For this paper, I decided to write about my most important experience I had during the program. When I first started off volunteering, my patient was not very talkative but she would respond when I asked her questions and she would look at me, greet me, and smile while I was there. Our conversations pretty much only circled around small talk. I would tell her about my home-town, I would show her pictures of my cats, and we would talk about piano and swimming since we both enjoy those activities.
After about a month, she began declining and would usually just be asleep whenever I visited. It was difficult to further the personal relationship with her because she wouldn’t speak let alone notice that I was there. This didn’t necessarily upset me because I understood how difficult it probably was for her to stay awake and hold a conversation, however I did begin questioning how useful my presence was. I wondered if she even noticed I was visiting her and I began to wonder if my presence was even annoying her while she was trying to sleep.
My most memorable experience occurred about 2 weeks after winter break. I remember finding some free time during a Tuesday afternoon. I wondered whether or not I should visit my patient – would she notice if I went? Would she just be trying to sleep and I would be disturbing her? I decided to go anyway and thank goodness I did. When I walked into the room, my patient was wide awake and was literally crying of happiness. She asked to hold my hand and began crying and telling me how happy she was that I was there. She told me she had been “crying her heart out” because she was so lonely. Needless to say, I was very surprised at this sudden change in her behavior. She asked me to stay and told me how much she dislikes being alone in the room because she believed it was haunted. She had thought the nurse that was in the room when she fell asleep would stay with her the whole time and she was very upset and scared when she woke up to find that she was alone. I ended up staying with her for a little less than three hours until someone else arrived. When a nurse finally came into the room, my patient began explaining to the nurse how wonderful my company was. As I explained to her I had to leave because I had a class that started at 7:00, she would not stop thanking me for staying with her. She told me to make sure I come again soon. Now I notice when I visit her, even when she appears to be napping, ever so often I catch her open her eyes slightly, glance at me to check if I’m still there, and then go back to sleeping.
After that experience, I no longer wonder whether or not I am making a difference when I visit my patient. This experience really made me realize that when people are not in their best health, it is not always easy for them to express their gratitude. However, one should never mistake a lack of expressive gratitude as a sign that they are not helping. I know this because of those few hours that my patient did have enough energy to say what she wanted to say.