Friday, May 18, 2012

The Independent Nurse

I have met many people since starting this blog and The Fibromyalgia Crusade. Some have allowed me to interview them and agreed to share their stories. This is one of them...

Dolores* was a nurse at the big hospital in town. She worked the night shift in the ER for many years, thriving on the high-octane pace. Numerous patients claiming to have Fibromyalgia graced her care during this time. The common attitude about the hospital was that Fibromyalgia was a big fat joke. Bunch of fakers wanting to lay around all day and bilk the system, high on drugs and complaining about nothing. Dolores would humor them but never liked giving the narcotic injections they were obviously desperately seeking.
As she aged she started slowing down and her job eventually became overwhelming. Transferring to the maternity ward she found new mothers and fathers with the occasional hysterectomy a much more agreeable place to spend her evenings. It was to her absolute horror when one day physical pain hit so bad she could not get out of bed. Every inch of her body throbbed with her pulse, fire zipping through her like an electric conductor. The blanket hurt her skin, her hair hurt her head. This pain had been mounting over the last few years, but certainly never this bad.
She went to see her doctor who ran every test, scan and procedure available, yet there was no explanation for her suffering. Outrageously frustrated, the pain became so bad she started missing work. Dolores could no longer complete four 12-hour shifts a week and was forced to switch to part-time. As her doctor continued to rule out any and every illness which shared her symptoms her pain and fatigue grew nearly unbearable. She made it to the assisted-living care facility where her mother lived less and less. This brought more and more guilt laden phone calls that only compounded her stress.
Her solid reputation took terrible hits as she failed to complete her work duties. Holding patients up and changing their beds became damn near impossible. Some days even the newborns were just too heavy to hold. Dolores refused to accept this Fibromyalgia diagnosis that was the best thing her doctor would come up with, and sought out second and third opinions. She knew everyone was snickering behind her back. But this is not Fibromyalgia! she wanted to scream. Panicking, she refused to believe anything so horrible, a pain this grand, was caused by that wastebasket diagnosis. There was no way all those patients she scoffed at behind their backs for all those years were feeling this. This was living hell.  
Slowly but surely her world crumbled all around her. She lost her job, then her health insurance. Her daughter got pissed at her when she refused to watch her grandson. Dolores could hardly keep her eyes open and knew she was not capable of looking after an energetic two year-old safely. Work friends ceased to be friends. Her boyfriend decided he was not up for this, eight years her junior and unimpressed with her rapidly shrinking capacity. Her condo was paid off but she was sucking her retirement dry, having long since exhausted her savings account.
She hit her own personal bottom the third time she was denied for permanent disability from Social Security. Seeing no hope, no possibility for the future, she swallowed half a bottle of Vicodin. But she was lucky. Her nosy neighbor walked past her kitchen window and spotted Dolores passed out on the dinette table, the empty bottle of pills resting upright on the floor. Dolores woke up in the ER, lying on her left side with that thick tube down her throat, gasping for breath as her stomach fluids pumped out her mouth. Her former colleagues stood around and clucked their tongues. She wanted to die from embarrassment.
It has been eight years since that horrible afternoon. Dolores was offered a hand up by a lady she barely knew. A woman she saw a few times a day and nodded a terse head in greeting towards, her next door neighbor. Gloria* was a hippie, earth mother incarnate. She had wild carrot orange hair and smelled of lavender. And was young to walk with a walker. Gloria sat by Dolores’ bedside and they just talked and talked for hours.
Gloria had Lupus. She gave Dolores a crash course in the world of chronic illness. Gloria taught her that accepting her diagnosis, deconstructing her life, and building it up again in a way that supported her limitations was possible. Her new friend showed her there was life after Fibromyalgia. Gloria introduced Dolores to the world of alternative medicine. Holistic philosophies became Dolores’s saving grace. She hired a disability attorney and with better documentation was approved on a new claim. Medicaid was a few years to follow. She found a doctor, not affiliated with the hospital, who has helped her find a specific mix of medications to keep her depression, pain and insomnia at bay.
The shame and embarrassment of having Fibromyalgia fades as the years pass. Most of the people in her former life are not included in her current one. Her mother has made friends at the facility she lives in and is not nearly as much of a nag. But her daughter has not accepted Dolores’ new lifestyle and resents her mother for making such a big deal out of nothing. One of the hardest parts of this whole process has been learning how to allow her daughter to not believe her, and be okay with it. Some days are bad and some days are better. Yoga keeps her muscles from coursing with too much pain. She carefully budgets as much acupuncture and massage as she can afford. It was quite a journey to get to this place and Dolores is still trying to forgive herself for all those poor patients suffering with unbearable pain she snickered at and treated like drug addicts.

