The first time I walked into Carol’s room I was more intimidated than anything else. I was instructed to have a “one on one” with her because family and friends never visited. Talking to her to would be rather difficult because she could not move or talk. I walked in and saw her lying there with tubes stuck into her arms and with machines beeping around her bed. A thick brown goop was dripping into her nose, and I realized she was on a feeding tube. The room smelled of urine and formaldehyde. I stumbled into the room and stared at the blank walls. My mind was racing, what was I suppose to say to this lady that couldn’t say anything back? How was I supposed to carry a conversation with someone that would never respond? I wanted to run away and never look back. But I knew that I couldn’t do that; I had committed myself to this internship and there were people relying on me.
I forced myself forward and stuttered “Hi Carol. How are you?” No response. Of course not, but still I waited. “I was hoping you would like me to rub lotion on your hands?” That was the standard procedure in one on ones: go in, carry a conversation, and carry out hand therapy with them that included a hand massage with lotion. Carol just stared out the window not even phased by my presence. I took out my lotion, squirted some out, and picked up her hand. Noticing her painted nails I commented, “Your nails are very pretty Carol”, and began to massage her hands. I finished massaging her hands and then not knowing what else to do; I recorded my time, which was only seven minutes and asked, “Would you like me to come back and visit you again sometime?” Then Carol turned her head and smiled.
For the next four months Carol and I developed a relationship without using words. I visited her two to three times a week and every time it became easier to communicate with her. When my internship ended and I had to say goodbye to the residents Carol was the hardest to part with.