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.