Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tell Me A Story

We've learned so much in this CPE program!

One of the special tools we got early on is to ask the patient what their understanding is of their situation. I usually ask something like, "What's going on?" or the even more direct, "Why are you here in the hospital?"

For some reason I asked this man, "How did you get here?" What *was* I thinking?

Had I looked at the census, I would have noticed he was born in 1919 so he had some years on him. Had I been a bit less enthusiastic, I would have noticed the nurse manager was very happy that I came to visit with this man. Had I not been pre-occupied with how hot it was in the room, I would have noticed the PCA (patient care associate) sighed with relief that I "took over" his attention and I would have noticed much earlier that he spoke with a very, very slow drawl.

Well, missing all those clues and out came my question. He talked about being orphaned at 5 years old - once by his parents and then again by his aunt and uncle. Then, his sister and brother took care of him and he began working near where he lived in Bronx. Then they moved to Brooklyn. Then Long Island. [by this time, I'm beginning to realize that he thought I asked for his *life* story, not his *last two days* story.]

"During WWII...," he began... well this went on for a while and since he was hard of hearing and sight-challenged he didn't notice my fidgetiness. Probably better. Once I noticed this, I took a breath and relaxed into his story.

Between our mutually-missing clues, we had a funny, endearing visit. At the "end" of his story, when he described what happened that got him to the hospital, we were holding hands and just enjoying each other. He said as I left how glad he was that he could share his story. He said it helped him remember when he got to tell someone.

After I visited a few more patients, the nurse told me that he said, referring to me, "That doctor knows more about me than I know myself!"

You know, I hope that when I am 91 years old someone comes to hear me into speech! He gifted me with reminding me that we all have stories to tell. Someday in the not too distant future, I hope someone takes the time to hear me tell about my CPE stories. *Warning: this may take some time.*

So the man went into the house. The camels were unloaded and given straw and feed. Water was brought to bathe the feet of the man and the men with him. Then Laban brought out food. But the man said, "I won't eat until I tell my story." Laban said, "Go ahead; tell us." - Genesis 24:32-33

What story are you telling, in this moment?


  1. Thank goodness for this blog! You've had practice telling your CPE stories all along, and I've had the joy of being along for the ride!

    Then again, someone on your flight to Scotland may not have heard your tales!

    I've actually debated recently whether to "tell my story" or just stick with the present! Now you've got me pondering again!

  2. of course when you are 91 and your stories start with "There was this guy in Paris" your chaplain listener will be spellbound! :)