A retired police officer, Rick* is used to bearing a heavy weight on his shoulders, to bucking up, facing his problems head-on and doing what needs to be done to fix them.
That’s why when his doctor referred him to MyNurse to help him manage his high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, Rick was torn. He knew he needed to start taking his health more seriously and appreciated the help being offered, but he valued his privacy and was used to handling things on his own.
Indeed, Rick felt a bit self-conscious about having a stranger calling to check in on him, about having someone keeping track of his blood sugar and blood pressure readings, knowing when he slipped up and ate something that spiked his numbers.
So when Rick’s Wellness Coach, Sharla, would call to give him an update on his progress and ask a few questions about how he was feeling and the challenges he was facing, Rick was cordial, but kept things short, treating the call almost like a task he needed to check off a list.
He listened, answered her questions, acknowledged her tips and suggestions and then quickly hung up.
The only thing that seemed to break up this routine was the barking of Rick’s dog, Henry, in the background.
Sharla didn’t mind keeping their calls brief and to-the-point if that was what made Rick most comfortable, but she also knew that to help Rick build better habits and reach his heath goals, she needed him to trust her and be able to share how he was feeling.
So she made a point of asking about Rick’s dog or telling a corny joke before they ended their chat.
“I hear Henry back there,” she’d say when the dog barked. “How you doing, Henry?” And Rick would open up a bit, saying a few words about the walk they’d taken that day, a new command he was teaching the dog.
“Hey, Rick,” Sharla said as they ended their weekly call, “You know how police dogs save up for retirement?” She waited a few seconds. “A 401-K9,” she said, pulling a chuckle out of him.
Still, Rick kept Sharla at a distance.
Then one day, he faced a problem he couldn’t simply push through on his own: He couldn’t pee.
It started gradually: He’d go to the bathroom as usual, but when his stream stopped, it felt like he hadn’t quite finished.
Over time, the problem worsened, and though he’d stand over the bowl for five and ten minutes at a time, waiting for more, his urine either dribbled out a tiny bit at a time or wouldn’t come at all. Sometimes, he’d feel the need to go and would rush to the bathroom, only to be frustrated when he had no luck.
The sensation of retaining urine and the false urge to relieve himself was maddening, but Rick tried to endure it on his own, never mentioning it to Sharla. It was, after all, an embarrassing topic to bring up.
It was only after much prodding from his wife that Rick begrudgingly visited his doctor, who diagnosed his chronic urinary retention and gave him a catheter to use to empty his bladder three times a day.
The catheter was uncomfortable at first, but with time Rick got used to easing the tube inside and was grateful for the release that followed.
Things were going fine, until one morning after he’d used the catheter, something didn’t feel right. Rick felt a sharp pain and wondered if he’d pushed too hard.
But he shrugged it off — after all, this wasn’t supposed to be a pleasant experience.
Even after he’d started to bleed, Rick figured he’d probably just nicked himself with the tube. The pain wasn’t constant and he could handle it. Rick assumed he would heal on his own with time.
Luckily for him, he had a call scheduled with Sharla.
Sharla had received an update from Rick’s doctor about the urinary issues, and when she called Rick she made sure to check in about how things were going with the catheter. After hearing his brief summary of what had happened, Sharla immediately recognized the danger.
She warned Rick that a urethral injury of the sort he was facing could lead to serious, potentially life-threatening infections and other complications. She pleaded with him to head to the emergency room.
Soon after, Rick sat in the ER lobby with his wife, watching nurses and patients come and go around him, waiting for his turn, trying to ignore the blood slowly seeping through his shorts, soaking his boxers.
Then everything went black.
When he awoke in the ICU, he turned and saw his wife at his bedside. She looked familiar, but he couldn’t remember her name. He couldn’t remember why he was in the hospital, where he lived, his own name.
He’d been waiting in the lobby over six hours and had lost nearly four pints of blood. During that time, the doctors told him, he’d developed blood poisoning and an infection in his bladder and kidney.
He stayed in the hospital for seven days, the pieces of his life coming back to him bit by bit.
Needless to say, when he got back home and recovered, Rick wasn’t exactly in a trusting state of mind. And when Sharla called to check in on him, he was polite, as always, but even shorter, even more guarded than usual.
When she asked him about the hospital stay, how he’d been feeling since, Rick said he was feeling weak, but well. Though he didn’t say it, Sharla could tell that Rick’s experience in the ER had shaken him.
So she tried to lighten things up. She asked about Henry.
He was a good boy, Rick said, and when he mentioned offhand that Henry would have made a good police dog, Sharla took the opportunity to share a few stories from her brother-in-law, who was, as fate would have it, a retired canine police officer.
This simple gesture resonated deeply for Rick. Fascinated, he immediately started to open up, asking questions about the experience and recalling some of the run-ins he’d had with canine units during his time on the force.
Sharla shared one of her trademark corny jokes — “How’s life as a police dog? Ruff” — and again she and Rick were starting to build rapport.
But before they ended their call, Sharla shifted back to a more serious tone.
“I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better, Rick,” she said. “We sure are glad to still have you around.”
Rick was struck by the simple gesture and by the weight of the health scare he’d survived, He took a long time to respond.
“Thank you,” he said. “I’m grateful.”
As the weeks went by, Rick continued to open up.
He soon started to share more about both his health and his old life on the force, and before Sharla knew it, Rick was even sending her photos of Henry on a walk, sporting a new bandana.
“Send me some of your dog too,” he texted, and Sharla was more than happy to oblige.
Through her thoughtfulness and compassion, Sharla has shown Rick that she cares about him and his progress, that she sees him as more than numbers on a screen, more than just another patient she needs to check off a list.
With Sharla’s help, Rick is learning that no matter how strong you are, it always helps to have one more person on your side.
* Member stories are inspired by real interactions between our members and Wellness Coaches, but member names and some other details have been changed to protect privacy