Traumatizing Help: squirrels and caregiving

Traumatizing help It all started with a normal hunt for food.  An innocent little squirrel dashing across a seldom used road to get some food for his family.  He darted and dashed in a frantic hurry, but the maintenance truck zipped around the corner and the poor little squirrel saw stars and then the world went black.

Two students walking up the hill spotted the little smooshed squirrel in the road.  They crept closer and just when they were ready to leave him for dead, he twitched.  That’s all it took to win his way into their hearts.  They snatched him up, holding his bloody tail carefully, and snuck past the girls’ dean into their room.

They created a nice little nest for him in a box and laid him gently inside, wiping away blood and watching for another twitch.  He remained still, but breathing. They left him alone for a while during dorm worship and when they checked on him again, his eyes were open and his tail was bleeding badly and hanging crooked.  They picked him up and examined him carefully.  That tail was not going to make it.  Whenever he moved they could tell he was in pain and they sympathized greatly.

A third girl entered the room.  She worked with animals.  She would know what to do. She decided the tail was bad and grabbed a pair of scissors.  Girl one held the squirrel and girl two cut through the tiny bit still attached. The squirrel jerked awake, startled and angry.  This changed the tone of caring for Mr. Squirrel.  He was mad and the girls felt badly. One girl went to dispose of the tail and the other two, in their wisdom, decided he needed a bath, from all the blood.

With the best of intentions, the two girls held the terrified little squirrel in firm grips and dipped him into a sink full of sudsy water. That was truly the last straw.  Little squirrel went absolutely berserk!  He’d had enough.  He chomped into the finger nearest him and turned in a lightening quick circle and clamped onto the palm holding his behind.  The girls shrieked and automatically let go.

What followed could surely be used as a movie sequence for crazy dorm-life activities.  The squirrel found all his energy and flew like a crazed maniac across every surface of the room.  He was fast and angry and little dots of blood helped the girls track him around the room.  They chased and called and the little guy flew faster.  After one girl had thrown the tail out the front door of the dorm, she joined the crazy squirrel hunt going on in room 309.

Three girls jumped and leaped and almost caught him time after time.  But he had no intention of suffering any further indignities, even though without his tail his balance was off.  He just ran faster, squeaking and clawing and scrambling across every surface of the dorm room leaving disaster behind him. A girl pounced and suddenly the room was quiet.  The squirrel had nothing left to give.

He lay, panting in the nest in the box and the girls turned their attention to bandaging each other’s wounds. An RA entered.  Her eyes widened at the disaster and the blood.  She insisted upon calling the dean and worried over the bite marks. The poor little squirrel was returned to the bushes beside the road, with the hope that he could find his way home.

The girls’ dean and I ended up laughing ourselves into tears while reconstructing the story.  Three girls with the best of intentions traumatized the very squirrel they were desperately seeking to help!

How many times, as a caregiver, did I receive advice that left me speechless?  Carrot juice enemas?  Fly to another hospital?  Stop putting your child through this and let come what may. How often do people who care deeply make the caregiving journey that much harder?

Recently I spoke with the mother of a leukemic patient whose family questioned their choices of treatment.  They were sure this family was not doing everything they should, in spite of the fact that teams of doctors from more than one hospital had formulated the treatment plan.  I just saw a facebook post from relatives of a small girl in ICU with a shocking medical issue.  The post thanked people for their prayers and support but BEGGED that people please refrain from advice and/or spreading unnecessary imagined worries. Good intentions.

As time has lessened the hurt of some of the things that were said to me while I cared for my boy, I’ve come to realize that people truly care, but sometimes the mouth moves before the brain engages.  When dealing with parents facing a struggle in disciplining their child, or with a family member caring for an ill loved one, or when a friend is faced with a medical emergency – let’s NOT cut off their tail, dunk them in water and chase them around the room.

Let’s hang onto our advice (especially that advice we’re not actually qualified to give) and just offer encouragement.  Let’s ASK before jumping in to take control of someone else’s health.  Let’s only share with the prayer chain the actual facts and not all the conjectures. Let’s help, rather than traumatize!

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  • Oh, gosh!

    You raisse an excellent point…that when we offer care, we tend to offer it to our own reflection.

    Or the opposite. I tend to push myself to the point of literal collapse, because I will have to do it all over again tomorrow, and have to know that I can still, eventually, get up. But I know I’m pretty weird, and when my wife gets sick (as she is now, with a truly nasty cold) I coddle her a bit too much. She gets to the point of saying, “Hey, I CAN do something for myself!”

    You’re so right, that it’s a matter of asking.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/02/your-dying-spouse-119-caregivers-psalm.html
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 119 – A Caregiver’s PsalmMy Profile

  • great story carol…on many levels! as a nurse, i cringe at the medical advice i hear people give…who know nothing about the details of the patient or their particular type of cancer for example. only that they have cancer and that it will be just like a friend or family member’s cancer in a totally different part of the body!! so frustrating. i want to hit them and ask them to just shut up! what a burden. same goes for child raising issues.

    thanks so much for a great story that illustrates a big problem:)
    martha brady recently posted…HOW DID I LEARN ABOUT THE NEED FOR KIND WORDS?…My Profile

  • Oh, my. I’m pretty sure that even though I know better, I’ve probably traumatized people I’ve wanted to help before! Great post!

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