Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Every Part Of The Body Is An Expressive Instrument Of The Soul

Day 13 of the WEGO writing challenge: Pick up a book and open it. Use the first sentence that you read as the title of today's blog post.

"Every part of the body is an expressive instrument of the soul."  - Signs of Life by Scott Hahn.

Everyone speaks without using their voice.

I remember from my days as a nurse educator that only 10 percent of our communication is verbal. The other 90 percent is information relayed by our posture, our expression, our movements, and our proximity to others. We all intuitively know this to some degree. Sometimes this 90 percent of communication is called "body language".

While working as a staff educator in an Alzheimer's community, becoming fluent in speaking the language of the body was a vital skill. Many times body language was the only means of effective communication that those in advanced dementia states were able to use. I recall one conversation in particular with a client named Dick. Dick was very hard of hearing and refused to wear his hearing aids. in addition, he had severely limited speech ability at that point in his Alzheimer's disease, so our conversation utilized very few words. It went something like this:

Dick approached me with brow furrowed, cradling his left arm with his right hand, and a pained expression in his eyes.

I stood directly in front of him and smiled. He gave me a nod of recognition, and rubbed his arm, which had a gauze bandage wrapped around his forearm. The skin encircling the bandage was bruised.

I pointed at his bandage with a quizzical look in my eyes.

"Oh," Dick said. "Fell."

I gave him a gentle pat on the shoulder, then looked at him with a question in my eyes.

"Hurts." he said.

A medication nurse was standing about ten feet away in front of her med cart, busily dispensing medications to other patients. I pointed down the hallway in her direction, and looked back at Dick.

"Nurse?" he asked.

I nodded and patted his arm gently. I began to walk in the nurse's direction, and Dick took my hand. He shuffled slowly down the hallway with me.

He stopped halfway there. "Pills?" he asked.

I turned to face him and smiled. I nodded my head, then looked at him with eyebrows raised.

I could see him deciding whether he needed to take something for the pain. "OK." he said.

We made our way together to the med cart, and Dick looked expectantly at me. He clearly was asking me to do the talking.

"Hi Janet," I said. "Dick would like me to tell you that his arm hurts." I looked to him for affirmation and he nodded. I left him in Janet's capable hands, but as I turned to leave, I could see Dick's expression change from pained to relieved. I felt the same way.

As I walked back to my office, it occurred to me that I hadn't actually said one word to Dick, but we had communicated pretty well.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

well written

annie said...

Would that not be a wonderful way for us to communicate with our doctors? Imagine...we don't even have to speak and they understand what we need...priceless. Dick was in good hands.

Kelly said...

Well, here's my try:

"Why Miss Lacy, I take the pain from your back, and I have to put it somewhere, and it's not going to hurt the bedpost, so I put it there." The Irrational Season by Madeleine L'Engle.

It did take a few books to get a sentence I could work with, but on this third try, I got a winner. I'd like to leave some pain with the bedpost, wouldn't you?

Madeleine L'Engle is a favorite writer and her Crosswicks Journals are a gift. A good friend of mine says books are either windows or mirrors and the best books are both. These books are windows in to Madeleine's life but I often feel like I am looking into a mirror, one that reflects a deeper image with clarity.

Jenny Pettit said...

I loved reading this, and I loved that it was real. And I can't WAIT to show Shawn:)

Julia said...

Thanks, everyone.

Kelly - I'd LOVE to leave my pain on the bedpost! What great imagery. Thanks for sharing.

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