The speckled dots seemed to make patterns. If you squinted closely, you could see thesilhouettes of whales, clown faces, and even at one point an old man. He was tired with dark, droopyeyes. The years of hard work echoing from his sunken cheek bones. The old man starred at me as Ilooked up at him. His eyes told me that he understood my story. They seemed to understand why I wasthere and that this was only a temporary moment in my life. This event would not define me as aperson, rather shape me for the future.
She walked into the room and mumbled a few words. What I remembered hearing was “thisthing doesn’t want to work right” and something like “it’s not that big of a deal.” I am not sure if she wastalking to me or someone else in the room. It didn’t matter. I just lay there, starring at the old man inthe ceiling tile. I wondered if my life would be as sad as his. I muttered something to the girl in the room.I vaguely remember these words, but 17 years later think they were “I just want to sleep since my headis pounding.”
“Clank, bang, crash!” I opened my eyes to see that the dots that once made patters of whales,clows, and the sad old man were now blurry. They rushed past my eyes and made fuzzy lines. Kind oflike the lights you see on a busy highway at night. Sometimes you can make out a single set ofheadlights, other times they all blend together to make that “light line”. I lay on the hard bed, the coldbars grazing the backs of my hands and arms. I’m tired, confused, and not sure if this is still the samedream or if I started a new one. The dots on the ceiling seemed to move for a long time. It felt likehours, when I am sure it was mere minutes. Every so often the soft flickering glow of lights interruptedthe fuzzy lines in the ceiling.ample Text
I heard mumbling in the background as the dots once again took formation on the ceiling. Ifound the old man and connected once again with his dark eyes. The room was dark. I moved my headto look to the left, but the room began to move. It felt like a younger moment in my life when I was onvacation with my grandparents. We stopped at an old truck diner just outside of Tennessee. Mygrandmother ordered me eggs and toast and juice. Instead of eating this convivial meal, I fell to the floorand let out last nights supper. “Put your head between your knees”, my grandmother said to merepeatedly. “Grandma, the room is spinning and I want to lay down”, I pouted through my pale, greylips. “Just put your head between your knees and wait if for it to stop moving”, grandma proclaimed to me once again.
“Alright, put your arms over your chest”, a woman shouted at me. The room spinning and mestill wondered what dream this was, made a pathetic attempt to grab the cold metal that once grazedmy arms. There goes the dots again. Moving on the ceiling as my limp body landed on another hard bed.The dots on the ceiling disappeared. I closed my eyes and held on to the sides of the bed. I felt like theroom was about to throw me off the bed. Do you remember going to the dentist for a tooth filling andgetting the “snoopy nose”? At least that is what my dentist called it. My friends called it “laughing gas”,but anyhow, it made me spin around the table. Here I am at age 27, feeling like a 5-year old with the snoopy nose on my face, spinning around the table. “What the hell was going on?”
“OK, please stay still. You’ll see some lights and hear some noises. Please don’t move”. The voiceinstructed me. The voice was not next to me, rather is came from somewhere else in the room or from aspeaker. It reminded me when I was in grade school and my mother took me to the skating rink. Theman in the booth played music and called out “ok, all you kids. Here is a classic tune for you to show us your moves.” I tried my best to lay still. The room still spinning and me trying not to fall off the bed.“Please don’t move sir. We need a good picture and I have another patient to get to”, the voice now notas friendly as the man in the rolling skating booth was.
I vividly remember what happened immediately after the voice told me not to move. My mindhas filled in the blanks, so this part may be true or not. It doesn’t matter. It is my story and I’ll tell it howI want. I opened m eyes and found the old man in the ceiling. An older man was standing next to me. Hehad old grey shirt on and a du- rag on his head. He kind of resembled the face in the ceiling that haskept me company until this point. The room was no longer spinning and I could turn my head side toside without feeling like I did at the struck stop when I was a kid. There was light on in the room and Icould now see what was making the humming noise in my ear. It felt like the noise went on for daysuntil this point, but I have no way of knowing for sure. The bag that hung on the pole flowed fluids thrua line that went into the machine that made the humming noise. The clear tube traveled from themachine and made its way over the cold, metal rail and draped over the worn, blue blanket that coveredme. It reminded me of the old blankets we kept at our family camp. They had a sense of must to them.The memory of camping with my brothers and sister, mom, dad, and aunt brought a sense of comfort.This blanket that covered me took me back to this place. I sense of comfort took over my soul. It felt likethe old man’s eyes in the ceiling were a little brighter, maybe a bit hopeful.
I don’t recall every word the man said to me as he stood over me. The vivid memories ofcamping at the lake filling my mind. The camp had a dark glow to it as we all sat around and playedboard games my grandfather left there years ago. The old wood stove crackled and sputtered from thewood we threw into it. We loved to throw in the “green wood” to make it hiss and pop. Our parents toldus not to, but we did it anyways. As the blue blanket engulfed me with comforting memories, I do recallone statement that poured from the man’s lips. “Man, I would kill myself to if I had to deal with her.”
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Living this aphorism has taken me to places Imay have never dared to go. Since this moment, I want to experience more, share more, inspire more. Iwant people to understand and empathize more. Open their senses and let in the realities of the worldand the truths of others. Put yourself in another’s shoes and see the experience from their eyes. Thisstory doesn’t end here. This is the mere first “few hours” of my experience as a patient. I had been anurse for 8 years when this event happened to me, yet the experience was confusing. The mind has afunny way of altering your senses when your body is out of balance. I was tired, confused, grief stricken,and ready to stop living during this initial visit at my local hospital’s emergency department. I canhonestly say, all the future interactions I had with patients as a nurse took me back to when I looked upat that ceiling. I learned the value of a simple gesture as someone lay on a stretcher, scared, confused,dizzy, feeling hopeless. A mere taking of the hand may help another feel a little safer. Maybe they feellike they won’t fall when the room turns upside down. The comfort of a blanket that reminds them ofold memories, or a kind word of relating can make another feel hopeful.
The story doesn’t end here, but for now it will. These first few hours turned into 8 days. Each day offering a different view from the nurse’s eyes, now turned into a patient. The memories, feelings,
and experiences lasting forever. Every now and then I have had patients tell me they see things in theceiling. Instead of thinking they are delusional or confused, I ask them what they see. I ask them howthey feel when they see the things. I remember the eyes of the old man in the ceiling looking down atme. No one ever took that comfort away from me and I am not about to do that to another. I hope he is there the next time I need him.