I try to be a compassionate person. I mean, I’ve been there, I’ve lived hard times, I’ve suffered, I’ve been alone, I’ve been kicked when I’m down, I’ve been sick and I’ve endured suffering.  I know what it’s like to be in need of kindness, friendship and compassion.

Webster defines compassion as

sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Over the Christmas holiday I was in the hospital for five days. My wife took me to the ER for one thing and test results showed that I was quite ill with other things that I knew nothing about.

Typically, I would go to UPMC Presbyterian, however, being convinced that doctors would give me medication and send me home, I made the decision to go to UPMC St. Margaret, which is closer to my house and therefore easier for my wife to get to.

I received nothing but world class care, which is exactly what I’ve come to expect from UPMC since I first started going there in 2000.  Some of the doctors who saw me on an impatient basis were clearly in need of a long vacation, a few drinks or both, but my nurses… I can’t say enough good things about the nurses who took excellent care of me.

After I was admitted to the hospital, I was severely dehydrated and throwing up every 10-15 minutes; it was dry heaves of course, however, one episode was particularly violent and long and my nurse Emily stayed with me the entire time, offering comfort and support and ensuring that I was going to be okay. While her words were soothing and they did help, more than what she said was her presence right beside me. She didn’t treat me as being abstract but rather with respect and compassion and genuinely helped get me through the situation.

A couple of days before Christmas, they had to code me because they were unable to find my blood pressure. I obviously had a blood pressure because I was talking with my nurse Emily II.  When the code was called, Emily II stayed by my side and explained everything that was happening and that was about to happen. She was, in a word, amazing. I could tell she was young and probably had not been out of nursing school all that long, but she handled herself, the situation and me like a pro.

I have severe anxiety and panic issues; things related to my PTSD, things that maybe aren’t; that’s why I go to therapy.  I could feel a panic attack coming on during the code and perhaps Emily could tell as well; either way she kept talking to me, kept me focused on her and not what was happening in the room.

I was transferred to critical care for a few days before being moved back to Emily’s care.

My final nurse while I was inpatient was a much needed distraction. She noticed my Isaiah 41:10 tattoo on my upper left bicep and told me later in the morning that it reminded her that she had forgotten to read her verse of the day on her Bible app. A little while later she came back in just to tell me that she pulled out her phone to read her verse of the day and was shocked to see that it was Isaiah 41:10.  Not knowing if I would believe her or perhaps thinking I’d be skeptical, she showed me her reading plan on the app and sure enough, her verse for December 26 was Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I enjoy discussing the various verses of Scripture that are important to me and have profound meaning in my life. Those few moments we talked about this verse distracted me from my reality, from my diagnoses and from what’s to come next.

I’ll be honest. For the second time in three years, I feel as though I were robbed of Christmas; I didn’t get to see or be with my family, I missed post Christmas family events, oh and let’s not forgot about the family member, who I already can’t stand, who felt the need to go out of their way to try and make me feel like less of a person.

Earlier in 2017 I had the privilege of interviewing my celebrity crush for an episode of and in sharing her journey as an amputee she said “sticks and stones may break my bones but your words have the power to destroy me.”  I never used to believe that; I always believed that we control how we allow the words of other to affect us; however, the longer I live, the more I realize that my theory is total bullshit, and that, as the Bible states, words have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21)

I started writing this blog about compassion and I believe The Dalai Lama summed it up best when he said,

Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.