A Tale of Two Nurses


I’ve been fortunate enough in my own life thus far that I have seldom needed the help of a nurse. Not that nurses are bad, but often you find them in hospitals, and I’m fortunate to have only been in hospital myself when I had Maya.

I was reminded of two nurse stories by two different comments on Facebook, by two friends who do not know each other, neither of whom I’ve met in real life. One is a bloggy friend of mine, who commented that Karma is real, and we need just wait for it to catch up with us. The other is Kelli, who was an online friend of my mom’s, though she is younger than me. Kelli is going to nursing school, and posted a story about a kind and caring nurse.

Both of my stories are from my mom’s hospitalizations. Once in 2005, when she had her hysterectomy, and before she had started blogging. The other was in 2008, when she had her bypass surgery.

My mom was borderline diabetic, meaning she treated it with diet, and did not need to be on insulin. I know that when you are in the hospital, they give diabetics insulin to shore up your body against the stress of what you’re going through, even if you handle it OK with diet at home. When she was in the hospital in Sacramento for her hysterectomy, one day they brought her french toast for breakfast. She was trying to be conscious about her diet, and asked if they didn’t have something with less sugar, something that a diabetic might be better off eating. The nurse disappeared for about 45 minutes, and then came back with a packet of oatmeal, which she gave my mom. No bowl. No water. No spoon. No earthly way to eat it, unless she was supposed to open the packet and pour it into her mouth dry. Now, I do know that it was not the nurse’s job to get her oatmeal. It was not the nurse’s fault that food services were bringing sweets to diabetics. But perhaps she could have been kinder. She could have told my mom that she wasn’t able to get her anything else. She could have ignored her. But a dry packet of empty oatmeal with no way to eat it? That’s just stupid.

Then there was the nurse in Anchorage, when my mom had her bypass. I was staying at the hotel next to the hospital, and I didn’t have a car. I asked my mom’s nurse if there was a place within walking distance where one might buy a few things, the most important of which was hair spray. It was cold Alaska February weather, and I was willing to walk, but not more than necessary. She asked when I needed it, and I said, tomorrow maybe. She brought me a care package the next day…she had stopped at the store on her way to work, and brought me hair spray, a magazine, some chocolate and pretzels. She let me pay for the hair spray, but nothing else. I was so touched by her kindness, it almost made me cry. When my mom was out of surgery, but not awake, and the doctor told me it might be weeks or months before she woke up (because of the condition of her lungs), this nurse is the one I turned to for a consoling hug.

And a third nurse, while we’re talking about it. The day I left Alaska to come home, with my mom semi-conscious but not awake, still intubated, I stopped to see her before my flight. I was miserable at leaving her like that, and wished I could stay longer. Had I known she would be awake the following day, I would have changed my flight, but I had been there for 2 weeks already, and with an indefinite time of unconscious ahead of me, I couldn’t stay. I asked her nurse what time I should leave in order to get to the airport to make my flight, and she offered to drive me to the airport, as she was getting off of work at the time I needed to leave, and lived near there. I accepted her offer, and she got me there quickly and would not take my offer of money for gas.

I am sure the oatmeal nurse has had many kind days behind her in her practice of nursing. I am sure the two in Alaska have perhaps been less kind than they later wished they had been. We all have our up days and down days. But the oatmeal story still makes me mad, and the hairspray and airport ride stories both still make me feel the kindness that was given those difficult days.

6 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Nurses

  1. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to work as a nurse in a hospital. I think that your stories prove this point. Love the hairspray nurse. It’s the small things in life that make life better– and she certainly knew that.

    • It’s got to be a hell of a job, Ally. And I’ll bet the oatmeal nurse has many good days to be proud of. That just wasn’t one of them.

  2. I was in the hospital at the age of 9. I had to have an emergency appendectomy, but my appendix burst before they could remove it, so there were severe complications. I was allowed nothing by mouth, not even water, for several days.

    An aide mistakenly brought me a popsicle when all the other kids on the ward were having them. by the time my RN found out, I had eaten several bites. She looked first horrified, then heartbroken that she had to take it from me. She was a tough old bird, but I saw tears in her eyes when she tried to explain that it was a mistake and it would harm me.

    Most nurses I’ve encountered have been wonderful. I could never do that job. I thank them as often as possible because I know that, and I know how hard they work.

    • Nance, agreed! I’ve been at the hospital many times visiting family or friends, and gosh, what a job. You absolutely see people at their worst, having a horrible day usually. And they work VERY hard. Poor little you, having to have your Popsicle taken away!

  3. I have been in the hospital more times than I care to think about and to be honest, most of them have only been fair to middling.

    My mother was a practicing nurse (meaning out on the hospital floor) for about fifteen years, and I know it hardened her. But then she was already kind of hard to begin with.

    I think her worst memories were of burn patients who had to do that thing where they have to slough the dead skin off. I’m pretty sure she had nightmares.

  4. Oh, Julie! The part about the hairspray and the care package made me CRY! We have been in and out of hospitals for Little One more times than I care to count right now. The kindness of others has been made apparent to us just two weeks ago. Thanks for posting this.

    P.S. I was thinking of you…and your mom today. Sending heaps of love <3

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