really curly!  I know of this GREAT hair straightener to help you straighten out that problem.”  She probably doesn’t.  That woman was born with her curly hair…It’s a part of who she is and maybe a part of her signature look – just like my birthmark is a part of me.

If these situations didn't happen on such a regular basis, I probably wouldn't have frustrated with this one…But these situations do start to wear me out, and it's not a good feeling when they happen as often as they do.  When people tell me this situation isn't really a "big deal", I often wonder if they would think and feel the same thing if they wore my shoes for a few days.

Also, in addition, moments like this make me wonder, “Why can’t strangers – whether they be hospital employees or the general public – talk to me about who I am as a person?  Why do they have to bring up the birthmark?  Why not just ask me how my day is going?  About my favorite hobby, or summer plans?  I’m a person – just like them…A person who has so much more depth than the color of her patch of purple skin.  Why do they forget that?”

Even though I don’t think she meant any harm, and overall I feel like I’m a confident person, my concern is – what if the next person this happens to isn’t??  What if they struggle 1,000 times more than I do??  How will it affect their already struggling confidence level?

When I walk into a hospital, I expect to feel safe when talking with hospital employees.  I should feel comfortable.  Employees in a hospital, or even dental setting, should expect “different” people to walk through the door…and while they can wonder if my facial difference is a hematoma or a reaction to medication, they shouldn’t assume that when they address it.  Instead, they should ask, “Is that a hematoma?”  Or, “Do you mind if I ask what causes your face to have a purplish look?” 

Oh, but hey - here’s where the positive part comes in!

While I was still in the hospital, my mom called a hospital manager and made a complaint about the nurses.  She was not my nurse for any more of my time there, and the manager was extremely disappointed about how things took place with her.  While talking with the manager, my mom then casually mentioned, “I’m sure that once my daughter feels better, if you’d like, she’d be more than happy to come and talk with your staff and do a sensitivity training.” 

He was thrilled at the idea and told her he would mention it to his boss.  He liked the idea a lot, but had to receive permission needed to allow me to do this. 

When I told a nurse I really liked about the possibility of doing a sensitivity training, she told me with encouragement, “If you do this and I hear about it – I will be the first one to sign up to attend.”

The same idea was mentioned to another manager in charge of the lab department, and she too is asking for the permission needed for me to come to her department to share about my experiences, about sensitivity, and my patient insight. (I do have to make a note - when talked with the manager of the lab, I did let them know that I don't think their employee meant any harm.  I also pointed out that she also probably didm' realized how what she said could come across - and did come across - and that she spoke with kindness…However, I still believe it was still unprofessional.)

Not only did we have phone conversations with these two managers, but I also had an in-person meeting with a third manager who is also in charge of the hospital department. 

She felt horrible about the whole experience.  The birthmark portion, but also the negative parts unrelated to my birthmark.  She also asked me an unexpected question.

The manager asked me if I would be willing to participate in a hospital committee that consists of hospital leadership, doctors, and a few patients.  She wants me to share my stories with them, and feels that with my age and unique situation, I’d be a value to their committee.  She told me, “I love listening to you talk!  You are inspiring.”

I still have to be voted into their committee and have a background check, but even the possibility of being added in and possibly making a difference excites me.

Many people ask me what hospital all my experiences take place at.  Truthfully?  I know that doesn’t matter.  I hear stories from other people with similar experiences from across the country and world.  These things can happen anywhere, and everywhere – and they do.  And my goal is not to put any hospital down in any way, because I know that won’t accomplish anything.  That wouldn’t be a very impactful strategy while trying to help make a positive change.

These experiences aren’t my first like this in a hospital setting.  For years I’ve been ignoring people’s comments and remarks, choosing not to speak up.

I’ve finally hit that age and point where I’ve decided, “It’s time to take off the ‘I’m frustrated’ hat and time to change it in for a, ‘I’m going to do something about this’ hat instead.”  Within the last year alone, I've had four negative experiences in the same hospital.  (Please read It's Just a Birthmark! for the other stories.)  The thing is – I finally realized that I can make a difference.  I can make an impact.  My voice, my story, can be heard if I just speak up.  Maybe my personal attempt at change will be small, but overtime, maybe a bigger change can be made just by my tiny attempt and step.

