Living to inspire others began with my own divinely delivered inspiration. Two years ago, while waiting for treatment, I saw a patient who looked like she could really use a hug. I was moved to ask her if she would like one. She was surprised but readily accepted and returned it with much enthusiasm. We began greeting each other like that.
Eventually, other patients who waited with us in the morning joined in. For nearly a year, there were seven of us hugging each other as we arrived. Then as new patients came to the clinic I would introduce myself and the others, offer a hug, and invite them to join our “hug group.” No one has refused yet, and I’m certain I’m not the only one who looks forward to that energy exchange three times a week.
There are now 10 of us in the hug group. It has had a profound effect on those who participate. Sometimes we discuss our anxieties. Sometimes we open up about painful challenges. Other times we share our experiences with ESRD and dialysis-related issues. Listening, I believed sharing my own experiences and hard-won victories might prove useful. This prompted Q&A sessions and group empowerment. I saw them become convinced to become their own advocate and take charge of their treatment.
“We begin treatment feeling uplifted, and leave feeling understood and heard.”
These interactions have mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits which, in turn, affect us physically in a positive way. We begin treatment feeling uplifted, and leave feeling understood and heard. The hug group may be the only time some of these patients are hugged, listened to, or feel supported. After staff members commented on the energy of our shift being very different from the others, I realized I was being validated: “Right direction, keep going!” Giving a sincere hug to show care changes the vibration and energy of everyone and everything.
As Christmas 2015 holidays approached, I observed several patients who had withdrawn into themselves or were filled with apprehension because they were alone. I personalized stockings for every patient on my shift. Inspired, my mother helped me stuff each with lotion for dry skin, lollipops for dry mouths, hand warmers for cold hands, and warm socks for cold feet. The feedback was immediate and overwhelmingly positive: patients were grateful they were remembered and that somebody cared how they felt. The connection had been made and walls began coming down!
It isn’t about spending money or giving material things. The best gifts are those of time and attention: giving myself, giving a hug, saying “I care” or even “I love you.” One patient told me she re-reads cards I’ve given her whenever she is in need of uplifting. That makes my soul sing. Of all the things I could do to help patients feel better, I’ve become aware that what they really need is emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual support. My experiences with my hug group make clear the importance of a community of touching, talking, sharing, hope, and love.
Over the last two years, I have learned that living to inspire others brings much JOY. In helping others, we help ourselves. As the Angels once told me, “find a need and fill it.” Serving others is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Dedicated to and in memory of Jeanetta Hudson,
with love & hugs.
Billie Jo Seffrin was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) at age 5. After receiving a transplant at age 28, her body reacted unfavorably to the immunosuppressive drugs. Therefore, she began hemodialysis five years post-transplant which continues presently. She is grateful to have learned of the healing power of hugs.
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