Journal of Nursing Jocularity

Journal of Nursing Jocularity

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The In ‘N Outpatient by Kris Harty

“What’s the oldest you’ve ever been?”

A fair question, although it may be obvious chronologically. Personally, I can’t attest to having lived or acted my physical age. Many would agree. Mentally, I don’t feel it.

My friend and speaker colleague Bob mentioned a funny age-ism recently. Bob and his family were enjoying a meal together when his little granddaughter piped up. “Grandpa, how old are you?”

“Why, I’m 71.”

“Wow! Did you start out at 1???”

Out of the mouths of young whippersnappers.

This granddaughter still counts her age in years and half years. When do we start counting down instead of up?

Why do we look forward to ‘getting bigger,’ and shortly after we do, we stop looking forward to how our bodies will next change.

It’s not typically for the better.

I was at my annual check up with my ophthalmologist to make sure 40 years of arthritis hasn’t messed with my eyes. I noted that in the last six months, my eyes don’t seem to adjust or focus quickly when the TV screen changes. There’s a blurry three seconds before the image clears.

When it first started happening, I was concerned. The old ‘oh no, what now’ syndrome. But then a sneaking suspicion snuck in that it was normal…for my age.

I first mentioned it to my neurosurgeon this spring. He looked at me, a half grin creeping across his face. “It’s an age thing, isn’t it?” “Uh, yea.”

My ophthalmologist was no less sympathetic. “You are middle aged.”

Did he have to be so brutal about it?

Why is there no manual for aging? There are books to tell pregnant women what to expect during pregnancy and during that child’s first year, and what’s normal, and what’s not. Why are there no books for those entering middle age? With all us boomers venturing there, it would have to be a best seller. Maybe that’s my next book.

It could be that those of you in the medical professions have a primer on this stuff. I’d say that’s an unfair advantage. The rest of us slog through, wondering if something is wrong or if our peers are falling apart, too – but that they’re smart enough to keep mum regarding the small horrors coming our way.

We shouldn’t have to stumble through blindly. My slightly younger friends tease me that they’re well equipped to enter middle age because they know from my experience what’s coming their way. I’m glad I can be a beacon (she said wryly).

The pre-school niece of an old boyfriend, when she thought we should know better, often asked, “What are you – new??”

It reminded me of Bob’s granddaughter.

I barely remember being new. Heck, I barely remember much of anything some days. But I’m glad I’ve had the luxury of learning what it is to age, to forget, to have mal-adjusting eyesight.

Without it, I would never have lived past new. And I’m grateful I’ve gotten to be the oldest I’ve ever been.

It’s bad form to shout it from rooftops, but I’m so excited that my first book is now a published reality! A Shot in the Arm and A Strong Spirit: How Health Care Givers Help Patients Persevere…No Matter What! A Lifelong Patient Opens Her Heart and Journal. I wrote this book, out of respect, love and admiration, for YOU – the professional health care giver. You’ve kept me alive and walking through four decades of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. That’s worthy of a medal, but I’m not that talented. If you’d like an insider’s view of how you can and do make a difference to your patients’ perseverance, then I humbly suggest snatching up a copy while it’s hot off the press. Packed with inspiration and application, it’s an intentionally quick read (2hours) that I hear can be life-changing. Available on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0983226806?ie=UTF8&ref_=pd_irl_gw&s=books&qid=1308278518&sr=1-109) and wherever books are orderable in stores or online.

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The In ‘N Outpatient by Kris Harty

“Maybe I’m an exception to the ‘rolling stone gathers no moss’ adage.”

I’m feeling pretty darn moss-covered myself some days, especially when work and life seem to be rolling downhill. It’s overwhelming at times. It happens far more often than I’d like. Needless to say, I’m a mite suspicious of the proverb about a rolling stone gathering no moss.

Prove it.

The faster the downward tumble speeds up at a breakaway pace, the more moss  – the more yuck, the more issues – I seem to accumulate. I can’t shake it. Its fuzziness is annoying. Get this stuff off me!

Perhaps that wasn’t the original intent of the phrase. Still, I beg to differ with it – as sometimes seems to be my nature.

