Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Patient Story

Today I was taken to my unit (Oncology) and made my first patient visit accompanying a CPE resident. The woman appeared to be in her early 70s, high energy, nervous but welcoming. A nursing manager was in the process of inserting an IV, which made the woman anxious. As soon as the chaplain introduced herself, the woman's eyes lit up and she began a string of stories--stories about the level of her pain ("I didn't think I'd be able to stand it"), stories about her daughter ("she lives only a few blocks away but I didn't want to bother her...she has two small children"), a story about her grandson ("he had to come along to the hospital and he sat there with his Gameboy. So cute. When they went to leave, he said, 'Grandma, do you want me to leave my Gameboy here so you have something to do?' And he had just gotten that for Christmas!'), to a story she repeated two different ways about her sister coming over from Europe (her home) to care for her during her last illness. She spoke of the smallness of her family as well. I said almost nothing; just observed. But I found myself wondering about her surprising chain of stories. I didn't expect so much to be offered right from the start. But I also thought her "chattiness" was partly due to her anxiety about being in the hospital and partly to get her mind of the nurse trying to find the right spot for the IV.

I came home pondering the woman's string of stories. I wondered what type of story she might be telling in various forms. I looked up John Savage's, Listening & Caring Skills and almost immediately knew both the level and the type of story the woman was offering. (Click the link "Story Levels & Types" on the right to get my condensed notes for evaluating story types.) This was a rehearsal story (evident by the repetition with different characters and it's tie to a story in the past) and a level-three (emotions now) story. The woman was obviously concerned about who would care for her if she became as ill as she was four years ago, when her sister flew over to be with her. This went on like a light bulb in my head. I wish I had seen it sooner, when I might have been able to direct the conversation more toward something that would have been helpful in that regard (although it wasn't my conversation to direct). But it is still helpful to see this concern for any followup pastoral care visits I may be able to have with this patient.


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