If you come to Christ House this year, you will be sure to see me running through the 2nd floor hallway, donning a face shield and bright green scrubs, preoccupied with grabbing a patient for their vital signs or medications. As a Respite Care Assistant, my duties include patrolling the floor, working with patients on their daily treatment plans, and washing a truly extravagant amount of laundry. It’s safe to say that I’m not an easy sight to miss.
With all these responsibilities, I still find that the most rewarding part of my job is working with patients as soon as they are admitted to Christ House. One patient, Marcus, stands out particularly. Marcus came to us seemingly very reserved. He was dealing with numerous severe chronic health conditions, most notably heart failure.
I stopped by his room early one morning and noticed he has placed his pillow up on his shelves and was sitting up at the corner of his bed. I walked in and asked him if he slept okay and if he needed anything. After continuing to press him, he told me that he had spent the past several months at a local shelter. He was afraid to sleep in his bed there because of rampant bed bugs, so he spent his nights in his wheelchair. He had to sleep with his shoes on out of fear of having them stolen. That trauma had carried over to his stay at Christ House. During his first week here, he continued to sleep sitting up. I even heard during morning nursing reports that he would awaken frequently during the night.
I continued to reassure him during our daily conversations and tried to help out where I could. I brought him a new pair of shoes from our clothing closet when I noticed his began to tear. I got him a wedge for his bed so he would feel more elevated if he chose to lie down. Through the following weeks, he has become much more comfortable as a patient here. He sleeps in bed now and has become a much more vocal member of our community.
Marcus taught all of us one of the most important lessons about healing. Healing is an exercise of trust. To overcome months and years of emotional and spiritual trauma, our patients require people who are willing to stand by their side. Our medical decisions and recovery programs are only as effective as the safety and security we provide these men. Each conversation we have, each moment we choose to listen to stories of pain rather than walking away is another building block towards trust.
At Christ House, we have a chance to break down hardened walls caused by suffering and isolation. By doing so, we can learn so much from our patients about resilience and mercy. That pursuit of companionship and trust is what compels me each and every day to serve with gentleness and compassion.
Marcus still struggles with his trauma. He has cried in his room after a visit to the doctor. He likely often feels powerless within a system that is designed to exclude people like him. But the work we do every day has certainly put him on the path towards healing.
If you come to Christ House now, you will be sure to see Marcus in a red hoodie snacking on the benches outside the building. He too is not an easy sight to miss.