Do you ever feel that way, about the rolling downhill part? That life is rolling along at its own merry clip, and all you can do is attempt to merely match the same pace, while all the while gunk is building up on you, instead of falling away, off to the side, where it belongs?

I’ve felt that way in the past as a patient, I sometimes feel that way as a professional, and I certainly feel that way in my personal life.

My neighbor Jeanette and I meandered onto the topic of overwhelmingness this weekend. She’s the busy mom of two young boys whom she homeschools and the mom of one husband – who, of course, she doesn’t.

Although we live lives that are more dissimilar than similar, we both feel it. The ‘it’ being the weight of all we carry, all we’re responsible for, all that the world throws at us. It’s never-ending and no matter how much we do, more keeps getting added to the list.

In the midst of our commiseration, Jeanette stopped me when she offered a game-changer, a brain-changer. She said, “We can’t stop from rolling downhill. We can only learn to roll downhill better.”

Ooooh.

Huh.

She’s right. We can’t stop more and more stuff – activities, obligations, requirements, messes, muck and miscellaneous – from entering our lives. But we can determine that we’ll handle them all better. We’ll learn to juggle. Not by juggling nine pointy knives at one time, but by juggling two or three soft foam-like balls.

No rush to learn or perfect the craft. We’ve been dealing with green muck attaching itself to us all our lives. It’ll take a little while to intentionally step back, take a breath, and figure out how to deal with the muck that needs to be dealt with, and how to apply muck-repellant for that which doesn’t.

Identifying the muck and green moss that we don’t need to put up with in our lives is half the battle. Once we learn to identify it and handily repel it so it doesn’t stick to us, our downhill roll will be much less encumbered. Less overwhelming. Much more freeing.

We might even be able to relax and enjoy the ride – sans our green mossy selves.

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick’s upcoming book celebrates professional caregivers as the StickSpirits they are. For four decades, they’ve helped Kris Harty Stick To It – No Matter What! Kris provides a patient’s perspective that is educational, inspirationa, and insightful. Part memoir, part application, Kris helps student nurses, newer nurses and not-so-newer nurses remember why they joined their giving profession in the first place. She shares how they positively impact patients’ lives, with minimal time and effort. Kris is the Thought Leader on People Helping People Persevere. She leads the conversation regarding Patient Relationships and Quality of Care from the patient perspective. A 40-year veteran of the medical industry – on the receiving end, Kris Harty is the Stickabilities Specialist at Strong Spirit Unlimited. If you’re looking for an effortless and meaningful way to lead your team toward continued quality caregiving, contact Kris. Call 877.711.STIC(K), email Infot@StrongSpiritUnlimited.com, or visit  www.StrongSpiritUnlimited.com.

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The In ‘N Outpatient by Kris Harty

“I can’t do this anymore.”

“What?? You have to keep going. You can’t quit. You’re needed. You’re fantastic at what you do.”

“No, it’s too hard. I’m exhausted. There’s too much to do and never enough time. I’m fighting on every front and I have no more fight left. I’m tired of being responsible, tired of doing it all and doing it well. Really, there’s barely time even to do a lousy job at the required basics.”

My friend was struggling in her job and at home. I didn’t like what I was hearing, but I understood. I’d previously slid down a similar slimy slope.

There were no grab bars, no traction, no hay bales to cushion the landing along that slope. It was all downhill, like a runaway sled careening down an icy hilltop.

Has your sled slipped down that same slippery slope of overwhelmingness?

I’ve been there more times than I’d like to admit to anyone, most especially myself. I’d wanted to quit workplaces in the past, I’ve wanted to quit my own business, I’ve wanted to quit as a patient, I’ve wanted to quit watching loved ones as patients.

I’ve wanted to quit. But it’s been seldom when I’ve followed through on that desire.

There’s much I have to learn, but this I know: the ‘how’ of how we keep going when we can’t keep going, might be found in a simpler answer than we realize.

The how lies in hope. Consciously or unconsciously, we hang on to hope. We hope for a better day, situation, outcome. We know it can be better than it is. We wait for the day when it is just that. We do what we can to bring it on, and if there’s nothing we can do, we patiently plow through the days until the sun glints through the clouds.

