When I first started working as a nurse on the oncology unit, I thought all cancer patients were like my grandma. Sweet, old, and innocent. It wasn't until I really started working with these patients that I realized how wrong that was. Now don't get me wrong, a lot of them are like my grandma. But then you run into those whose path in life was polar opposite, and it is only due to their disease that our paths crossed on the 9th floor of Baptist Hospital. David was one of these patients.
When I first met David, I went into his room to try to assess him that morning only to be told that I'd have to wait, he was going off the floor to smoke and he'd be back later. When he came back nearly six hours later (uh...panic...where was my patient?!), he demanded every narcotic pain medicine he could get. David was stubborn, and bossy, and a drug addict. He lived near the hospital so he would roll his little IV pole to his own house and do God knows what while he was there. There were only two sides of David that I could tell, asleep and angry if you tried to wake him, and awake and angry. He was a "challenging" patient to say the least. I dreaded having him in my assignment, and prayed each morning that I had him that he wouldn't cuss me out. This was David, or so I thought.
Over the next couple years, David was in and out of the hospital like most leukemia patients are. Sometimes for chemo, sometimes for fevers and infections. Over these couple years, I got to know David, his wife Pam, and their son Davie who is 12. I got to see the complete disfunction they lived in, and the hard life they had. Both David and Pam had substance abuse issues, and Davie rarely was in school during "school hours." He would come live at the hospital with his dad and see his dad in all his rage and anger, dealing with cancer. The one thing I learned about David, he loved his son more than anything in the world. The only reason he even came to the hospital was so that he could fight the cancer and see his son grow up. Last year he told me he just wanted to see Davie graduate. David was given a bad hand in life full of poverty, drugs, and not the greatest parents. David brought his perscription pain meds and hid them under his hospital bed, only so his wife Pam wouldn't take them all while he was in the hospital and she was at home.
David didn't believe in God. He didn't believe that a loving God would allow there to be cancer, or suffering. He was angry, and that is the one word that I could use to describe him. When I first cared for David, I dreaded it, but over time my heart changed and softened towards him. I felt for him, my heart ached for what he had to go through and the circumstances he dealt with. He truly was doing his best for his son, and I admired that about him.
I found out from a coworker that they took David off life support sometime Monday morning. After 4 relapses of his leukemia, his body finally had had enough. Looking back, David taught me so much about loving people who are nothing like myself. He taught me that God can change hearts...because mine has been changed.
If you get a moment this week, pray for David's son and wife as they deal with their loss. Pray that they come to know the Lord as their Father and Savior through this.
Since this time last year I had been praying for God to teach me to truly love people well...and now I realize, thats exactly what he did through David. Who would have thought the most awful, frustrating patient would become one of my favorites.