Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Failure and Success

I just read the most incredible story in the March issue of St. Anthony's Messenger. Kathryn Begnaud writes in "The Miracle of Amber" of her recent experience in the hospital. She was there for major surgery, experienced complications, and was a mass of tubes and medical interventions. Yet, the thing that most bothered her most was that she hadn't been washed in five days. She felt disgusting and her hair hurt. She didn't want to say anything but then a student nurse named Amber asked her if there was anything she would like. She hesitantly asked if she could get washed. The student nurse obtained permission, and then proceeded to help her into the shower where she could assist her with her bathing. She poignantly writes:

Amber is a student. Green. Still learning. I'm not sure if she's ever yet done an assisted shower. But she proceeds seemingly with no thoughts for herself. She seems to get inside my skin and know exactly what is needed as though she is me.

Her empathy takes on a spirituality I hadn't expected. . . I feel reborn. Tears surprise me and begin flowing down my cheeks, and I hope Amber doesn't see them as they mix with the shower spray. . . I finally look askew at her and see that her white uniform is absolutely wet.

"You're drenched. I'm so sorry."
Amber smiles. "Don't worry about it."

I stare at the floor of the shower and see that her tennis shoes are also squishy wet. I worry about how she'll get home. It's the middle of February in Minnesota and below freezing outdoors.

"Shush," she whispers and keeps washing and rinsing. It is a warm blessing I never want to end.


Begnaud was so touched by her experience with Amber that she wrote this article as soon as she got home from the hospital. She sent it to the College of St. Katherine where Amber was a student as a way of saying "thank you." The college then contacted her in order to use the article in their teaching program. They also shared Amber's side of the story. Student nurses have to evaluate themselves after encounters with patients. As Begnaud writes, "Amber had graded herself poorly after ministering to me. She had felt inept, had accidentally loosened an IV in my arm and caused bleeding and ultimately considered the experience a failure on her part."

How many times in our lives do we try to serve someone but feel we did badly? We think over the things that we could have done differently, and often feel like a failure. We rarely know what our kindness has meant to someone else. Sometimes what we feel is our greatest failure may truly have made a difference in someone's life.

1 comment:

Heidi Hess Saxton said...

Your story made me smile. I had a similar experience after my car accident ... only it was the mother of one of my high school friends -- a Catholic lady -- who managed to rig up my bed so she could wash my hair (after a month in the hospital).

Mrs. Azarello's gift to me is one of the reasons I'm Catholic today.