101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 71

Last night, I found myself struggling to fall asleep. I was having difficulties swallowing but I thought I might just be falling sick. I woke up a couple of hours into the night feeling worse, and my throat had begun to swell. I had accidentally eaten walnuts earlier in the day, which I’m supposedly allergic to. I thought I might have been having a delayed allergic reaction.

After taking to the Google gods, I decided it might be a good idea to go into Emergency to have it checked out. There, a lovely nurse named Nicole greeted me. It was almost 4am but she was smiley and energetic, which made the experience a lot more pleasant than it could have been.

The doctor wasn’t sure if it was an allergic response, but decided it would be a good idea to inject me with some epinephrine just in case. I’ve had an Epipen for my allergies for a while but I’d never actually used one before. It was a scary experience feeling my heartbeat go from 60 to 120 beats per minute almost instantaneously. I was shaking and jittery and I felt like my heart was going to jump right through my chest. But I knew I was in good hands.

We were talking about my day and after mentioning the radio show, Nicole asked me more about my project. I told her I was meeting a new stranger each day for 101 days and she was intrigued. She asked me some questions about the project and then asked me what kinds of questions I ask the people I speak with. I was about to answer and then stopped myself and asked her if she would be willing to find out for herself, if she wasn’t too busy running around doing important nurse things. She smiled and said sure.

Nicole loves her job. She loves how she’s able to help people through the work that she does. She also loves hiking. She loves her family and her friends. She laughed and said she felt like kind of like she was being interviewed for medical school.

She explained that every single day, she sees someone crying in the hospital. It can make her feel powerless, like she can’t do anything to help. But then she remembers that she can offer them a Kleenex. It may seem like a small gesture – and it is, she explained. But it is something that helps. Sometimes when we’re presented with a problem we feel an overwhelming personal responsibility to fix it and to do something about it. But sometimes the small actions that we can take make all the difference in the world.

Nicole and I, looking absolutely dashing
Nicole and I, looking absolutely dashing

I told her about how I usually ask the strangers I meet to share some life advice. She paused for a moment, and then said that she didn’t really feel old enough or wise enough or experienced enough to be sharing advice. She also said that she would only feel right giving advice that she follows herself. “I mean, I would probably say that people should be a little nicer to themselves, but then again maybe I could be nicer to myself than I am, too”, she said. Her thoughtfulness was inspiring and endearing. Almost as an after thought, she said she had come up with a piece of advice that felt true to her. She said that you should follow your dreams, even if every person you know says it’s a bad idea.

Nicole has endured some big losses in her life, having lost her father. She explained it to be empathically informative. Being a nurse she sees people live through pain on a regular basis, and she values being able to understand what it’s like to be on the other end of things.

Even after living through these tough times, Nicole seems truly happy and spreads this joy into the lives of others. The hospital felt dark and grey and unpleasant but her presence made it better.

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