The Woman Who Couldn’t Speak
By Andrea, Germany
A few years ago I was assigned a patient with tongue cancer who wanted to leave our nursing station. She didn’t get along with the caregiver and that person didn’t get along with her. Recently her arm was broken during nursing by the caregiver. Following which she refused any further contact with this caregiver. I only had to take care of this woman for the last four weeks before she left our nursing station.
I was not excited about doing this work. This patient was feared by my colleagues because of her aggressive behavior. So quite reluctantly I started to visit this woman in her home. My work included helping her with basic personal hygiene, preparing breakfast and taking care of various tasks in her home. The old woman received me very sullenly. I found out that she was an ethnic German immigrant to Germany from the former Soviet Union.
The first action was helping her to undress, which was very difficult because her movements were very abrupt and aggressive. Then it was off to a tiny bathroom. She insisted on being scrubbed every day from top to bottom with plenty of soap. I asked myself how her skin could endure this procedure. The physical distance between us in this small confining bathroom took my breath away and her aggressiveness made me shake with fear. I was afraid she would hit me or do something else.
Because I knew this problem would occupy me for four long weeks, I searched for a solution. I asked the Mahanta to come with me into the bathroom. He put himself between me and the patient. Each day the Mahanta came with me. I felt his presence and relaxed. I constantly sang HU inwardly. I was so conscious of the presence of the Mahanta that I was aware of him as if he were with me in this apartment.
I felt that now I radiated a quiet friendliness. And my patient noticeably relaxed. She no longer constantly watched me during my work to find fault, but greeted me warmly when she opened the door for me in the morning. I tried to give her all the free space she wanted and respected her and her situation without wanting to change her. I was there, quiet and friendly, always accompanied by the Mahanta.
This woman went through an amazing transformation in the following days. She opened up to me like a rose. We worked together in loving friendship. The woman who couldn’t speak because of tongue cancer told me, in her labored words, about her son who had died, about her daughter and her problems with her, of her life and her husband. She had so much trust in me and was happy to open up her innermost self to me. It lightened her to speak of things long buried and to laugh when I kindly joked with her.
She waved to me from the window for a long time on the last day. I had the feeling of having done something important. I had learned something very valuable with the help of the Mahanta.
Everyone wants love and understanding. But only when I was able to overcome my fear and approach her with an open heart could I give this love and understanding. That was a spiritual healing for me.