Why I Write - Remembering Irene
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Remembering Irene

Michele J. Rolle

 

Compassionate, professional and caring- Mammography Technologist are not just made we are created. This is how I was created.

The puddle of urine in the floor should have been an indicator of how hard and painful, my fumbled positioning and compression of her breast on this rigid platform affected her.

I should have recognized this adult woman before me was incapable of verbally communicating her pain. But I was a young, inexperienced and insensitive mammography technologist. Her non-verbal clues went unnoticed, until I literally stepped into the puddle of urine at my feet.

I provided her with hospital scrubs to change into and washed her soiled clothes in my sink. Bundling them tightly for her bus ride home, I imagined the smell of urine on her ride home would have exacerbated her shame and humiliation. I later learned she lived in a facility for functional and intellectually disabled adults.

Earlier in my career as a radiologic technologist, I performed what is often described as routine x-rays, i.e., chest x-rays, etc.

Most of the “routine exams” required little emotional contact with patient.  The patients were in and out, and I would move on to the next one. This was mundane and robotic. 

Then a radiologic technologist entered my life, for a season.

We worked weekends together, and she demonstrated the purest example of professionalism and compassionate care to every patient she encountered.

I did not know until her final days on this side of heaven, that she wore a wig to cover her baldness and that her spontaneous trips to the bathroom were the result of side effects from the Chemotherapy.

What I did know was that she was an incredible wife and mother to her long awaited new born baby.

She never accepted special treatment or sympathy during her battle against breast cancer: she was an “Invisible Warrior”.

I still recall the last time I saw her lying in the hospital bed. Her spirit was strong, her countenance so beautiful and as her breathing became more laborious, I knew her time to make her transition was rapidly approaching.

I told her how much I loved her, and I felt glued in the space where I stood. Her mother sensing my hesitancy to leave, gave me permission, in a soft, quiet tone, she simply said, “Its OK, you can leave”.

I kissed her softly on her cheek and with her head already turned toward the window, I left the room.

When the elevator reached the lobby floor, for a minute I wanted to press her floor and return to see her one last time. I didn’t, instead I sat in my car and wept.

I had never left someone knowing it would be the last time I would ever see them again. She made her transition that evening, leaving behind her husband and new born daughter.

She also left an example for me to use as a blueprint for the beginning of what I knew would be a Healthcare journey of making an effective difference with my patients, by demonstrating what compassionate care feels and looks like.

 

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