Help me, please! Those three words get stuck in my throat. I suppose that’s because I perceive that to others the phrase sounds the same as: I am weak, I am needy or I’m a failure. Yet, I’m regularly forced to seek assistance often, maybe too frequently for my taste. The reality is my fear is that people will get sick of helping me and then what will I do?
I’ve been urge to ask for help a lot over the last few months since my physical condition deteriorated, requiring me to use a cane to walk and undergo four procedures. After my last one walking, sitting and lifting things were difficult.
Four bandages lined my back, just to the left of my spine, a half hour after my surgeon completed my medial branch blocks. I’d chosen not to take a sedative before the procedure; that was a bad move. Instead, to get through the pain that shot from my head to my feet, I said a little prayer. Tears ran down my cheeks and clear snot dripped out of my nose as the surgeon pinpoint the pinched nerves beneath the bulging discs and bone spurs, as well as the nerves affected my osteoarthritis of my s1 joint, that were making it impossible for me to stroll around with ease.
The searing pain told me when he’d found the sources of my discomfort. I flinched with each needle print and injection, muffling my tears in the headrest. Then, just as quickly as it began and the procedure was over. I stood up on my weak legs and tingling feet. I was then guided down into a wheelchair and brought into the recovery room. It was in there I first noticed the bandages over the swollen holes on my back.
My alarmingly high blood pressure told the nurse I was in more pain than I was expressing. She didn’t ask me, she just grabbed an ice pack and placed it behind me so I could finally sit back. When I winced, she called and requested pain medicine for me too. A second nurse, who remembered me from my previous procedure, came over and prepared tea for me and brought me graham crackers. At that point, I believe, I’d only uttered a handful of sentences. None of them included the words, “help me please,” yet all my needs were met.
In less than an hour, my mother arrived for the journey home. As soon as we arrive at my house, my mother got my husband pillow and blanket so I could rest. She then turned on the teapot and grabbed the saltine crackers. For hours, we mindlessly watched TV and talked. The next day, we tested out my legs by going out to eat and taking a short walk. She changed my ice packs every 20 minutes, kept the tea flowing, and made my meals. At night, she slept in the bed beside me, opening her eyes every time I move to make sure I don’t fall or need something. I didn’t even have to ask her to do it. I didn’t realize my nurses and mother’s intuitive sense of how to help had spoiled me; that is until I limped into work.
My friend and co-worker, Mike, was a welcome sight as I wiped a single tear from my eye just inside the lobby of my workplace. The stabbing pain shooting down my leg after walking from the garage to the office was almost unbearable. I was embarrassed about being a wreck in front of the dozens of people waiting to be in the audience for a taping of Live with Kelly and Michael. So, I tried to quickly collect myself. I wasn’t able to reach my company id to open the security turnstile and I was having trouble holding a bag containing my hot tea and muffin. There was nothing I could do because I couldn’t set down the cane in my right hand so I stood there paralyzed. I think the panic on my face gave Mike the clue that I needed his assistance. He walked beside me after gesturing to a security guard to open the turnstile for me. Then, he pushed for elevator and escorted me to my seat when we reached the newsroom floor. He didn’t leave my side until I have my back support in my chair, I’ve on my spine and adjusted the height on my chair so my leg could rest comfortably on a box.
My supervisor, Pete, told me to alert him if there was anything I could do. However, I deflected his offer by joking that the only thing I needed was for him to double check my story copy because I was on pain meds. My co-worker, Erin immediately rushed over and offered her help. She put my lunch and ice packs in her fridge and volunteered to do anything I needed all day. She said all I had to do was ask; that sentiment was echoed by my co-workers Jay, Mike, Kelly, Alex and Tyler. Erin changed out my ice pack right after the noon show. I didn’t go to lunch nor did I ask anyone to heat up my food. I just felt like they’d done enough for me already. By three o’clock my ice pack was warm and my back was throbbing. I thought about asking someone to change it out but I suddenly felt like a burden. I thought, we’re here to work not running an outpatient facility so I hid my discomfort. At 5 o’clock, I slumped over my keyboard, resting my chest on my desk. I battled my excruciating pain for another hour before I struggled to me feet and tried to hobble out while everyone was busy with the six o’clock show.
An hour or so later I arrived home where my mother had an ice pack and dinner waiting for me. Shortly after we ate, the two of us shuffle off to bed. The next day when I came into the office, Erin greeted me by asking why I didn’t call her for help. I didn’t have much of a response other than to say I’m not comfortable asking for help. Seconds later, my co-worker Jay chimed in to encourage me to let go of my pride and ask for help. After our exchange, I wondered when I’d be comfortable asking for help. I mean, I pray to God for assistance yet I fear putting trust in my fellow man. I suppose that’s based on past disappointments and abandonment. Yet, I know each person should be judged on his or her merit. So, by the end of my second day back at work, I’d said, “help me, please” a couple of times and each of them help came to me.
Two weeks later, facing a fifth and far more painful back procedure than ever before, I’m learning to say, “Help me, please.” I asked my fiancé to move my furniture back into place after my carpet was cleaned. I asked my parents to spend the week with me while I recover. And, I asked God to give me the strength to ask for anything else I need. In return, I got a response. As I pulled up to a church to pray and light a candle, a man walked up to me. He flipped up a sign to say he was homeless and hungry. I asked him if what it said was true. His response, “yes, ma’am, can you help me please?” So, of course, I did.
About the author:
Nika C. Beamon in a TV writer and producer in New York City. She is the author of the memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House. In 2009, Chicago Review Press released her non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married. She’s also the author of two mystery novels, Dark Recesses and Eyewitness.
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