Volunteering on Saturday was so humbling.

Katie and I bathed Mrs. L, a woman who had been in the hospital for about a month. She was still completely out of it. She only responded with moans and blank stares. It was actually  pretty scary that stroke had impacted her so severely.

Katie helped me gather all of the supplies and get everything set up. I was bathing the right half of Mrs. L and Katie was cleaning the left half. As we reached her upper thighs and started to clean her privates, she had a bowl movement. Full on diarrhea was coming up between her legs and just pooling in her privates. Katie thanked the Lord that we were double gloved, and we got to work cleaning Mrs. L up. It smelled terrible and Katie did most of the work. It took us almost an hour longer than a normal bath should’ve taken.

The poop was gross, but what upset me the most was the glazed over look in Mrs L’s eyes. She didn’t know what had just happened. On one hand, I was thankful she didn’t have to be embarrassed, but it was so sad that she couldn’t control herself and didn’t know what was happening.

We tried to brush her teeth, but every time we got the sponge into her mouth she bit down and broke the sponge and almost choked. Her teeth were turning black and the inside of her lips were caked in brown and green goo. They don’t get to brush her teeth often because she could die if she chokes on the sponges.  I have never been so thankful to get to brush my teeth every morning and every night.

Mrs L also had super long fingernails. Apparently the hospital isn’t allowed to cut nails because of some line between health and appearance. Mrs. L’s fingernails had layers and layers of grossness under them. One layer I wiped off was brown, the next green,  then yellow, then black.

Bathing this 50 year old woman has been the most humbling experience of my life thus far.

No one becomes a nurse and looks forward to patients pooping during baths, but the people I volunteer for are so selfless. They do that kind of stuff and much worse everyday. They smile through their patients heavy body odor, they offer help to rude family members, they break their backs trying to help patients stand and walk and use the restroom, they wipe poopy bottoms without a complaint. Changing an adult diaper is a lot more complex than changing a child’s diaper. Nurses are truly humble servants to their patients.

I never wanted to be a nurse. When I got put on the stroke unit for volunteering, I was kind of upset. I thought it was going to be boring and not at all what I needed. It’s turning out to be exactly what God intended.

I’ve never been the most selfless person. I put myself first because it’s my life and if I’m not putting myself first, then who is? And while I still think it’s important to make yourself a priority, this position is teaching me a lot about selfless service and humility. My patients literally cannot do simple tasks by themselves. They can’t walk or eat or use the restroom. They rely on us for every need, so we have to put them first.

Doing all of these things first hand has really changed my mindset. I know how valuable it is to serve others. It can be pretty disgusting, but I feel so fulfilled after I’ve helped someone accomplish a basic need. I’ve grown as a person. I feel more mature. I know I’m not the only person in the world that matters.

I didn’t know how self centered I was until I went to volunteer on Saturday. My perspective has been irrevocably altered.


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