writing shitty, third-string poetry. boldly dubbing it ‘poetry’ anyway. then rhyming poetry with poetry in a so-called poem. knowing that we all have to start somewhere and this is your clean slate. the previous writer at the coffee shop gifted a warm window seat, the free Wi-Fi password, and a slightly weathered stick of chalk, neon pink. the freckles on our fingertips glow in the dark.
The Real Patient Portals
For privacy purposes of those discussed here, some of the details of this blog post have been altered/omitted. The heart of the story remains the same.
To avoid the throbbing headache that is commuting from Providence to Boston during morning traffic, I stayed over in Massachusetts prior to my Joslin appointments this week.
I hoped to catch the end of the Providence-Villanova game at the hotel bar, but the thrashing PC was receiving was so embarrassing that the bartender instead flipped between The Voice and the Bruins. I asked a patron if the seat next to her at the crowded bar was available, and she nodded. The restaurant was busy and it seemed like it would be a while before my dinner was delivered, so I took a big gulp of my classy Bud Light and vowed to make friends while I waited.
“Are you here for business?” I asked the professionally-dressed woman.
“Actually, my child is being treated at Children’s Hospital.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. But your child is in phenomenal hands.”
“Yes, we have been here for a long time, but soon we will travel home with a stronger, healthier child. We have been very blessed.”
And so we talked for almost an hour. We discussed her home many miles away from here, admired the nurses who followed their professional callings to ease the suffering of their patients, educated one another on our respective areas of patient or caregiver knowledge, and, to be quite honest, took solace in finding a bar buddy who understood the stress and anxiety of Boston medical appointments. Sure, I seek out care in Boston because it is the best, and this lady does, too. But that doesn’t make it any less gut-wrenching every time the appointment days arrive.
We eventually wished each other well and parted ways. I want to give SuperMom an anonymous shout out here, though, because of the example of strength that she provided that evening. I have so much respect for the parents of any child who faces illness- whether that be type one diabetes or something else. Being the patient for most of my life, I have mainly been preoccupied with my own suffering- something I know that I can and will handle.
Watching others suffer, though, makes me nauseous, anxious, and somewhat frozen in “What do I do?!!” mode. SuperMoms and SuperDads don’t have the option of “What do I do?!!” mode. They activate “Do” mode because their child is hurting and they want the pain to stop. They remain calm when the world is shaken up around them. Yes, they have days of sadness and tears, but they try their best to provide their children with the greatest lives possible, to comfort them on the rough days, and to keep on going.
So, to SuperMom at the bar, cheers to health and happiness for you and your family.
The next morning, I hastily checked out of the hotel and made my way to Joslin Diabetes Center, where I had one thing on my mind: very light, no sugar coffee, and even better if you can hook me up to an IV drip of it.
I generally enjoy my Joslin experience because it is one of the only places on earth where I feel completely safe from a diabetes standpoint. If I go low or high, there are plenty of people who know how to help. But this time, I was nervous and emotional, as it was my last appointment with Current Endo before her departure; additionally, these days are quite frankly long and exhausting no matter what the outcome is.
I fumbled my way to the coffee stand through a haze of anxiety.
“What’s ah matter, my darling?” the coffee stand employee cooed, her brow furrowed.
“Oh, nothing. I just need some coffee to wake up,” I said, shrugging it off.
“I asked how your morning was and you didn’t reply,” she sounded off, much to my surprise and admiration. (I like a person who tells it like it is!)
“My apologies. I must not have heard you.” My level of distractedness due to nerves was obvious now.
Without skipping a beat, she looked me straight in the eye and stated, “You will be okay. You are so strong.”
This kind woman had never met me before. She had no prior knowledge as to whether I was in the hospital district of Boston as a patient, a caregiver, a sales rep, an employee, or so on. But she knew, without hesitation, that I was hurting simply from the look in my eyes. She seemed to recognize that I was the patient, and that I was trying to keep it all together. Her confidence that I could do this was the gentle nudge I needed to go check in at Joslin, ready to take on the day and whatever it would bring.
Blinking back tears, I thanked her for her reassurance and sauntered off with coffee warming my hands and coffee shop lady’s words warming my soul.
After my appointments, I needed more coffee before racing back to work. I stopped at the same coffee kiosk, and the same employee was still there. I filled my cup and went to pay.
“You were right. Everything was okay. I wanted to thank you for what you said earlier. You made me feel better.”
“God will take care of everything,” she replied.
“Yes. And there should be more people in the world like you. Your joy is contagious.”
And we both fought back tears, nodded our heads in agreement, and vowed to pray for one another.
Bars and coffee shops are the real patient portals. These are the watering holes for the warriors- the patients and the caregivers- to assemble and collect their emotions. Here, the pep talks happen. The fears and aspirations are relayed. The hugs are handed out a little more freely. The tears are dried if necessary. God is there, as these women proved to me this week.
Lucky for me, I’m always thirsty. Something tells me I’ll be back soon.
To SuperMom and SuperCoffeeShopEmployee, this blog post goes out to you. You are both inspirations. Thank you…