I was standing in the hallway, torn between two or three tasks.
Fresh in my mind were the events of the morning. A patient at serious risk for a second pulmonary embolism walked out against medical advice. As he stood with me, holding his bag of belongings he told me his cravings for drugs were too strong to resist. The nurse practitioner approached our stand off. She asked him to stay. She told him he could die. He looked at her and said he understood. I raised my eyebrows, pleading with him. He looked right into my eyes and shook his head. Then he left. And I sat at my desk for a long time, not speaking.
But- there was other work to be done, so I found myself in the hall, prioritizing the rest of my shift .
I only saw Mr. M's back as he walked down the hallway with the program director but I sighed inwardly, my thought process temporarily interrupted. Every time he leaves he's in great shape, and when I see him again he's a wreck.
But then I watched, intrigued as the program director led him past the nurses' station into the dying man's room and then left him there.
"He's come back to visit," she said to me as she turned from the door. "I told him we could make an exception."
I watched as he grasped the older man's hand, his face beaming with love. The older man forced his own eyes open and searched the young man's face, slowly recognizing a stranger that he once told us was "like a son to me."
"He's been sober for three months," the director told me, "that's a really long time for him."
I knew that, and I nodded.
"That's incredible," I said, and found myself speechless again.
Things like that can change the entire day.