Tuesday, March 30, 2010

one of your own.

what happens when the one you're taking care of happens to be one of your own?
no, not a family member, but it almost feels like it.

one of our charge nurses had breast cancer many years before.
she was cancer free for so many years.
but then she started getting sick again.
and going for exams.
and mammograms, and scans and then it hit us....
it was back.
she was now a patient.
usually the charge nurses were the only ones that took care of her.
she had her own room in the back.
by herself.
she didn't want any of us going in there.
she didn't want to be seen that way.

but one day, towards the end of her illness (and life),
she was my patient.
i looked over my list of patients and her name was there.
wait, what?!
i thought....
i thought only the best took care of her....
i was so nervous.
she had allllways watched over me and my care for the patients.
i remember her telling me that sometimes i was too sympathetic and i needed to be empathetic and harder on them.
i remember one day i was trying to get a patient to walk (after surgery) and she just kept crying and saying "but it hurts. i just wanna lay here. i don't wanna move." and i was just letting her stay there. (i was still new. i didn't know how to put my foot down yet.)
and then Anne came in and said, "now, i know that it hurts you, but if you keep nursing it like a baby, it's not going to get any better. you need to walk. and go against your pain and get yourself better. it's going to heal just like that. with you lying in bed, and when you go to stand up, it's going to hurt worse, because that's how you let it heal, with you in a ball."
that woman got up and we walked.
that worked!
and i used Anne's line for the rest of my nursing days.
but now here was Anne.
she didn't want company.
she didn't want to eat.
she wanted very little.
didn't want her bed changed.
didn't want to move.
how do you FORCE a terminal patient into something?
i mean, it's like it's their last few days (for all we know),
heck, even if it were there last few months, we wouldn't know any different....
and here we are forcing them to do something that could be so incredibly painful.
i couldn't find it in me to force her to do anything.
because i KNEW that if ANYONE would force themselves to do something,
it would be her.
so i let her rest.
i tried to get her to eat.
she wanted nothing on her tray.
everyday i'd go on morning break, and head down to the cafeteria, i'd ask her if she wanted something from down there.
she usually wanted a plain bagel, not toasted with cream cheese.
so i'd buy it for her and that's all she'd eat.
sometimes she'd get a chocolate milk too, but that was only sometimes.
she was wearing a wig.
all this time she'd worked, she was wearing a wig.
i never knew!
i remember one day i went in and asked her if we could get her cleaned up and changed and make her bed up.
she didn't really want to move.
and i pulled up a chair next to her.
all of my other patients were good for the moment.
she was bald.
her dark, dark skin was bald (and dry).
i asked her if she wanted me to rub lotion on her hands.
i'd brought a basin of warm water and soap over for her to wash her face and hands....
and i rubbed lotion all over her hands.
she fell asleep when i'd massaged her other hand and forearms.
she looked so peaceful.
that's what i remember the most about her.
her hands.
she was a very tall woman.
her hands were large.
she had a very long face.
and her hands....
they do stand out the most.
her nails were very round and very strong.

Christmas was her very favorite holiday.
it was october.
Christmas was still a few months away,
but her health was deteriorating quickly.
we brought Christmas to her.
we brought in a fake tree and decorated it with lights and bulbs and a tree skirt and presents.
she was fighting to make it to June.
She'd said, "i've gotta make it to June."
her son was graduating high school then.
She made it 2 days past our Christmas celebration for her.
I wasn't there when she passed.
She passed on the night shift.
They said she passed peacefully.

Her viewing was just a few days later....
I remember pulling up and parking at the funeral home.
I tried to pull myself together, but suddenly broke down in my car.
i cried good and hard for a few moments and managed to gather myself.
i walked in and sat to the left.
i could see her profile.
her hair.
her glasses.
and her nose.
her lips.
she wasn't smiling the way that i remember her always smiling.
and i sniffled to myself....
and all the nurses from all of the floors started pouring in.
we were free to walk up and say our final goodbyes.
her funeral would be a closed casket ceremony.
i had to say goodbye now.
i walked up to her, and her hands were crossed on her stomach.
her large hands were crossed on the stomach of her navy blue business suit.
again, i don't know why certain things stick out to me so much, but it was her hands that i remembered the most.
and I held her hands.
they were so cold.
not the way i remembered them when i'd rubbed lotion on them, but there was just a sense of peace that came over me.
I held her hand and said a prayer and the tears began to fall....
I felt someone's hand on my back.
I don't know who it was.
I still don't....
but i knew it was time for me to step to the side before i lost my composure.
I do still think of her often.
I can still hear her voice....
i guess that's what happens.
....especially when it's one of your own....

Rest in sweet peace, dear Anne.


buymebarbies said...

AWWW, you re-create the moment for me everytime with your nurse stories!! I feel your sadness and her pain.......

Bossy Betty said...

Oh, this story just made me cry! Your love came out in your actions.

sarahjayne smythe said...

Wow. This story just guts me. I have so much respect for what you do on a daily basis. I'm glad you can find comfort in it. :)

Ms. Anthropy said...

Your words have the ability to paint such a vivid picture. I truly admire that.

Mainland Streel said...

I can't imagine how emotionally hard it would be to care for those in pain, especially when you are caring for someone you know. :(

Ashley King said...

thanks ladies!
i hope the sad stories don't wear everyone out.
there are usually nothing but good feelings behind most of them.
though there is sadness, it's MORE than amazing to be a part of people's lives like this.... i have met SO many amazingly strong and incredible people doing this type of work. it REALLY makes you go home and appreciate what you have.

thank you for all the kind words!!! =)

Shan said...

That was beautiful and bittersweet.

I'm stopping by from Bossy Betty's. Glad I did (and I love your photo!).


Such a great post! My mom's been a nurse her entire life.... I don't know how you do it. It really takes a special kind of person....

Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us!

Ashley King said...

Shan, I'm glad you came by!!! thank you very much for your sweet words.

@ASBLACKASOBAMA, I send your mom my love and appreciation. it is a very difficult to be in, and it takes a tough (or super soft) heart to be a good one. Some of them are in it for the wrong reasons and could (or should) be replaced! It's also an extremely humbling experience. everyday you leave work, you thank God for your blessings (and usually count them twice that night)....

it's always my pleasure to share them! =)

Ashley King said...


its a difficult FIELD* to be in. sorry for that. my mind goes a little bit faster than my fingers sometimes. =)