Along the way, we hold on to the hope of the heartfelt relationships of our lives, the intrinsic value and purpose our relationships and work bring us, and the unexpected humor that catches us off-guard.

There is funny in almost everything, including overworked, underappreciated, ‘get me the bleep out of here’ workdays. During some past jobs, I had been known to keep going merely by telling myself that the workplace, in all its messed up unglory, was there simply to entertain me. And not only that, but I was paid to be an interactive audience! I silently voiced a ‘bravo’ for true-to-form stellar performances from colleagues, administration and customers.

I could choose to be either annoyed or amused by their antics and interactions with me. When I chose to become detached and amused, the day was not as bleak as it had been. There was reason to chuckle and smile. From there, I could pass on the good humor, so to speak, to others and be re-energized by it myself. It might be an unorthodox coping mechanism, but sometimes unorthodox is what survival requires.

You can so do this, too. Bravo, you!

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick’s upcoming book celebrates professional caregivers as the StickSpirits they are. For four decades, they’ve helped Kris Harty Stick To It – No Matter What! She provides a patient’s perspective that is educational, inspirational, and insightful. Part memoir, part application, Kris helps student nurses, newer nurses and not-so-newer nurses remember why they joined their amazing profession in the first place. She shares how they positively impact patients’ lives, with minimal time and effort. Little things matter. Kris is the Thought Leader on People Helping People Persevere. She leads the conversation through writing, speaking, coaching, and small group discussions. A 40-year veteran of the medical industry – on the receiving end, Kris Harty is the Stickabilities Specialist at Strong Spirit Unlimited. If you’re looking for an effortless and meaningful way to lead your team toward continued quality caregiving, contact Kris. Call 877.711.STIC(K), email Infot@StrongSpiritUnlimited.com, or visit  www.StrongSpiritUnlimited.com.

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The In ‘N Outpatient by Kris Harty

“Did I read that right?”

I re-read the online invitation I received. It wasn’t an invitation anyone hopes to get. There was no ‘shhh’ finger-to-lips graphic, no indication of umbrella drinks, not even a hint of fun food.

There was, however, a beautiful photo of a radiant young woman with three little boys.

It seems a fundraiser is scheduled for someone I know, someone who is a colleague and friend. It has been a few months since we connected and this was the first I heard of her news.

My heart skipped a thump as my eyes re-scanned the text. The words took a moment to register in my unaccepting mind. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

A small business owner and active business leader throughout much of the state, she has needed to curtail her activities, for obvious reasons, thereby curtailing her income, too.

It must have hurt to cut back on the passion that drives her in business and her usual accompanying dizzying schedule. What must hurt more is knowing she has three young boys to raise alone, while looking into an uncertain future, financially or otherwise.

No one ever thinks someone else will get cancer. When that someone is young, vibrant and churns out whirlwind energy that leaves the rest of us panting several hundred paces behind, it shocks something in our soul.

My soul was most certainly shocked.

The invitation said something about us needing to help someone who routinely and unselfishly gives so much while helping all of us. Yes, yes, that’s what we need to do. Give back. Even though the monetary giving back seems paltry in comparison to how much we’d like to help in a more vital way.

But that’s not our role. We can only stand by the sidelines and watch while leaving that role to her healthcare team – nurses, doctors and everyone else it will take to battle the battle inside. We trust you to fight this battle for her in the way the rest of us can’t.

Coincidentally – or not – the email I opened immediately prior to the invitation was an interview outlining the importance of the oncology patient and provider relationship. I want to ask her if she’s happy with her healthcare team that is taking care of her. I want to know that she likes them, trusts them and respects them.

It’s none of my business, really, yet I want to be assured. I write this knowing it’s not my assurance that matters.

I think back to friends and family who have fought the battle. Many won. Some did not. I remember how most raved about their nurses and doctors and techs who traveled with them on their rollercoaster journeys.

What a difference they made. Not only to their patients, but to their patients’ friends and family, most of whom they never met. They left legacies, unawares.

In whose life will you leave a legacy today, whether or not you ever read it in print?

