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The Good Patient

June 25, 2012

Like many people who have faced hospitalisation and health difficulties from birth I am often told how brave and courageous I am. Although I appreciate this I am never quite sure if it’s an observation, expectation or demand. The truth is that often I don’t feel very brave. In fact, I suspect I am a bit of a fraud. I certainly didn’t feel very brave when, as a child, I was wheeled to theatre and my mum only got to come as far as the big, plastic swinging doors. On such occasions, I’d just kind of freeze in my scratchy theatre gown as I lay on the cold hard trolley. Nurses in blue scrubs tried to distract me with gentle humour as they rolled me away from my mum. So, sometimes I suspect that I have just developed a fine ability to keep very still and quiet rather than being at all brave.

Of course, it is entirely sensible to stay still when a nurse needs to give you an injection, insert a line or when you are having an X-ray done, stitches removed or a catheter inserted. An ECG like an ECHO, is quicker and easier when you stay calm and quiet. As a kid such ‘good behaviour’ is often rewarded with a smiley sticker. Protesting on the other hand is deemed the mark of a ‘spoilt brat’ playing up because they think they deserve “special treatment” (I tried this approach out a couple of times early on and it just prolonged the whole ordeal). So I think I learnt to be a ‘good patient’ pretty early because I actually didn’t have any other choice. It just made a difficult situation easier for everyone. But that doesn’t mean that going through these procedures is somehow easier or that I’m used to it.

In fact, over the years I have collected an interesting catalogue of unfortunate mishaps to heighten my anxieties. This is why it matters that those responsible for my care appreciate that behind my stoicism hides a lifetime of fears and that treating me with compassionate understanding just makes the whole business a lot more bearable. I don’t want special treatment, honestly. I just want to be understood.


11 Comments leave one →
  1. hannah permalink
    June 25, 2012 16:37

    Jhhhheezzzz that was a great post! intense but well written, I’m impressed 🙂 I know what you mean and I’m sure a lot of people on here will understand and are or have been in similar positions 🙂 thanks for sharing it though x

  2. June 25, 2012 19:34

    Fantastic, Liza. “My stoicism hides a lifetime of fears…” I totally agree with you. Wishing you a speedy recovery.


    • July 23, 2012 19:58

      Thanks Jennifer. It was a bit of a shock that I needed another pacemaker just 10 months down the line but here’s hoping pacemaker No 10 is not another dud! I don’t think I can face surgery again for a long while but I guess needs must. Hope you are doing okay, xx

  3. July 2, 2012 16:41

    Thanks Hannah, Just been back through those big, plastic swinging doors last week. Thankfully, I came back out again and I am now recovering. Hope you are well. x

  4. July 2, 2012 21:28

    Unfortunately i was the ‘spoilt brat’. my brain never told me to go quiet! It took till i was at university and by myself in hospital that i was calm around needles and doctors….know exactly what you mean about brave comments. i dont feel brave at all. just putting up with the situation! well written, So many weill relate to this….xx

    • July 23, 2012 20:02

      Thanks Christine. It is the “you must be used to this” comments that get me. Not long out of hospital recovering from another op and I got that one from a nurse again! I did “educate” her about what it feels like to be in and out of hospital your whole like though and that we never get “used” to it. I wouldn’t say I am calm around needles I just go opt for freeze from the “fight, flight or freeze” options! x

  5. July 15, 2012 16:40

    Reblogged this on Musings of a librarian.

  6. July 16, 2012 20:35

    Hi Liza, hope you’re recovering well.

    I admire your ability to remain calm in the face of medical procedures! Thanks very much for this post. It inspired me to write one about being a ‘bad’ patient:

  7. Nicky permalink
    July 20, 2012 04:31

    Amazing and honest, and probably explains how the majority of patients feel. I was never allowed to be a bad patient or I would have been smacked by my mum (who should have releived my fears) but I am a stronger person now for this and am open and honest to hospital staff about my fears as an adult and they have helped me overcome many of them 🙂

  8. August 29, 2012 18:12

    Good to hear you have found your voice as an adult Nicky.

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