Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reach Out and Hug Someone

In my now 8+ months of navigating the ins and outs of transplant, I've learned a couple of important lessons. Some of these lessons, like the obvious "cherish each breath," or the slightly less obvious (but equally important) "never let your dad go out bike riding by himself in the middle of Manhattan after the dry run from hell," have proved invaluable and will no doubt have a long-lasting impact on my life (not to mention my father's).

Others, well...let's just say that not all lessons are created equal.

I'm not really sure what the value was in learning, for example, that "shoes and pillows will randomly go missing in the hospital." True, this is a fact of life that all chronic patients will eventually have to deal with: stuff does indeed sometimes get lost in the craziness that is a hospital admission. On the other hand, did I really need to sacrifice a perfectly good pair of Pumas and my sister's favorite bed pillow for that lesson? I doubt it.

Still, though, lessons are lessons, and I've been trying to take the good from all of them, no matter how ridiculous they might seem at the time. So when I found myself recently at my center's mandatory lung transplant seminar series, I honestly tried hard to listen and catch whatever little life lessons might be gleaned from the day's lecture. After all, I'm nothing at this point if not a dedicated transplant patient. So I listened, and I learned, and I was right there with the speaker until suddenly, out of the blue, she imparted these words of wisdom: "Your lungs may be sick, but you still have your arms, right? So reach out and give someone a hug!"

To be honest, I didn't hear too much after that.

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, I would like to state for the record that I am in no way anti-hug. I have nothing against hugs as a show of affection, gratitude, or consolation. Truth be told, in fact, I rather enjoy a well-timed hug from someone I like -- it shows me that the person cares, or at the very least that s/he is willing to fake it. And that sort of gesture can go a long way when you're dealing with declining health and a seemingly endless parade of dry runs, trust me.

But still, hugs? Seriously? I just wasn't buying it. Granted I don't have a masters in social work to back me up on this, but the importance of hugs seems like a lesson better suited to a room full of nap-deprived kindergarten children than a room full of oxygen-deprived transplant patients. Not that there weren't other, better points made in the seminar (to be fair, some of the lecture was actually pretty useful), but somehow I found it hard to get past this one piece of lukewarm advice. Because telling a transplant patient that a hug might be the answer seems to me kind of like offering a gunshot victim a band-aid. Sure, it's helpful insofar as it shows that you at least noticed the guy was bleeding, but it also seriously underestimates the scope of the original injury.

Nonetheless, I came home that evening determined to try out my newfound life lesson. Well, okay, not really. I actually came home just as cynical and disbelieving as I was during the lecture. That is, until I saw Sampson sitting on the couch, minding his own business and seemingly attempting to nap in all his cuddly cuteness. And this, I decided, was the perfect time to try out that "hug lesson" that I had so recklessly ignored. After all, my arms weren't sick, right?

As I reached out to wrap my arms around my cuddly little shorkie puppy, I couldn't help but notice how right the speaker's advice had actually been. I hadn't even completed my hug yet, and already I was feeling better, lighter, happier, and...slimier?

Um, yeah, you read that correctly.

Turns out that when shorkies appear to be napping they might actually be chewing a small rawhide bone into a disgusting, mushy mess inside their sneaky little mouths. And when innocent humans reach out to pet or hug these shorkies, they may find themselves suddenly and without warning covered in the gooey remains of said bone, which the shorkie has either offered to them as a gesture of returned affection or (more likely) spit at them in a defensive attempt to avoid the unasked-for hug. Either way, I'd say the moral of the story is probably "never try to test out bad transplant advice on an unsuspecting puppy."

Lesson learned.


  1. I love your sense of humor, Piper. When I was waiting for my transplant, it seemed as though no one agreed with me on things that I found to be so ironically funny. Really? You want me to hug someone? So kudos for hugging your pup, as animals are just as much a source of healing than humans. Instead of a shorkie, I have a wonderful cat named Louie, who never fails to sense when I need some extra attention, even though there are human friends and family helping out, too. I'm hoping every day that the next call will be, to borrow Coke's tagline, the real thing!

  2. I remember Maggie was always the perfect one to make me happy when I was feeling down. She would lay on my chest and I would feel 100 times better. And I agree that a rightly timed rightly placed hug by someone you know and care about can certainly help you feel better. Too bad Sammy was not at that lecture to give back in a humane way HAHA

  3. Oh, Piper....I'm still laughing. Know that if I was there, I'd be giving you one great big Beatty hug. :-)

  4. I am not surprised at all. I can totally picture her saying that. So glad I missed this seminar.

    Jerry (jfnym)

  5. This has to hit the list as the most insensitive random crappy things a medical person has said. I think they should leave the dark humor to us!!

  6. She was pretty ridiculous! I agree. I'm trying to think positively that the next one will be good. Somehow I doubt it..At least you got some humor out of it from your dog!