When, and if, I really get to go and speak to all the nurses and to the different committees and departments of the hospital, I know that I’m not just raising my own voice.  I’m a representative for everyone who has ever had similar, unnecessary, experiences.  By finally speaking up, hopefully I can make a big enough difference for at least one person…One person who may not get the same negative treatment, just because I am speaking up.

I think this is a reminder from God that He has so many special, and unexpected, plans for my life.  His dreams for me are bigger than my own.  Had you told me two years ago that God would be opening these doors I never knew were possible, I don’t know if I would have believed you.

I’m excited to see where this goes, as even the most ugly situations can become the most beautiful.

The Travelin’ Chick,

PS: For those of you who remember that I was hospitalized in Norway back in the summer of 2012, my doctors told me that more than likely, it was my gallbladder giving me problems then too.  Mystery solved??  (You can read Beautiful Norway on that story.  It's much shorter than this entry.)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Worth More than Gold

(Sometimes videos don't appear on all devices, so if you don't see the music video above "Worth More than Gold" by Britt Nicole, click here!)

A couple of weeks ago I was really struggling with a negative comment that was made to me in regards to my birthmark.  Some days I can easily laugh the negative things off that strangers say and do in reaction to my face, while others day it's not so easy to find the humor.  During this specific day and from a specific interaction, I allowed a stranger to take to my undesired, seldom visited, low place.

An hour later I got into my car.  I was feeling discouraged while questioning my value when it comes to my unique appearance.  I found myself questioning if it'd be easier if I hide who I am by expensive and uncomfortable make up, wondering if that would help me become more valuable in society's eyes…All while forgetting the countless beauties that come with my difference and the value that I have always had, and will always have, in God's eyes.

At the same time, I was (truthfully) beyond frustrated.  I was angry that more often than I prefer, strangers can't seem to talk to me as a person, focusing away from my birthmark…Forgetting that they can get to know the greater level of depth that I have - whether they ask me how I'm doing, about my summer plans, or even about my favorite hobby.

During a venting session taking place only in my mind during my drive home, I thought, "Don't people (strangers, specifically), realize there is more to me than the color of my face??   Why do they always assume it's okay to respond to what they see in certain, negative ways - or that I only want to talk about my birthmark?  Don't they realize I may have cool stories about traveling, that I may love to bake, and have exciting hopes for my life?  I'm just like any person.  I'm just like themWhy do they so easily forget that??"  Sometimes it feels as though some people treat me as though I'm only half a person, just because of half my face.

When I got into my car about an hour after this specific experience, I heard this song come on the radio.  I had heard the song before, but hadn't really listened to it.

This song is just what I needed in that moment.   It was the perfect reminder!!

I needed to hear that no matter what strangers say, no matter how they react, I'm worth more than gold.  I needed that reminder!!

My worth isn't in the way I'm treated by others, or in the way they talk to me…or in some cases, in the way they don't talk to me (that's a story to look forward to for my next blog entry).

My worth is based off so much more than a few opinions, stares, and remarks I receive from other people...and I can't ever forget that - and I should never let anyone let me feel any less, like I did that day.   I don't have to hide who I am to make other people more comfortable.  The way others treat me does not define me.  If anything, it gives me a glimpse into their heart and opens many doors to help educate those that I meet.

More importantly??  Through these experiences I feel as though I am constantly (on a daily basis) learning about what it truly means to be kind to others  - no matter if they're kind to me or not - and I think that adds to my value.  (Granted, I have to admit...sometimes it takes a couple of lessons to learn whatever I'm suppose to learn!)

Maybe you need a bit of encouragement too, or a reminder.  While the worth and value of gold fluctuates by human standards throughout the ages of time, our value and worth in God's eyes is always constant.  He always sees our true worth, even when we can't see it ourselves…and no matter how high gold is valued here on earth at any given time  - we are always worth so much more.

Whatever your struggle is I want you to know, "you're worth more than gold"…and I hope you never forget that either!

The Travelin' Chick,