I have have spent many years of my life as a nurse. I worked virtually everywhere in the hospital before I went back to school to get my Master’s to become a nurse practitioner. I saw pain, suffering, and death, but also happiness, love and forgiveness.
One patient sticks out in my mind. I came in that early morning after a long weekend off. I received report from the night shift nurse. The nurse sighed as she came to this patient’s room number. “Oh boy,” she said, “Good luck with this on!” I cringed. I already had seven patients to take care of. I didn’t need a difficult one. I started feeling overwhelmed. ‘What’s her story?” I asked. It turned out she was terminal. She was dying of cancer. It had started out as colon cancer and had rapidly spread. The surgeons had removed most of her lower colon and put in an ostomy bag to collect her feces. They had also placed two other urine ostomy bags when they removed her cancerous bladder. She had no family, and no one had come to visit her in the two days she had been there. She was described as “ugly and rude.” The final straw? The outgoing nurse said to, “wear a mask, the smell is overwhelming.” My shoulders slumped.
I walked to the patient’s room. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door. There was no answer so I walked in. I introduced myself to the elderly lady in the bed. She didn’t look at me. “I don’t care who the hell you are get out of here!” I smiled at her and told her, “Not until I do my job.” I carefully did my assessment and then put on gloves and emptied her ostomy bags. “I’ll be back to help with your bath and give you your meds.” She never made eye contact with me, nor did she speak to me that day or the next. I would go her room and chatter about nothing to her as I did what I needed to do. I talked about the weather, my flower beds, my daughter, anything to get her to talk. It didn’t work. On the fourth day, I stopped by my flowerbed and picked up a flower to bring to her. I opened the door and walked in. I laid the flower in her hand. “It’s from my garden.” I told her. She picked up the flower and held it to her nose. Tears ran down her face. I reached over and held her hand. “Thank you,” she whispered. The next day when I came to take report I was told that she was near death. I swiftly walked down the hall to her room. She had the wilted flower clutched in her hand. Her breathing was swallow and labored. I moved my chair and charts in front of her room so I could watch out for her. She cried out to me. I walked in and sat in the chair next to her bed. She grabbed my hand. “I’m scared. I don’t want to die alone.” I assured her that I would not let that happen. Around lunchtime she opened her eyes and looked at me. “If you had one dream that you could make happen what would it be?” I smiled at her. “I would write a book.” I told her. “You should do that. Don’t wait. Life is too short.” She turned her head from me as she said it. She woke up an hour or so later and I gave her more pain medication. “Is there someone I can call?” She shook her head and gave me a business card with a lawyers name on it. “What time does your shift end?” I told her it ended at 7:00 but I would be giving report at 6:30 to the night shift nurse. Close to the end of my shift I stood by her bed. She still had the wilted flower. I touched her hand. She looked at me. “You write that book. You hear me?” I nodded and as I turned away she breathed her last breath. I looked at the clock. It was 6:30 exactly. I called the lawyer and the funeral home. After I clocked out I went to her room and I took off all those ostomy bags and tubes. I combed her hair and bathed her and then I drew the sheet over her head and turned off the light. I left the flower in her hand.
I wish I could say that I wrote that book then but I didn’t. It took me another almost twenty years to write it. I wouldn’t have done it then except I had people, family and friends who were dream lifters and not dream destroyers, who encouraged me. Never underestimate the power of one person who can lift you high enough to reach your dreams and one that you will always remember.
This Thanksgiving I am grateful for health, for family, and for friends. There are many others who have none of those.
This Thanksgiving I am grateful for all the nurses and people who work in the healthcare field who will be sending their holiday away from their family to take care of others.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for dream lifters. Be a dream lifter. Make a difference in someone’s life!
Have a blessed Thanksgiving with your loved ones.
<a href=”http://msw.usc.edu/”> <img src=”http://msw.usc.edu/wp-content/uploads/My3Thanks-GratitudeBadge.png” alt=”Gratitude Campaign Badge” width=”150″ class=”alignleft border=”0″/></a><br />USC’s <a href=”http://msw.usc.edu/mswusc-blog/the-gratitude-campaign-call-for-submissions”>Gratitude Campaign</a></br></a>