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick’s upcoming book celebrates professional caregivers as the StickSpirits they are. For four decades, they’ve helped Kris Harty Stick To It – No Matter What! She provides a patient’s perspective that is educational, inspirational, and insightful. Part memoir, part application, Kris helps student nurses, newer nurses and not-so-newer nurses remember why they joined their amazing profession in the first place. She shares how they positively impact patients’ lives, with minimal time and effort. Little things matter. Kris is the Thought Leader on People Helping People Persevere. She leads the conversation through writing, speaking, coaching, and small group discussions. A 40-year veteran of the medical industry – on the receiving end, Kris Harty is the Stickabilities Specialist at Strong Spirit Unlimited. If you’re looking for an effortless and meaningful way to lead your team toward continued quality caregiving, contact Kris. Call 877.711.STIC(K), email Infot@StrongSpiritUnlimited.com, or visit  www.StrongSpiritUnlimited.com

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The In ‘N Outpatient by Kris Harty

“You’re such a non-compliant patient.”

Words I heard again at yet another medical appointment. I really should be fired sometimes.

The words were said with affection, from a nurse who has become a friend.

Nonetheless, though, she’s right. I am non-compliant. I comply when it suits me, and so often it doesn’t.

I recently saw my neurosurgeon for an annual re-check of a surgery he performed eight years ago. The symptoms that originally brought me to their office were similar to symptoms I once again found myself experiencing.

Numbness and weakness in my right hand were becoming all too constant.

Back then, the numbness was caused by a bone spur stealthily growing into my spinal cord. So the nasty little bugger was cut away and the numbness largely disappeared. Until this year.

I weighed my options: do I bring this symptom to my medical team’s attention and potentially deal with another surgery? I’m really not in the mood for an operation at this time. My calendar is full of plans; surgery is not one of them.

Or do I act the responsible patient and mention this numbness, knowing I might not like the answer I hear?

It seems to be a no-brainer, but it’s not so clear cut when your brain is the one involved.

After some deliberation with myself, the ‘responsible patient’ won the battle.

I hesitantly brought up my symptoms to one of my favorite doc / nurse teams.

We did an in-office exam, we did EMG / NCS testing, we did a follow up appointment.

My nerves were shot, but not from physical causes.

My nurse, Vicki, made the appointments as quickly as she could. And because of her seniority, connections and reputation, when she made requests, things got done. I was humbled and grateful.

Finally, at the followup, my neurosurgeron shared the great news. My nerves were fine!

The likely culprit is four decades of arthritis, causing musculoskeletal issues. Whew! Is that all? I can live with that, especially since my recently increased chiropractor appointments seemed to be lessening the symptoms.

I understand that hand surgery would probably make life easier, as my neurosurgeon suggested. But these old gnarled hands get me through normal daily activities just fine, thank you very much. If and when they no longer do, I’ll consider surgery.

At present, I have no desire to add to my eight-count and growing collection of surgeries. Some operations are non-negotiable: for example, spinal cord bone spurs and orthopedic surgeries needed for walking. Ones that are designed merely to make life easier? Pfft, they’ll have to take a number and wait.

Vicki asked if I planned to contact either of the referrals given to me. No, I’ve got my own calendar to get back to right now.

“You are so non-compliant, Kris. But it’s good. You know how all this works, and you think for yourself.”

Maybe so, maybe to my own detriment sometimes. But hey, as long as there’s options to weigh, I will.

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick’s upcoming book celebrates professional caregivers as the StickSpirits they are. For four decades, they’ve helped Kris Harty Stick to It – No Matter What! She provides a patient’s perspective that is educational, inspirational, and insightful. Part memoir, part application, Kris helps student nurses, newer nurses and not-so-newer nurses remember why they joined their amazing profession in the first place. She shares how they positively impact patients’ lives, with minimal time and effort. Little things matter. Kris is the Thought Leader on People Helping People Persevere. She leads the conversation through writing, speaking, coaching, and small group discussions. A 40-year veteran of the medical industry – on the receiving end, Kris Harty is the Stickabilities Specialist at Strong Spirit Unlimited. If you’re looking for an effortless and meaningful way to lead your team toward continued quality caregiving, contact Kris. Call 877.711.STIC(K), email StrongSpirit@StrongSpiritUnlimited.com, or visit  www.StrongSpiritUnlimited.com.

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