Christian Single, General Nursing, Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a Patient

July 1996

My most difficult semester of graduate school is history. The pathophysiology class, taught by a physician from Russia with a heavy accent, was challenging to understand. She gave us a great review of physiology and took us much deeper into what goes wrong in the body when disease occurs.

The second course was in pathopsychology taught by a psychiatric nurse. After we learned about the different mental illnesses and the criteria for diagnosis, we each had to choose a fictional person to analyze. Scarlett O’Hara, the main character in Gone With the Wind, a popular novel made into a movie about how the American civil war affected her family in the southern part of the USA, became my patient. She certainly met the criteria for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder according to DSM 3. (DSM is the main book that psychiatrists use to diagnose people with mental illness.) They define Narcissism as “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” The person also has to have at least five of the listed nine characteristics. I learned there is no treatment for someone with a personality disorder. I think Scarlett had all nine of the characteristics. My classmates laughed when I read my paper out loud because most of them had seen the movie if they had not read the mammoth-sized novel at some point in their life.

I also decided to go downhill skiing with the career group from church for the first time in March. I painfully discovered that it is much different than cross-country skiing and requires more athletic skill than God gave me. I took quite a few falls trying to get down the icy mountain and wrenched my left knee. I was unable to walk without pain, so the doctor did an arthroscopy on July 8 to look inside my knee with a small scope and clean out the floating piece of torn cartilage. He was amazed I could still walk.

I painfully discovered that I am NOT good at downhill skiing.


I needed to take two weeks off work to recover rather than the predicted one week. The knee pain I had after surgery shocked me. Ice packs quickly became my best pain relievers. I learned much from experiencing surgery from a patient’s point of view rather than a nurse’s. So many people from the church have helped me since I live alone. Our fellowship and friendships have been strengthened.

“As a father pities His children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14 (NKJV)

Two more arthroscopies followed culminating in a knee replacement at age 49. Moral of the story: don’t try to learn to downhill ski in your forties if you are not a gifted athlete. Because of the steps and low toilets, I found it more challenging to travel. A few years later, I sold my three-story home and returned to a one-level home to try and preserve my knees.

I also learned that I could no longer lower myself into a bathtub, kneel, squat, jump, or run. Cross-country skiing became impossible, so that took the fun out of winters in New England. After each surgery, I received treatment from numerous physical therapists, and we enjoyed talking “shop” after they found out that I was a nurse. I did my post-operative exercises faithfully to get as much range of motion in my knee as possible.

I encouraged my patients to do the same after surgery and to set up their house with adaptive equipment before they had surgery to make it easier when they came home. A toilet riser, reacher to pick up things off the floor, plastic lawn chair with arms to put in the bathtub, shower hose, and bath mat are the bare minimum. A sock aid also comes in handy so one can pull on socks without assistance. Many visiting nurse agencies have donation closets with equipment former patients no longer need that people can borrow for free.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” II Corinthians 1:3-5 (NKJV)




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