Hope in a Hopeless Place

 
In 2008 my father was committed to a long-term care facility, and our family visited him daily. We testified to the nursing home staff of the funny, smart, kind and generous man he once was.
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Finding Answers

 
When he was 24 years old, my first husband had a stroke. A blood clot blocked a vital artery deep in his brain. One side of his body fell flaccid. Speech and language fled. To all of my urgent questions, the neurologists at Massachusetts General Hospital could only reply, “We don’t know.” They didn’t know why it happened. There was no way to dissolve the clot or reverse the damage. They simply tried to keep him alive and waited.

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Occupational Empathy

 
On my first day shadowing an occupational therapist, I learned much more than I had anticipated.
 
We saw five patients that morning—with each one, the OT went through a series of exercises to test their strength and mobility. The first four visits were interesting, though uneventful, as the patients completed their exercises with varying degrees of success.
 
The last patient was a man with a history of alcoholism. He had a tube in his throat, which prevented him from speaking. A resident outside the room informed us that no one had been able to get him to

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A Beacon of Hope

 
I never realized the importance of surrounding myself with people in need of hope until I experienced a difficult time in my life, a time when I needed to lean on others to find hope and solace.

During the fall semester of my sophomore year in college, I suffered the loss of my grandma to lung cancer. I became wracked with guilt, anxiety and depression following the death of this essential member of my family. When I was informed of my grandma’s terminal illness, I had joined a support group; in this group, I cried and yelled until I

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Hope Heals

Hope has been the key to happiness in my life. Lows happen; troubled times are inevitable. But when I can hope that what hurts will be healed and difficulties will be overcome, I can be happy. Hope is something we can hold onto in difficult times and know, trite though it sounds, that the dawn follows even the darkest nights. I have also learned that hope sometimes arrives in different and unexpected packages.

During my sophomore year of college, I hit my personal low. I was drowning in depression and anxiety. Simply making it through the day was a feat

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The Playground

I stand squinting in the sun as the kids parade off the buses. Quickly, the campgrounds fill with smiling faces, colorful t-shirts and baseball caps. From afar, there seems to be no difference between this place and any other summer camp.

However, underneath many of the t-shirts are chemotherapy ports and surgical scars, below the hats are bald heads and behind the smiles are fears, memories and young lives impacted by cancer. Yet walking through the camp’s rainbow-adorned gates, I lead the children into a world of hope. A place without needles, hospital beds, pain or isolation, a place where

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Leaving a Little Sparkle Everywhere I Go

“You have glitter on your face,” my grandmother reminded me for the tenth time that afternoon. Though she was relatively early in the Alzheimer’s process, to us it seemed that she was losing something every single day, and today it appeared to be her short term memory.
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The Real Patient Encounter

In the simulation lab where we trained as medical students, all we had to do was grab a tissue and hand it to the patient. Then, like magic, they would thank us. As if that’s all it takes to suddenly make things better!

We also learned to say empathic things like “I know this tough,” “I’m here for you” and “What’s wrong?” And in the simulation lab they worked like magic, too.

But now I’m with a real patient, and I tried all these things, and they just didn’t cut it. She seems so disconnected and isolated.

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Seeing Patients for the First Time

 
I wish I could see his eyes, hidden beneath a pair of shades. A tweed cap, or as I like to think of it, the “grandpa cap,” covers his head. With his hands resting on a cane, he leans his back against the chair.
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Music Fills the Soul

Over the years I had come to dread this weekly chore and today, as always, it filled me with such sadness. Tuesdays, on my day off from work, I would drive to the nursing home to visit my mother. There were times when Mom would look at me with her crystal clear blue eyes and say, “Do you know when Beth is coming?” “I AM Beth,” I would exclaim, over and over again when Mom asked me the same question until finally, one day I answered, “Beth is coming to see you soon.” Mom’s face lit up and she

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Monkey Magic

 
Although I was an unpopular adolescent–never invited to parties, never asked on a date–I still had dreams. I wanted to become a teacher, a wife, a mother. Then a medical issue threatened my mother dream and, possibly, my wife one as well.

Shortly after I graduated from high school and a few days after I turned eighteen on August 8, 1965, I entered the hospital for surgery. A chronic pain on the left side of my abdomen had intensified, making it impossible for me to leave my bed.

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When You Don’t Know What to Hope For

 
My mother lies quietly in the hospital bed that has replaced her regular bed, now that she can no longer get up on her own. Every day she stares at the TV, appearing to watch it with interest. When I come into her room, she smiles and tries to say hello–in a voice that is barely a whisper. Her eyes sparkle a little. In my own discomfort, I begin asking simple questions, hoping to elicit a simple answer. She stares at me, then she stares above me, looking intently at the ceiling.
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