How casually hearing, “Your dad has heart failure” is like a punch to the gut
The nurse said it so casually, like she was saying, “Please pass the salt.”
“Your dad has heart failure.” Her high voice had a sing-song ring but it was like a punch to the gut. She rambled on for a minute of two before I could stop her.
“When you say, he has heart failure, that’s not language we’ve ever heard used with our dad,” I said, stumbling over my words.
“Oh, well it’s like grade one, so it’s not as bad as it sounds,” she said, still in that high pitched voice.
You might have wanted to lead with that, I thought.
Turns out dad has some stiffness in his heart which makes it hard for him to breathe and thereby causes heart failure (it’s obviously much more complicated than this but you get the gist). He also now has pneumonia, a ton of fluid in and around his lungs and low oxygen.
All of this happened more quickly than I can grasp. A week ago, he was chatting up his ‘lady fried’ a 96-year-old woman at the assisted living facility where he’s been staying. Today he’s on oxygen with heart failure.
I think so often we use words that don’t resonate for others. In my profession, we use a lot of acronyms and when I talk about work with my husband and use ‘WNE’ and ‘TM’ he always rolls his eyes until I get it and expand on the acronym.
To me though, there’s a difference between work acronyms and a medical professional dropping the, “heart failure” lingo.
I’ve already posted a note on the hospital’s ‘contact us’ form—not as a complaint because I know she didn’t say it with any malice, but more as we say in my job, ATM — A Teachable Moment.
Dad is stable, he’s in good hands and of course he loves when the sing song nurse pays him a visit.