I thought I would continue along the theme of assumptions we make and judgements associated with these, along with a narrative about resilience being a rollercoaster ride.
This reflection stemmed from an interaction with a healthcare professional today. I saw her with mild but relentless eye pain. She asked me how things were going, how my last specialist appointments went, and my MRI results. I relayed the results, discussions and a plan of having eye surgery on the next available theatre slot for this (January) to preserve my remaining vision. I proceeded to explain the surgery, risks, benefits, and success rates related to my conditions and what I was putting in place to promote the best possible outcome based on the research I had read. For this, I got the label “science geek”. At the time, this seemed like an excellent complement, but my response was rather superficial and detached in hindsight.
When I got home, I recalled my blog post last week, where a member of the public told me I was “amazing” for managing to walk around a rubbish bin that was on the footpath. At the time, I was a little taken aback and quickly pushed this aside as something simple and applied my own assumptions of what I considered amazing, such as getting my PhD, being published, loving my job and passing on my knowledge.
This prompted me to analyse an earlier conversation with a healthcare professional and made me rethink my reaction to the difference in perspective about success.
The earlier conversation covered planning my needs post-surgery as I will not see much (which will prolong the uncertainty around the success for some weeks after). In this conversation, I was asked what I needed help with. At face value, this question seems simple. However, even as an experienced nurse, I wasn’t really sure what I would need. I could guess and, as a result, kept unconsciously relating things to how I see now and not what it will be like post the surgery. This included thoughts of I can do that, I don’t need help with that, or someone might need assistance more, or there is always someone worse off, which are my go-to responses.
It wasn’t until she used more concrete terms and bluntly pointed out that she thought that I needed “urgent” referrals for daily tasks that I began to realise this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. Changing my mindset started with being asked the following two questions:
- Do you think you could make toast safely when you can’t see the toaster?
- Have you ever made a cup of tea without any sight?
To both of these questions, I paused and then replied – “I don’t know”. It was not until this moment that I realised that practice, tips, tricks and techniques were required before the need for them. As a nurse, it is logical to forward plan and assist others to prepare for their recovery as much as possible. However, applying this to myself as a patient who had not previously experienced total blindness was not as easy as I initially thought.
She then asked about how I would get to follow-up appointments and even after the above realisation, my automatic problem-solving response was, I will get a taxi. Then she asked me if I had thought about how I would get into the building from the taxi on my own with no vision? My automatic response was that I already use a long cane and will be OK, but the truth was that I had not thought about it until that moment. What had not sunk in was that I use the cane with some vision, not with no vision, and these were two different experiences requiring different approaches.
At this point, I noticed my thinking was as a nurse, not a patient. My mind was speeding through multiple potential problems and analysing these to find the best solution. As someone who is usually independent and confident in what I do, this conversation and analysis made small tasks such as making toast uncertain and seem impossible.
In fact, a more robust approach would have been to turn off “nurse mode” and slow down, start asking questions to understand better what to expect, and then formulate a plan.
Yes, Shayne – if you ever read this – we discussed this just today in another context.
Writing this has shown me that we all make different assumptions and what we do with these is the important part. Perhaps I will now need to start changing my focus so that the smaller tasks such as making toast and navigating a rubbish bin on the footpath are seen as a success.