Monday, April 26, 2010


I always considered myself a relatively forgiving person. That was until I experienced situations with nurses and doctors in Michael’s health care that made me question my ability and capacity to forgive.

Forgiveness according to the online dictionary is defined as,
“to excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon.
Secondly,to renounce anger or resentment against”.
Each time a fault or offense occurred with Michael someone always apologized but was that enough? Did I really forgive them? Or was I simply forgiving them in words but holding on to anger and resentment that was then reflected in my actions or attitude?

One time there was a nurse in dialysis that accidentally disconnected a hose that caused Michael’s blood to pour out on the floor in front of him and me. An apology was whispered but along with it the comment, “no big deal”. Trust me, it was a big deal to us. Another time, a nurse and resident who didn’t understand the affects of fluid overload in conjunction with Michael’s rare syndrome caused him to stop breathing. A code blue with ten minutes of heroic efforts occurred to get Michael to breathe again as my husband and I watched helplessly. Michael miraculously survived but a two week self induced comma surrounded by tremendous suffering followed. An apology was made but so much physical and emotional damage was done.

Unfortunately I would be able to give many more examples but the examples and details are not what are important here. Painfully, what I learned from these and other situations such as these is that it is not about the words of apology or even the sincerity of the apology but the work that follows. All are vital to how we receive and process an apology and move forward from it. At the time, I felt as if accepting the apology was necessary in order to continue receiving the health care we needed for Michael.I now believe that accepting it appropriately with forgiveness allows for the healing process to happen not just for the patient and family but for the nurse and medical staff as well. It restores what is needed to continue the important work they do with the hope of doing it better than before.

The truth is we all make mistakes and all of us are just trying to learn and grow from them. Unfortunately in health care a mistake can be as monumental as life and death or as minuscule as a scared young boy and his mother. Both are equally important and require an apology; a heart felt, look in the eyes apology that would mend hearts and calm fears but with it, the potential to improve the health care process and its relationships. In that we all are healed and the medical experience as well as the human experience are transformed.

Did I forgive them? Yes, I believe I have especially when I think of how many times I have been forgiven both earthly and spiritually. So the next time you have an undesirable experience with a nurse or doctor remember forgiveness goes both ways and in it you are both healed and changed.

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