King for a Day
In 21 years of nursing Lisa Maddox has experienced her share of difficult patients, and Mr. Smith was among the worst of them. That was about to change.
Mr. Smith was rude, angry and just plain not nice to the nurses and other clinicians who were doing their best to help him heal. He came to the Intensive Care Unit the week of Valentine’s Day after his condition worsened past the point of care available at the senior center where he lived. He told everyone who approached that he didn’t want to be in the hospital. He wanted to go home.
Word spread quickly among the nurses on the unit: approach with caution, but that didn’t faze Lisa. She took a deep breath, flashed a smile and dove head-first into the war zone. She asked Mr. Smith why he was so upset, and earning his trust one step at a time, discovered his story. Mr. Smith has family who don’t visit him very often. He feels abandoned. The staff and his fellow residents at the nursing home have become his family, and he missed them. Besides, it was Valentine’s Day, and he was going to miss out on the celebration, where he was going to be crowned Valentine King. On top of that, the resident who was to be named Valentine Queen had died the day before and wouldn’t receive her crown either. He was alone in the ICU without a queen and not so much as a rose to smell.
A Broken Heart
Lisa discovered that Mr. Smith had made a friend in a particular nurse at the nursing home. She had nominated him for the royal honor, and he missed her friendship. The hard-hearted, belligerent old man began to cry. That nurse and his fellow residents, he said, are his family. “They are all that I have,” he said.
Lisa had heard enough. Mr. Smith was not a curmudgeon. He was a patient with a broken heart, and she was going to help mend it.
Working with her fellow nurses, Lisa pulled together balloons, flowers, chocolate and a bag of goodies. They asked all of the ICU staff and support staff to wish him a Happy Valentine’s Day and acknowledge that he was the ICU Valentine King. That was the best medicine Mr. Smith could have received. His countenance changed. He was no longer difficult. He was smiling and friendly.
Unfortunately, Mr. Smith had to return to the ICU a week or so after he was discharged. He immediately asked for Lisa, then apologized for his earlier behavior. She told him an apology wasn’t necessary.
You don’t really know what is going on with someone until you talk to them and find out how they feel, Lisa said.
Mr. Smith was not a bad man, she explained. He was just in a bad situation.