"Oh, and by the way, your patient has lice."
This last inspirational comment thrown to me in passing as the day shift nurse scurried to escape from work and make her way gratefully home at the end of a long day.
"Uhhhhh....!" I responded intelligently as she disappeared down the hall.
"NO! Not lice, not my patient!!" I wanted to shout, "Tell me it's something else, I don't want to deal with that...."
But I did.
Not only did I wash her hair twice, but I spent two hours combing through tangled masses of hair and through MILLIONS of nits and live lice scurrying over the pillow.
I literally had to scrap the lice off the comb every time I ran it through her hair. I thought I'd seen bad cases of lice overseas. I officially saw my worst case ever in the US.
While I got behind on meds and my other patients were left to fend for themselves, I stood in her room and listened to her ramble about the voices she was hearing and what it was like to live at a mental hospital.
Gathering up the lice-infested sheets and dumping them into the trash, I tried to assure her that the only thing she was hearing in the room was the buzz of her IV pump as it infused fluids to her dehydrated body.
"Really?" she stared at me blankly, and I was startled by the look in her eyes: a blank, internal look that seemed not to comprehend the world around her.
I walked out of the room willing myself not to itch my head like crazy. Its only because your are thinking about it, I told myself, there are no lice in your hair.
As I walked in and out over the course of the night, I tried in some small way to bring reality into the world inside her head, but really it was impossible. Though I tried to point out to her reality, she couldn't grasp it.
I don't know if anything I did that night made a difference. I don't know if I got rid of all the lice, I don't know if I gave her a taste of reality, I don't know if anything I said made it into the world she was living it. But I do know some things: that I tried and that I learned a little patience and that I am thankful that Jesus is coming again soon to claim us from sin and sickness!