Thanks for joining,

*All character names are fictional to protect the anonymity of the contributor.


  1. One thing I'm finding is that karma is a bitch and every thing I ever dismissed in someone else has come to visit me personally to correct my thinking. I can relate to this story, as I'm coming out of a flare after thinking I was tolerating an uptick in activity quite well. So wrong. I want my hot tub and a very soft bed. and for the cat to NOT jump on me while I'm in it!

  2. Hi Leah!
    I reblogged this on my Wordpress site: (in about 5 hours)
    Thank you Dolores* for letting Leah interview you.

  3. I sure hate to read this. Thank you Delores for sharing your story. I was a high school teacher, and in 2010 finally could not longer work. I had worked for years with pain and missed many days of work due to not feeling well and/or hurting. Some days, I did not feel like getting out of the bed, but pushed myself any way. My husband has tried for several years to convince me that I was in worse shape than I would admit. I still resist the urge to admit that I can't do something. I also have RA and OA on top of my fibromyalgia. Until you have hurt like someone with fibro, you can't understand what we deal with day in and day out.

  4. Unfortunately I kind of have little pity on "Delores". The only people I ever wish fibromyalgia on are the assholes in healthcare that call fibro pts fat, lazy ass fakers and drug seekers. To them I say "fuck you, I hope you get it". I've worked as a hospital pharmacy technician and my degree is in Occupational Therapy. The people LEAST tolerant fibromyalgia are co-workers and any ED staff.

    1. I'm a nurse and to you i say i understand your anger. But i sure wouldn't wish anything on anyone! Especially fibro!

  5. Watery Tart, she apologized for feeling that way about Fibro She lost her friends at the hospital that did NOT even believe a former collegue I think it tookna lot of guts to admit your former feelings She now suffers the pain of fibro..We need to help her not bring her down with hateful words We all know how she feels She does NOT need to feel any guilt from us watery tart

  6. I know exactly how Delores felt. I am a registered nurse diagnosed 2 years ago but when looking back ive most likely had fibro for 10 to 12 years. My whole life slowly took a downward spiral. I was a good nurse working in emergancy and ICU dept but couldnt do it. My performance suffered and lost my jobs. Unfortunately i used ETOH to self medicate. Its not a good thing to do. I work in a long term care facility where some days the residents get around better than i do! I am now trying to regroup and create a better life for myself. Its a struggle. Yes my coworks dont understand and i find it hard to find a MD who will help. Unfortunately fibro is difficult to treat. Ive been told i'd be better off with Reumatoid Arthritis since its treatable. There seams to be little available for us with fibro that works. Anyway, it helps to read of other nurses who have fibro. I dont feel so alone.

  7. I am guilty. I felt that way about patients with FM. Now the shoe is on the other foot. I am waiting for the official diagnosis but after a bit of searching on the internet, I feel certain FM is what I have. I'm 54, working FT nights on M/S. I don't know how much longer I can keep it up. My doctor told me to get off of nights. But I couldn't keep the pace of day shift. Don't know what I will do. My youngest is going off to college in the fall. If I can just make it till the end of the year then I should have an idea of how things will go.