She had been in the hospital for 2 whole weeks, and still wasn't ready to leave. She has sickle cell and unfortunately is in and out of the hospital because of her pain crises. But the other part of her disease is the anxiety, the fear of a pain crises coming on, and that was always the hardest thing to work on while she was in the hospital.
Ironically, like most sickle cell patients, when you talk to her she seemed fine, cool, calm and collected like a cucumber. But then you would inquire about the pain, and how she feels and she would tell you 9/10 pain. She was very mature for her age as well, with her box braids and glasses, sitting up in bed on her laptop. But unfortunately, she had become so used to the pain, that it was almost as if it was a normal part of her that she had somehow adjusted to.
So we had finally gotten her to a good place, both physically and mentally. Her pain was under control, we sent all of her pain meds to the pharmacy. She had an appointment set up with her Hematologist and with social work to help manage her stress. We were just waiting for her mom to get off of work so she could come pick her up.
I went to pay my final visit to her, to check in and see if she needed anything else. I had just eaten lunch so I popped some apple flavored trident in my mouth and made my way to her room. We talked about how she was feeling about going home, about school and the upcoming holidays. I asked her if she needed anything else and she said,
"You got some candy?" She must have smelled that apple gum on my breath. Unfortunately it was my last piece so I promised I would find her some candy.
Although it was busy, and there was clearly other work I needed to do, I walked over to the gift shop and picked out a variety of Now and Laters, some for her and some for myself as well.
Ever since I was a kid, I loved Now and Laters. In elementary school I would always stop by Cooks, the local bodega and buy a ton of candy, stash it in my desk and sneak it during class. Peanut chews, Sour patches, Swedish Fish, you name it, I ate. Of course I would share it with my friends or we would exchange candies or other treats. And to think, decades later, as a grown ass woman, I was still eating them.
So I made my way back to her room and double/triple checked that she didn't have any allergies or any contraindications to Now and Laters. She giggled at all my questions and reassured me that she would be fine so I handed them over to her. It was the first time I had seen her smile since she had been in the hospital. Sometimes it's the little things that make a difference for our patients, the things we can't prescribe. And sometimes taking the extra time to get to know them is all it takes.
I waved at her and told her hopefully I wouldn't see her any time soon. And she smiled and smirked and said, "Now we know that's unlikely" and unfortunately there was some truth to what she said.
I felt good about the moment we had just shared and made my way back to the 4th floor to finish up some of my work and to take care of my other patients. But as soon as I sat down I had a phone call. It was the nurse from upstairs calling about the patient I had just seen, complaining about throat pain. All I could think was: if she is going into anaphylactic shock from those Now and Laters, I'm gonna kill her.
I ran upstairs, and she was sitting there just like I left her, on her phone swiping through her social media. I asked her about her throat pain and she said she had it for like 3 weeks and it wasn't that bad it was just kind of annoying. I gave her the side eye and once again waved good bye and told her I would see her later, like the candy she was chewing.