Saturday, February 25, 2012

Former Students

I was reminded of this experience after I read Mare's post on her blog, Zoaring with Glinda.  She posted this quote from Haim Ginott.

My heart was racing at 150 beats of minute.  I couldn't seem to bring it down.  Having suffered from tachycardia (rapid heart beat) and arrhythmia for years, I usually can just soldier through these attacks.  This time,  the racing just would not stop.  I had my husband drive by the hospital on our way home from our walk.

After barely being able to walk into the emergency room, ready to collapse when I got to the window, I said, "After a walk, my heart began racing, I can't bring it down, and I'm going to collapse."  Immediately, a pulse sock was placed through the window, "Yep, it's racing."  I was in a wheel chair immediately and wheeled back to a room in the ER.

In came four nurses.  In came the doctor.  I was quickly placed on an EKG machine.  I didn't even know I got an IV.  I described my symptoms.  I tried to keep calm while I chewed the four baby aspirin.  Even on the EKG, my heart was still beating at 140.  Thankfully, it was not showing anything but normal sinus rhythm, but the doctor said we had to wait and see what the blood enzymes showed.  So, I tried to relax again and wait it out.

After all the emergency personnel exited, with a blood pressure cuff on one arm, an IV in the other, I was left alone in the room half dressed.  I think someone had barely covered me up, but I couldn't reach to finish the job.  

About then, a familiar looking young man walked into the room.  "Just checking on you," he said.  "I'm Nolan," he said.  Then his eyes went down to the floor as he quickly walked over to me and gently took the corner of my gown and snapped it at the shoulder.  "Yes, Nolan, I recognize you now," I say.  "Tell me your last name.  I've forgotten.  I had you in ninth grade English, didn't I?" 

In my mind's eye, I could see him sitting just a few seats up from my desk.  He was always a quiet, but respectful student.  It seemed odd to see him in my hospital room.  I felt so disheveled, so vulnerable.  My hair was a fright.  I had on no make-up.  I could barely form a sentence at that moment, let alone teach how to write one.  It seemed as if the tables had all been turned.  I was no longer the professional delivering services to my students.  I was now a patient, barely clothed, being attended to by a former student who was now the professional.

I apologized for my appearance.  I asked what he had been doing with his life.  I was happy to hear he had chosen to become an EMT and had finished the course of study.  All the time, I kept thinking how you just never know when one of those former students will show up.

Just before he left, I said, "Thank you for looking after to me today, and for checking on me.  I saw the concern in your eyes."  With a laugh, I added, "My husband has always says, 'Be nice to your students because you never know when they could be taking care of you in the hospital.'"  He smiled.  I then said, "I hope I was always nice to you."  His reply meant the world.  "Yes, Mrs. Wessely, you were always more than nice."

Respect for those we serve is best experienced on the receiving end.  I learned that lesson again when this young man's first move was to avert his eyes while he covered me up so I could maintain some measure of dignity in his presence.