A Piggy Bank

I am currently very busy with school because it is midterm/project season. I went to the doctor’s office today to sign my EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) application form. I will be sending it in soon, just to solidify the fact that I will be going to JIBC in June. In the mean time, I am volunteering with St. John Ambulance and at a hospital’s ER.

Here’s a story from my shift this week:

I had my second volunteer shift at the ER today, and it was my first solo. I wasn’t sure who I was going to meet or how the day will turn out. I helped three patients before I started chatting with an elderly lady who seemed very sweet. She told me of her travels, her family, her dreams…her life. How she wanted to travel the world and that she wished she were able to have had more schooling. How lucky my generation is to be able to go to school and just about everybody graduates from high school, when during her time (The Depression), it was impossible. 

“Those were tough times,” she said. “I would make $12.50 a week, but after paying for the bus to and from work, I ended earning only $5 a week.”

She chuckles. “It was always my dream to become a teacher…but it’s too late now,” as she gestured at herself and the ER. I caught a glimmer of sadness in her eyes. 

“You know, I used to volunteer at a hospital too. At The Children’s Hospital. I love working with the children.” She also said she wanted to travel the world. She did travel to a couple of places like Europe and Africa. 

“Africa was amazing,” she said, “we traveled from the west all the way down to the southern tip and up to the east.” 

She said she loved experiencing the cultural diversity and it was something very valuable to her, that it really opened her eyes. I’m beginning to like this lady more and more. I caught a hint of her in me. Her beautiful blue eyes gazed up as she thought about the wonderful times she had had with her husband (who had passed away) on those travels. She told me he used to serve in the Navy, so he loved to go camping and traveling as well. 

I told her of my trip to Japan in the summer, and she said China and Japan were the two places she wanted to go to. So I told her about my trip, about the big city of Tokyo and the rural traditional places like Shirakawa-go. I told her I would like to travel the world just like her, but I’m financially incapable right now. 

She looked at me and smiled. “You know how I saved up for my trip in Europe? Just by putting one dollar or so a day aside. One dollar a day into a piggy bank. It really adds up over time,” she says. Took her a year to save up enough to go. I smiled. What a simple idea. I told her I would give that a try. 

I can tell she was sad that she was in the hospital, but she carries with her happiness and optimism. I asked her about her family. She told me she has seven grandkids, and three sons. How she is so proud of her sons, and that they grew up to be very wonderful fathers. I told her how lucky she is. Her eyes glittered as she smiled. She told me that I should never hold back and to experience whatever it is I want to. She told me to just go for it, because life is too short. I can see in her eyes that she was reminiscing about her life. How there are still so many things she has yet to accomplish and how little time she has left. 

I’d say we chatted for about 30min before I told her I had to go. I told her I really enjoyed talking to her, and she said she did too. “Volunteering is good for a person, you’re a great volunteer”, she says. “Go live your life without restraint.”

I told her I will. I will pursue my dreams and make them come true. I will remember her when I go travel the world. She says that she hopes to see me around. I told her I hope to never see her again, that she’ll be going home soon. Safe and well.

 I wish I could be like her when I grow old. 

I have friends who ask me why I volunteer at the ER when I don’t really “do much”, that what is the point of talking to patients and offering them drinks or blankets etc.  Sometimes the difference I make isn’t very noticeable, it isn’t evident like bringing a cardiac arrest person back to life.  It isn’t “exciting”. But I believe I make a difference. 

Take the lady today for example:  She will remember the day she called 911 to be taken to the hospital, to stay in the ER with no privacy for several days, to not know when she’s going to be discharged, to not even get a chance to talk to the doctor about what has happened to her because they are so busy.  She will remember how she waited and waited, have no form of entertainment, and then a volunteer came by and she was able to share a bit of her life with her.  She was able to talk to someone, someone who gave her her utmost attention, someone she was able to laugh with, someone to break the monotone of the ER.  I am lucky enough to be offered the position to be the light amidst the gloom.  I make patients smile, their faces glow.  I don’t know about you, but that, I believe, is a difference.  And that is why I keep on going back.  For those tiny moments, those golden nuggets of life.

———

Strike Sidenote:  I am very upset to hear that Gordon Campbell has forced a contract on the paramedics on strike.  It really shows that the government doesn’t care about the broken ambulance service and their support for health care.  Here’s a story from CBC News:  http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/11/02/bc-paramedics-strike-legislation.html  It’s not just the ambulance service that’s in dissaray, I have a nurse friend who doesn’t have swabs for their patients because of cutbacks.  Today, when I was volunteering, a paramedic asked if I had seen any IV poles, because he and his partner can’t find any in the ER. I thought we are suppose to place the people of this province first, not the olympics.   I find this all very sad.  


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  • Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose. -Tom Krause
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