Hope In the Hallway

  • By Matthew Chambers Springible Contributor
  • Reading Time About 4 minutes
  • PostedNovember 5, 2018
  • Category

Springible is so excited to partner with Johnson & Johnson to share some of our experiences with nurses and nurse practitioners, and how grateful we are for the way they help support and care for families like ours every day!

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“We can help Jude.”

These were the first words Karen Agricola, our Nurse Practitioner said after she’d greeted us in the exam room. I admit I was skeptical. It felt like every emotion and positive thought were exposed like raw nerve endings. I was spent. Jordana was spent. Jude was spent. I wanted to believe someone could stop this nightmare, but in that moment, I just let her words bounce off of me like a pebble on metal armor.

Author Anne Lamott says that “Hope begins in the dark.” I think she’s probably right, but what I didn’t anticipate was just how long the darkness can last. If we’re not careful, it can outlast whatever hope we summon and leave us stranded.

Jordana and Jude

Over the next minutes and hours, we met all kinds of pediatric neurology team members. I don’t even remember who everyone was, or what sorts of conversations we had. I was sort of waiting for the punchline, like that key moment in a show or movie, when the hero finally delivers. We’d been told Jude could be helped before, only to be devastatingly disappointed, so I was halfway wondering if in the end, they might run some sort of test and say, “Oh, we didn’t realize it was going to be like this…unfortunately, we won’t be able to help.”

Fortunately, that’s not how the story unfolded, at least not on that particular day. For the first time since Jude’s health crisis began, we felt as though we finally had allies – a team of people who were with us, here to help us navigate this expansive new world of illness and care and treatment and survival.

At that particular point in the journey, nothing felt within my grip. But, somehow, the precious advice from our favorite PBS neighbor, Mr. Rogers, was discernible above the noise of all the hardship: “Look for the helpers.”

I still remember walking out of the exam room with Jordana and Jude in the stroller. As we stepped into the hallway, a horde of nurses, physicians, techs, and other various neurology team members in scrubs and lab coats were there, smiling, speaking hope. Despite the reality that Jude didn’t have a cure, that the medicine and treatment could help him, but not answer every question or remove every challenge…hope.

Caregiving is indeed a journey of constant love and constant grief. It truly takes a village…and over the years, people will move in and move out of the village, but we’ve been fortunate to have some incredible medical professionals walk beside us, including some priceless nurses. For families like ours, who fight every day to try and provide the best life possible for those in our care, it’s so crucial for companies and partners like Johnson & Johnson to continue advocating so passionately for the the nursing profession as they have through scholarships and other generous efforts for more than a century. It helps shine some light on some very dark paths. 

Whether you’re in the place Jordana and I were with Jude more than ten years ago, or miles along in your caregiving or self-advocacy journey, here’s three pieces of advice I try to remember. The more I practice these, the better I care for myself and for Jude:

I. Don’t hide your struggle

A. If everything is terrible, let them know. Tell them you need help and support to figure it out. Never sugar coat, just tell the truth. Truth saves lives. Reality is, if you don’t, who will?

II. Remember why

A. You’re a caregiver or self-advocate because a diagnosis has completely changed life’s trajectory. It’s easy to get caught up in the painful daily grind and forget who you are and what care is all about.

III. Look for the helpers

A. But, they can’t help unless you ask…every bit of research, every question, every visit helps improve the quality of life for you or the person in your care. And, I’d wager, many times (especially in the medical realm) it begins with the first line of care, nurses. Over the years, from regular exams to surgery to clinical trials to emergency calls on the weekends, we’ve been gifted with some incredible nurses, and our ability to care for Jude has been elevated because of each one of them.

Tolkien leaves us with these words: “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

So, caregivers…self-advocates…let’s not pretend, let’s keep unearthing hope – in the hallway, in the park, in the passenger seat, in the elevator, in the bathroom. Seek it. Find it. Share it.

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