My school has started a "Humans of..." and it's been really cool to learn about what people are thinking and how those experiences affect their lives.
For anyone that knows me, they know that I love talking to strangers and learning about their lives, ambitions, etc. My favorite place to talk to people is Mayo Clinic because you never know where the people are going to be from and usually they have very powerful stories. I usually try to share those stories, but it doesn't always happen. I think it's important for people to realize just how strong we can truly be.
A couple months ago I saw a woman in the waiting room - she was painfully thin and had an IV line placed in her arm for easy access. I sat next to her and asked why she came to Mayo. She said that she came to live. Back home, she was told that she had two months left to live. They had taken out so much of her intestines that they couldn't remove anymore. She weighed less than 100 pounds and the medicine wasn't working. For the last few months she had been taking nutrients intravenously because she could no longer eat. Mayo was her last hope, but it had to work - back home she had a daughter that was counting on her and she was going to keep fighting until she was strong enough to be everything that her daughter needed her to be.
Talking to this woman was inspirational. While she was telling me that she didn't know how much longer to live, I saw a fierce desire to not only survive, but to come out stronger. She wanted health not only for her, but for her family. No matter what the cost was for her, she would do whatever it took to make life easier for her daughter.
This last week I sat behind a family. They started talking about his colonoscopy that was happening the next day and how that would affect what happened next. I excused myself for eavesdropping and asked if he was possibly going to be diagnosed with IBD. Turns out - he actually was diagnosed with Colitis 20 years ago without a flare-up until last year. Then things got real bad really quickly and he had his colon removed. He was having chronic pouchitis and they were looking at possibly doing a permanent ostomy. We talked for a bit and I told them about the Great Bowel Movement and then about camp when the wife said her niece has Crohn's disease. They seemed really excited to be able to talk to others about IBD so I'm not sure if it's something they really talk about.
During this talk, his family was the most inspiring. Throughout my eavesdropping the wife and boy seemed to be very supportive of the man. They didn't make the visit into a huge deal, but were letting him lean on them as much as possible. So often, we focus on how difficult the disease can be on the patient and lose sight of how it can affect the family dynamics. Many times, patients' families are the unsung heroes. Them and friends. I don't know what I would do without my friends who sit with me and distract me when I'm having a hard day.
I'll try to share the stories of others more often - I don't always have time to chat with people, but I like to.