I was breathing heavy, weakly fanning myself with my visit summery papers as I laid up against the elevator wall. Holding my head with the other hand, sweat ran down my back as my knees wobbled, I winced in pain between labored breaths. An older gentleman who had joined us in the elevator as we were leaving the doctor’s office was starring at me; I wasn’t interested in meeting his gaze. Strangers have only ever made me feel uncomfortable when I’m not “myself” so I kept my eyes down until I heard a ding. Ready to make my escape, I looked up only to realize we had stopped a floor short of the exit for someone to get on. I let out a frustrated sigh.
Everything in the elevator moved slow, including the doors and the speed in which it moved down. I was hanging by threads when this gentleman says, “Are you okay, do you need something?” in the most sincere and concerned voice, even though my fiancé, Dillon, stood next to me.
It took me forever to finally meet the man’s gaze, though barely, I pushed out a labored, “I’m fine,” as the elevator doors opened. I tried to smile at him as I slowly exited the elevator but it felt faint. Dillon went ahead of me to go get the truck as I stopped to sit in the closest chair I saw. With my eyes closed I fell into the chair, I was so overwhelmed with fatigue, pain and nausea.
Then I heard this gentleman’s voice again. He was asking again if I was okay, and I opened my eyes to him just staring at me, concerned. I reassured him I was okay, but he wasn’t satisfied and continued to press me. He began to ask if I had the flu or something, which is when I reluctantly shared that I had heart failure and it just made me like this sometimes. I was nauseous, more than before because I was just waiting for the awkward conversation that I was sure to follow. The one where he would stare at me blankly, confused as to what to say. Then quickly he’d blurt out something he thinks is polite but would just make me uncomfortable like: “but you’re too young for that.”
However, this time was different.
In response to my heart failure comment, he chuckled and said, “oh yeah, that’ll do it! Are you sure I can’t get you some water or something?”
I was immediately elated, for the first time a stranger didn’t make me feel uncomfortable in the middle of a really horrible time. I reassured him my fiancé was getting the car and that I was just waiting, which is when he then offered to wait with me. Of course I politely declined his offer and he finally went on his way. It was only a brief encounter but it was a nice moment in an otherwise unpleasant experience. Always remember, kindness matters, it helps in ways modern medicine and treatment plans can’t.