I have a very good memory for people so long as I can attach them to a bit of their story or a medical condition. Especially a medical condition
. I remember them for many years, maybe forever. I remember names and voices
and members of their families just because I happened to speak to them briefly and enter them into a database
. I read the obituaries every day because I hate to find out someone has passed away with an unexpected phone call from a family member or nurse in the community. It catches me off guard and I am poor with condolences
at the best of times. It is surprising to people that I work with that I can remember so many names and details.
Very few people in my life have remembered me for any length of time. It always bothered me slightly that I could recite their life story and they could scarcely recall why they had a faint blip of facial recognition when they saw me for the first time in ten years. These days I understand that I am just a little odd in this respect. I like to observe and retain details.
It was three weeks ago. He called with simple questions about drug funding for his wife. I asked the standard questions and explained that my organization doesn't necessarily facilitate that type of thing but often are able to connect people with those who can help. Rather than simply providing a phone number I asked for the name of his wife and pulled her up in our database. Cancer, end stage and involved with our Supportive Care Resource Team
. I noted that his last name was different from hers and wondered briefly about the circumstances surrounding that for no particular reason. He sounded terribly sad and overwhelmed as he went on to relay some disjointed information he'd heard about a form
her doctor could sign. I know the form and explained what it is for and that it can take some time to process. He indicated that he didn't think she was going to last long enough to worry about this particular form. He felt guilty trying to figure out funding options
, it was thick in his voice. We connected him with some much faster help for most of the medication. It's difficult to feel very good about that, honestly, given the circumstances. His words were kind and gentle and reminded me a lot of my father any time my mother is ill.
I rarely stay in the same place at work for very long. Float around wherever I am needed. Today I covered the reception desk and recognized the phone number and his name when it appeared on the call display screen. I remembered the conversation and the outcome and thought it had been at least three weeks. I passed the call along to the requested individual and went on with my other various duties.
A few hours later I decided to pull up the obituaries and cross reference with our database. Perhaps it sounds morbid but it is just a fact that notifying the agency that organizes home care is not always the first thing on someone's mind when a loved one passes.
She was there
, amidst several others. His wife whom he had clearly adored. And I had spoken to him hours before not knowing. It feels so sad and empty that my connection was peripheral and largely useless. I held back tears for him as I answered a few more phone calls
I hope being a nurse feels a little less futile, at least some of the time. I am tired of only ever knowing people through database entries.