Nursing carries heavy responsibilities. It requires long days, longer nights, and impossible schedules. In celebration of one of my favorite nurses, I’ve reprinted an except of our story from my book Song in the Night. Her name has been changed, but everything else is as it happened in the summer of 1997.
One nurse in particular that we loved was named Mandy. She was slender and petite, with lovely dark hair and makeup that was always perfect. She had an exotic air and a husband who was a businessman in Africa. She always seemed to know what to do and did it expertly. Kevin said that she did the best job of suctioning the secretions out of his lungs of anyone on the floor, so I watched her carefully and had her teach us her own technique.
One day in particular, things were very trying. Kevin was still stick, and I just had to go run a quick errand. There was no other family member to stay with Kevin while I was gone, and Kevin kept begging me not to leave him. Mandy saw my dilemma and offered to sit with Kevin until I came back.
Thankfully, I took her offer and rushed out. I knew she was busy, and Kevin wasn’t the only patient that needed her. So I hurried as fast I could and breathlessly returned to find her sitting peacefully at his bedside, chatting amiably with Kevin as she gave him a manicure.
A warm rush of gratitude flowed over me. She could not have realized how little of our human dignity was left after these long weeks. The harsh environment of living in the world of the near-dead had ground us far into the dust. Although people around us had been so good to us, and most of the medical people tried, the very nature of the situation was immensely dehumanizing. We existed on little food, sleep, or comfort. Rehab schedules did not allow time for living. Whoever was staying with Kevin slept on a big chair that folded out into a small bed that was in his room. We often slept and lived in the same clothes. Our world revolved around learning a myriad of medical procedures, basic caregiving, and getting Kevin through another day.
There wasn’t time to truly grieve, to hurt, to process what was happening, or even to feel. We were often treated like machines, pushed and prodded and educated in things we neither envisioned nor wanted to learn. There were days Aaron and I didn’t know who was taking care of our youngest daughter or even where she was. That haunted me, and it caused recurring nightmares in which I had lost her. For a while, she bounced between friends and family. At fifteen, Daniel was learning physical therapy techniques and sitting long hours with his brother. Erik worked full-time down in Lewiston and drove the 100 miles up to Spokane, every weekend, to help.
I understand that by necessity, the medical world is run by schedules and operates under financial limitations. Faced with the politics of medicine, it’s easy to reduce a patient to “the C2” in room 210 or “the gallbladder” on the fourth floor.
But Mandy had remembered otherwise. She remembered that we were people…hurting, frightened, and overwhelmed. And she cared enough to stop and help us that one afternoon in the way we really needed help.
– Pamela Thorson
Song in the Night
Published by Luminary Media Group