Saturday, January 16, 2010

The First Day of Anything is the Hardest

I came back to San Diego Thursday night so that I could be here Friday morning to interview with Channel 10 news. I don't think the story ever aired, as it was scheduled to Friday night. Matthew was also moved from Scripps Mercy Hospital to a rehabilitation hospital in San Diego. They determined he was ready to begin a more rigorous physical therapy routine. Unfortunately, a bureaucratic nightmare determined Matthew's well being yesterday, as the new hospital could not dispense his pain medication until it was "in the computer" from the previous hospital. At first, I assumed Matthew might have to wait an hour. An hour turned into nearly four hours and by this point the pain was excruciating. I asked the nurse several times, but unfortunately due to whatever policies hospitals employ, she could not do anything to make my brother more comfortable. The problem is that once pain reaches a high enough level, it becomes extremely difficult to control and to reduce. Matthew's nurse arrived with the medication. She maintained a very kind demeanor. He took it, but half an hour later, he was still in tremendous pain. After some time, we asked if he could be given an additional dose, but again, he had to wait a long time. I arrived at 3 to the hospital and at 7, he was still suffering. I took his hand and I ran my other hand through his hair and around his forehead. I tried to coach him to breathe deeply and focus on his breath, one moment at a time. After a few minutes, tears began to fall from the corners of his eyes. I told him how much I love him and I how glad I am that he is here, even though it is so hard. I noticed on the pain chart earlier, that a "10" (the highest level) is when someone's eyes are closed and they are moaning or crying. Here he was, a level 10 and there was nothing I could do. I kept telling myself that the first day of anything new is always the hardest. There is an adjustment period, no matter the excitement or anticipation that proceeds the event. My mom spent the night with him at the hospital last night and she watched him get into a wheelchair this morning. I think my brother was a bit distraught after his experience. He hadn't realized how much he is still dependent on the medication to support him in feeling well again. It was a wake up call and a reminder that this is a long road.

I have been hearing so much about the people of Haiti and the terrible plight they are suffering. I can't help but wonder why in an age of so much technology and innovation do people have to suffer so much after a disaster? Why can't supplies get in? Why can't we just figure it out and get past the obstacles? At times my lack of patience flares up, as I see my brother's suffering as connected to every other person's suffering in a tragedy. No matter how far we get, pain will always be. It is a part of our existence. It is part of our being. It is how we measure happiness and joy, against the depth of our pain. So as my brother breathes through his pain, I have to be able to breathe with him. And I will keep breathing for all those suffering, whether oversees or here at home.


  1. Erin, I'm so sorry Matthew had to suffer that pain for so long yesterday. For all that you couldn't take away his pain, I know having you and your mom with him was so much better than suffering alone.

  2. Erin thanks so much for writing. You are a wonderful writer and your insights are heartbreakingly powerful. Hearing Matt's pain makes me angry with the world as well. People shouldn't have to suffer, but like you say it seems inseperable from our existence. Every day I think of Matt and your family and am reminded of the staggering challenges people will endure, solely for love. Keep going! My heart is with you all.

  3. The hospital really goofed this time. Matthew did not have to suffer so much. Although the pain will make Matthew a stronger person. Without pain there is no gain. Matthew’s strength and your gentle love will bring him through this and he will survive. This is a crucial moment for him: he is making a choice to heal or to fall. Matthew has chosen to heal. Your love gives him strength.