A Different Sort of Bravery – Part Two
This has long been an affliction of mine. Little did I know that sometimes saying anything was going to be a problem. Time to talk myself off the ledge…
To recap Part One, I ran into a patient in the grocery store who not only has a brain injury but has memory challenges. We start a simple conversation and she does not remember me, and clearly, I’ve thrown her off to the point of severe discomfort and agitation. She seems on the verge of falling apart in the middle of the produce isle. Now what?
“Would you like me to walk away for a few minutes and we can try this again later?”
She agreed, and I reluctantly moved to the other side of the produce rack trying as hard as I could to watch her without being obvious. She stood there, blankly staring at the broccoli for several moments, and then slowly began to move about the store. I followed from a safe distance; that is to say I was close enough to see her, but far enough that if she had turned towards me, I could have gone a different direction without it seeming incredibly obvious. All the while a moral debate played on in my head:
How much responsibility do I take here?
If she has a total meltdown, should I step in and drive her home?
With my smartphone, I could log into our database and find her husband’s phone number. Although he’s most likely out of town (his business dictates he travels often), should I call him and discuss how to proceed?
Should I even be concerned that she can find her way home?
Would it be horrible if I just walk away?
I’m not sure there was a right answer, but there were definitely quite a few wrong ones. So I just watched from a distance, almost as if I had not choice, because in my mind, I really didn’t.
As she continued shopping, so did I. She was moving slowly from isle to isle and although I was trying to focus on my own needs, in the back of my mind was an awareness of where she was in the store. I decided to keep an eye on her, although I was sure to not cross paths or make eye contact again. Forty minutes and three isles later she got in the checkout lane, and I got into the lane next to her. All seemed to go well and she made it to her car. Although I contemplated following her home to ensure she made it safely, in the end I decided against it. Instead, I called her husband to discuss the events. After some conversation, he thanked me and shared some recent concerns and compensations being considered. Twenty minutes later he called again. She had made it home safely.
Although I’ve had two major concussions in my life, I’ve been lucky in that the lasting effects of hitting my head have been minimal. Honestly, the few residuals I do have are more annoying than they are impactful. To suggest that I know what this patient experiences on a daily basis, much less an hourly basis, would be quite unfair. The anger, frustration, disappointment, fear, confusion must be among the emotions experienced all the time. This was my thought as I drove out of the parking lot, and I realized, this a whole new level of bravery.
Stay tuned for the conclusion…