I hadn’t been on a prop plane in years until yesterday. And yes, the experience was all I had built it up to be in my memory—cramped, noisy, and fraught with more jolts and turns than a Six-Flags rollercoaster. In fact, about twenty minutes of the ride had me on pins and needles, reaffirming my hatred of rollercoasters.
There were two bright spots in my ninety-minute joy ride that really struck me. First of all, Tina, the flight attendant, realized that, no matter how she might try to dress it up, it was still ninety minutes in a prop plane. Her light demeanor and engaging personality actually brought about a round of applause after she presented her “important safety information” spiel. I’ve been on a lot of large aircrafts, many with first class seating, and I have not seen a flight attendant earn a round of applause before. It reminded me of all the great front-line workers in healthcare who care for patients who are enduring unpleasant situations ranging from ungodly wait times to anxiety-provoking procedures. Like Tina, the real stars help patients endure unpleasantries in ways that minimize potentially negative experiences.
The second bright spot of my bumpy transport was my seatmate Doug. Doug’s wife had a serious stroke six months ago. During our trip together, he told me several heartwarming stories about how doctors, nurses, and therapists went above and beyond his expectations to care for her. He told me about the fast-acting ER team that administered the clot-buster and the skilled surgeon who worked on her. He is so grateful for their clinical expertise. But the stories that made him tear up more than once on our journey together were not of a clinical nature. He told stories of nurses who eased his mind by giving him their personal cell phone numbers so he could go home and sleep. He shared stories about the housekeeper who sat with his wife and decorated her room to cheer her up. He told me how the acts of kindness made all the difference in the world to him and his family as they rode the post-stroke rollercoaster.
Every day, healthcare workers are on the front lines supporting and encouraging people who are facing the ride of their lives. Listening to Doug, I am reminded why I love working in healthcare. There can be a lot of turbulence, but helping people through the rollercoaster ride of their diagnosis, treatment, and, sometimes, long recoveries is life-changing work. Be proud and know that you make a difference.