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A Painful Truth

I recently found myself in the emergency waiting room with a friend, waiting for the doctor to see her.

At one point, a young woman shuffled into the room, threw herself into the chair and broke into tears.

I watched her for a couple of minutes and then handed her a box of tissues.

“My life is over. This is so unfair” she quietly wept under her breath.

If you haven’t already experienced this, it’s interesting to know that hospital emergency waiting rooms are exceptions to socially acceptable cues. This is one of those places where strangers quickly connect and often exchange explanations of why they are there.

Diane: What’s your name? Can I get you a glass of water?”

Bonnie: (not her real name) My name is Bonnie and yes, thank you. I would like some water.

I went out to the nurse and asked if Bonnie could drink anything. I was told that she needed to wait until some tests were done before she could drink water. I went back into the room, explained the situation to Bonnie and sat down beside her.

Bonnie: It started out such a nice day. I woke up early, nursed the baby and got the lunches made for my other kids. My son had spilled apple juice in his knapsack and it smelled so I decided to use an old knapsack that was hanging in the hall. As I was emptying the pockets, I felt a jab on my finger. I reached in and there was a needle. My brother just finished rehab and we told him that he could come live with us if he kept clean. You know, to help him out a bit. Well, obviously, he isn’t clean and now I’m in the hospital, wondering if my life is over. My brother is HIV and now, I have to take a huge dose of drugs for 28 days that apparently have a lot of terrible side effects, stop nursing and then get tested for HIV in three months. My life could end because of my stupid brother.

With that explanation, Bonnie burst into tears again.

Bonnie: It’s not fair. How can this happen? How am I going to cope for the next few months? I mean, Christmas is coming up.

Diane: Well, you don’t know the results, Bonnie. Our minds tend to go to the worst scenario when stuff like this happens. 

Bonnie: Yah, that’s true. I’m just so anxious and upset and angry. 

Diane: I would be too if this happened to me. 

We sat in silence for a few minutes.

Bonnie: How am I not going to think about this for the next three months?

Diane:  My guess is that you WILL think about this often. What’s important is what you do with those thoughts when they bombard your mind.

I spent the next few minutes sharing my experience with anxiety and how a phone app called, “CALM”  has really helped me.  Bonnie was all ears and so thankful for the conversation. By the time she was called in to see the doctor, Bonnie was much more settled.

Bonnie: Thank you so much. I don’t even know your name. You’re like an angel coming into my life, just when I needed it. Thank you.

With those words, she gave me a big hug and headed down the hall.

I don’t think I’ll ever see Bonnie again.

But I’m praying for her.

Life IS unfair, isn’t it?



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