I have only been able to catch little bits and pieces of the Olympic Games since they have started. Yesterday when I switched on the TV, they were doing a snapshot of an athlete who is blind. I didn’t get his name but they were highlighting the various challenges this athlete faces on a daily basis. Of course navigating the streets in his hometown are a daily challenge as he gets from place to place, but they also showed things that most of us take for granted each day, like knowing what the weather is like with a glance out the window, or who is entering a room unannounced, or even where each food item is placed on his plate at each meal.
I was fascinated by this athlete because I was “in his shoes” for a few days last year. I haven’t seen out of one of my eyes for years now, but last year, I had surgery on my good eye to remove cancer and I was not able to see anything for 2 or 3 days. I experienced that feeling of not knowing where food items were on my plate. And amazingly enough, when you don’t have the ability to see, it is even difficult to find your mouth with a fork until you get your rhythm going. I was so grateful during those days for my nurses who knocked on my hospital room door and introduced themselves each time they entered or for the steady hands that guided me around my tiny hospital room. Friends and family alike also made my challenges during those days so much easier to get through by understanding that I needed constant guidance, even getting around my own home.
There is a fellow dialysis patient who is completely blind, and unfortunately, has a reputation for being pretty cranky as well. Some days we end up next to each other during treatments and I always let her know if I am sitting next to her and we chat for a bit. I have witnessed her crankiness with the nurses and techs, but she has always been pleasant to me.
The other day, she was sleeping in her chair as her treatment was ending. I watched as the tech came over and started to maneuver various cords and tubes, without saying a word to her. Needless to say, she was startled and started yelling at him. When the tech walked away, I asked her if she wanted me to talk her through the end of her treatment, explaining what was happening as the tech got her off the machine. Instantly you could see the relief on her face and she settled down pretty quickly.
She was waiting in her chair for the EMTs to come and move her to a stretcher so she could be wheeled to the ambulance and taken home. When the EMTs came in, I was talking to my tech and not aware that they had arrived to take her. Again, she started yelling and screaming and cursing. When I looked over, they had actually picked her up and put her on the stretcher, without any introduction or even a simple, “We are here to take you home.” Can you imagine sitting quietly in a chair and suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, you are lifted up and moved to another place!!!
I started to cry when this happened to her. No wonder she has a reputation for being a cranky patient! I would be cranky too if that is how I was treated. She is a human being, with a disability that causes her to have to truly trust the people around her.
I managed to reach her hand from my chair and we talked it through until she was calmed down and willing to go with the EMTs to the ambulance. I wish there was a family member or a friend I could have called for her so she wasn’t alone on her ride home. The amount of courage that she has to muster not just in the dialysis unit, but every second of every single day, left me devastated and more grateful than ever for the incredible gifts I have been given in my life, that unfortunately, I do take for granted on a daily basis.
We have to start being more aware of our surroundings and the people who are put in our paths on a daily basis. We have to try to understand each other and treat others with respect. We have to realize we are all brothers and sisters and we are here on earth to help each other thrive. Noone should be afraid to wake up in the morning and face the day ahead of them with such a lack of dignity.
DIGNITY. It’s a basic human right that we all deserve and should expect!