So today, I went to an HIV support group. And it was amazing. People shared their stories, and it felt like I was in church. It’s like a big family. Everyone appreciates everyone, and you can tell that they are really happy they found that place. I wish more people knew about it. 

Those people’s stories just amaze me. Some people were on the verge of death; some have given up; some were hopeless. But the one thing that everyone had in common was that they were there. They got through it. You can tell that telling their stories was really hard for them. Some got teary-eyed, some started sobbing. And then you hear the other people – the leaders, other patients, visitors – giving them encouragement. Here are some of my favorites:

“Being a child of God doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have any problems. It means being a part of an army that will help you fight the bad stuff. You are a warrior.”

“The only way you lose is if you give up. God has a blessing for you. You hold on and keep going, and you will see.”

“God said, ‘I have written you on the palm of my hand.’ You are forever His, and nothing will change that. He built his walls to protect you, line an ancient city surrounded by high walls. He is looking out for you.”

“When I hit rock-bottom, I had nothing. I just prayed and prayed, and asked God, ‘Lord, if you think I need it, please provide it.’ He got me through it, and I am not looking back.”

“We. Are. Not. Sick.”

These people definitely help me put things in perspective in so many ways. Being a nurse, it gives you an extraordinary opportunity to help people when they need you the most. And sometimes, you see people hitting rock-bottom. And being a nurse, you need to be the patient’s advocate. You’re their voice when they can’t speak. But empathy, and compassion, and understanding can only go so far. No matter how long you’ve had a patient, you’re only seeing a side of them. You’re only getting a view, a window, a snippet of their life. You really don’t know what it’s like. And sometimes, you have no time to get to know their story, and that is damn shame. But going to a group like this, where I hear their stories, and I hear what they’ve been through, and what they’re going through, and the changes they’re making – that’s helping me understand as a nurse, as a student, as a friend, as a healthcare giver, what it’s really like. Beyond the medical stuff, beyond the pathology of the disease, or the side effects of the drugs we give as nurses. I get to know the people behind all that. And it is such an honor to be a part of this. I wish more nurses went to these things, because we take pride in being there for our patients. We take pride in being on the frontline of care, and knowing our patients. But it’s a completely different view from their side. And these meetings will help us give better care, most definitely.

On a smaller scale, it also helps me put in perspective the trivial and minute problems I have. As a student, and a daughter, and a young adult, we complain about so many things. We have all these silly problems, belly-aching, grievances, that are so tiny and simply don’t matter in the long run. We complain about homework, exams, papers, not having time for friends, or to go out, or whatever. And then you hear stories that was really between life and death, and not having a place to stay, or not having medication that can save you life. It’s so easy to forget about the bigger picture, even though we work in a place where we are surrounded by life and death. But being there in that meeting kind of helps you zoom out and take in the bigger picture. 

It was an amazing experience. I am definitely coming back next week.

 

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