Monday, December 6, 2010

Why Do Bad Things Always Happen to Good People?

"God protects drunks and fools", that was taught to me early on in my nursing career in the trenches of a "charity" emergency department. Through those years I recall time after time this point seemed to be true.

Then on the other hand you see really good people struck down with horrible illnesses in the prime of their lives- seeing them deal with the pain, doubts and fears of a uncertain future and you have to ask yourself why? Now I'm not writing this to bring us all down but to share a story that really helped me come to grips with "why do bad illnesses seemed to always happen to good people" and more importantly provide to patients my thoughts when they ask: "Why am I having to go through this?"

For the last seven years, I have worked as a NP in an interventional pain clinic. Many, many times when talking to patients they would ask me that question "Why me?" And my only response was the most honest one I could give- "I don't know, but we are gonna keep trying to fight it."

I liked to tell you this story I heard awhile back that really made sense to me:
A patient presented one day, just like any other day. As the NP & patient were talking about his pain problem and how he couldn't do anything like he used to- the pt. abruptly asked: Does Mr._______ come here? Well, of course with all the HIPPA laws and everything the standard line of: "I have no idea, we have several thousand patients and I couldn't tell you yes or no anyway." was given.

A minute passed and the pt. responds "Well, I know he does, and I know he is alot worse off than I am." Now this struck the NP as odd for them to say and before a response was given the pt. went on: "And I see him at church, around town shaking hands with people, smiling... happy. And I know he is in more pain than I am. So, I said if he can do it- what's my excuse?"

When I heard that story, it helped me make some sense why bad things seem to always happen to good people. A patient living with chronic pain, debillatating condition or incurable illness usually just see their situation- as they should. Those of us on the other side of their fight see despite this horrible situation they are still pleasant, gracious- good. Their true character remains- no matter what. In a sense, seeing how they respond to extremely difficult circumstances with continued peace and joy greatly helps others with their "lesser" problems of life.

I have said all this to make this point- patients living with chronic pain need hope and a sense of purpose. If they can see a reason, a purpose for their lives, other than just living day to day to hurt until they die- I have seen how this can change their whole outlook on their life.

So, the next time a patient asks you "Why did this have to happen to me?" Tell them this story, and encourage them to understand that although they don't see it- their struggle is showing others what true character and grace really is. That people they love or hardly know them see how they are dealing with their struggle and are asking themselves: "If they can be happy despite all their pain & problems- what's my excuse?" These type of people you never forget them.

(This was a story told to me some time ago- I don't care if this was a true story or completely fiction, to me it doesn't matter. Any patient similiarities are unintentional. The purpose is this story has helped patients living with chronic pain gain some understanding about the part they are playing in the "bigger picture" and in the lives of others around them.

I hope this helps you and your patients.

All the best-
Andy Austin FNP-C, FAAPM