Friday, June 22, 2007

Think Before You Speak

21st June 2007

One of the very first things I remember being taught in school was to “think before you speak”. It is extremely good advice and a rule I always try to live by. The other thing that has always stuck in my mind is from the Bible. “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Again, this is extremely good advice. We are all individuals, and we all have certain ideas about how things should be. However, it is terribly important for me to remember that how I think things should be is not necessarily how someone else might thinks they should be. I’m not perfect, therefore how can I possibly sit in judgement of someone else?

I have to say that anytime I have forgotten these two important things it has caused me great embarrassment. I’ve made some huge gaffs in my time by not thinking things through before I started to speak or by suddenly deciding that I know it all and have the right to decide if someone else’s choices are right or wrong. The trouble is, when I’ve done these things, I’m not the only one who gets hurt.

Yesterday however, someone else who I do not even know forgot to think before she spoke and was very quick to sit in judgement of me, and it absolutely floored me. I still have not got over it. It still hurts.

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that my parents have suffered ill health for some years. Yesterday my poor Dad had yet another episode where his blood pressure plummeted. He was having dialysis at the time so it was quite serious. The hospital informed the retirement home where my parents live and they informed me. They also gave me the numbers so I could contact the hospital.

The nurses I spoke to in the dialysis department were wonderful and said I really did need to speak to someone in Emergency (that is Casualty to us Brits) as soon as possible. They put me through. Admittedly I always feel awful calling the Emergency Department. The name says it all – very busy people work there under very stressful conditions. I’ve spent a lot of time in Emergency Departments with my parents and I have to say I have met some of the most wonderful people there. I’ve met staff who go such a long way to make you feel comfortable in a terrible situation, and who go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis.

Yesterday I was not so lucky. After having told the story about how I live in England and have done for nearly 20 years to the staff in the dialysis department, I neglected to repeat the story to the nurse in Emergency. In an attempt to save time I simply explained who I was and who I was enquiring after. “Is there anything you can tell me?” The reply was cutting. “I can tell you that you can get down here and find out for yourself.” I was speechless. I have always felt so guilty about being so far away from my parents in their time of need. However my life is (and has been for almost half my life) in England. We have done everything we can to make sure that we are in Canada whenever we can be, and in the last 4 years we have made trips to Canada every four to sixteen weeks. That’s right, we’ve been to Canada almost thirty times in less than four years. I’m exhausted a lot of the time and our personal and professional lives have really suffered. I am so grateful to have been able to do it but it infuriates me when people suggest I am doing less than I could. Frankly we spend more time with my family than most people we know who only live a short distance from their families. My parents are so grateful and always say we do more than they could ever wish for.

Obviously this lady did not know that, but even if I had only lived a few hours away it still would have been so hurtful. Or what if I had been disabled and unable to travel? Even after I explained the situation she refused to say anything other than “He collapsed and he’s fine at the moment” very coldly. The silence on the line was deafening. I thanked her and rang off. In desperation, I phoned the dialysis department back. They explained he had not collapsed, that he had been laying down at the time as he was having dialysis, then bless them, they went through to Emergency and spoke to the lady before I spoke to her again. It was clear by the length of time that elapsed that it was being suggested to her that her behaviour had been less than exemplary. When I was put through she did admit we had spoken before, but she never apologised. She shared more information with me that time, but I could still feel the coldness seeping through the telephone line.

It’s happened to me before, people not understanding how I could have moved to another country. One lady in an elevator in Canada was quite rude and said that it was ridiculous I lived in England, even after I explained my husband was British (and that I was too!) and our life was here. She spent an entire elevator journey going on and on, berating me for what she believed was the error of my ways. People really cannot cope with the fact that I am my parent’s only child either, or that most of our other relatives are too elderly to be of any help. I’d be wealthy indeed if I had a penny for every time someone said, “Are you sure there is not anyone else?” No, there is not anyone else, just me, and I worry about that every day of my life. I’m very blessed to have such a supportive husband and son, or I would never have been able to provide the huge amount of support that we have provided over these last years.

I feel sorry for the lady I spoke to yesterday as she must have a very difficult life to be so short and cold to someone who was obviously upset. I can only imagine what she is going through and I pray that she was just having a bad day and not going through something awful that would make her be so unkind. I’m also grateful that all the other people I spoke to were so helpful and kind.

I have to admit I am having trouble letting go of it though, and that quick retorts keep popping into my mind, things I wish I’d said but that it is probably much better that I didn’t! It has really made me think today about the things I think and do and say, and has made me check in with myself and remind myself to always remember to think before I speak and never to judge others.

Just as a postscript, the nurses on the floor my Dad has been admitted to were lovely when my husband spoke to them early this morning. Frankly I was too afraid to call but I need not have been. Ninety percent of the medical staff I have met and / or spoken to in the last four years have been wonderful. I won’t let the one very unkind apple I came across yesterday affect the very high opinion I hold of medical staff in Ontario. They really are brilliant. I pray that they’ll be able to help my Dad again this time.

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