The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers

I have been laid low for the last three weeks with sciatica. The worst pain I have ever experienced, 10 on a scale of 10. After an MRI, my doctor scheduled a Cortisone injection hoping to reduce the swelling around my sciatic nerve. 

My wife, Mary, dropped me off at the entrance to Kaiser, about 100 yards from the building where my injection was to happen. I was in the passenger seat writhing in pain. Finally a large woman dressed all in black showed up with a wheelchair and began talking with other wheelchair providers. My assessment was that whatever they were talking about was not nearly as important as the pain I was in.The world was revolving around me.

When the wheelchair finally came to get me, I was damn near in tears. This woman must not have seen the agony I was in,  she was driving the wheelchair soooo slowly. One thing I have found in this adventure – two times to the emergency room –  is that if I start swearing I get more attention. As we were moving slowly down the incline to the injection building, I was more and more frustrated that this woman wasn’t moving faster. I finally blurred it out, “Can we move this along a little faster? I’m in more goddamn pain than I have ever had.”

She said, “You will be all right.” That was totally useless, but at least I had her attention. She started moving the wheelchair faster. About 200 feet from the door of the clinic, she put her hand on my right shoulder and begin massaging it. Immediately I  felt better. The caring of a total stranger made all the difference. As I got checked in, and she dropped me off to wait for the nurse, I put my hand up to my shoulder and held her right hand in mine and said “Thank you very much. That eased my pain. I suggest you keep this in your bag of tricks for future patients.” She thanked me and left.

I never saw her face, or got her name. She knew, though, that her kindness had made my painful journey slightly more bearable.

11 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers

  1. Larry says:

    Good for you Rick, Over the years and my visits to the hospital from first aid to a heart attack, gall bladder removal, ulcers, pacemaker implant, etc I’ve noticed the people who work in hospitals, first responders to people in pain or at risk, take a lot of shit so I know that any act of gratitude is greatly appreciated. Now I haven’t had the kind of pain you described but finding any sense of gratitude through that overwhelming evil mantra says something about your character.

  2. Mark Shaw says:

    Lovely story Rick. Three things strike me as I absorbed the scene you created. The power of human touch. The gentle presence of the woman who massaged your right shoulder. Your ability and willingness, given all that you faced, to acknowledge the power of her gift. Well done!

  3. Rebecca Morgan says:

    I agree with Mark. I’m so sorry you had to endure so much pain. I am glad, however, that you were coherent enough to 1) ask for what you wanted (even though it took cursing to communicate it clearly), and present enough to share your appreciation with the wheelchair driver. I’m guessing few people thank her as heartfeltly as you did.

  4. Adele Scheele says:

    I agree with these remarks about your story and would like to add that she was not a stranger. She had a job to do and did it only with extra kindness when you revealed your acute pain. It’s how it should be, but so rarely is. Kindness, turns out, is the glue of humanity.

    I hope you’re out of such extreme agony. I had it too and know a bit of your pain.

  5. Lil Schaller says:

    A great message, Rick. I think too often we forget to thank people for small but powerful gestures that enhance lives.

  6. Sara Zeff Geber says:

    So terribly sorry you are enduring this, Rick. I hope the cortisone shot has now helped some – at least taken the edge off – and will continue to aid your body in its healing. Loved the story!

  7. John Warren says:

    Hi Rick!
    This could go along with your article “In praise of profanity”! Once you got her attention, her compassionate touch was such a gift. Now, I hope the wonders of science and medicine will give you relief. Love and healing energy coming your way!

  8. Pat Titus says:

    Hope the pain has subsided. I know that hurts like hell, having helped several friends
    who had it and got better. They were all women who learned to swear magnificently!
    Has your doc mentioned foot drop?

  9. George Carpenter says:

    Rick I’m so sorry that you are enduring such pain. Leave it to you to realize (in your agony) that the nurse needed a gesture of thanks. I’d pray for you but we both know how much good that would do. Heal my friend!

  10. Dona Smith-Powers says:

    It is amazing how the truth in our words gets results. And a simple touch makes such a difference.

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