The city skyline twinkled in the deep, dark night. Its light reflected upon the icy waters of the Atlantic.
En route to work, my car scurried around snowbanks from February’s fury. I rushed into the hospital to receive handoff from the off going nurse.
“He’s very fascinating, if you get a chance to chat with him,” my co-nurse reported during shift change. “But the main thing is to watch his breathing. And his wound.”
I scribbled notes and stuffed them into my pocket. “Got it.”
~ ~ ~
His gray hair seemed like it had just been combed. He leaned against a stack of pillows. His skin and lips were pink; his breathing fine. He gave a gentle nod. “Hello.”
I checked his vital signs. “How are you feeling? Any pain?”
“Actually…” he hesitated. “The other nurse changed my dressing, but… my rear…it hurts a lot now.”
I sensed his reluctance. No one wants to expose their back side, especially when there is a wound that might smell or ooze. “If it’s okay with you, I can take a look at it,” I offered.
The dressing on his tailbone had begun to peel off, exposing red, excoriated skin. No wonder he was in pain. “I have to grab some supplies, but I’ll be back to change it for you.”
“I’ll be here.”
Returning to his room, I explained before proceeding. “First, I’m going to spray this onto your skin, so when I peel off the dressing, it doesn’t burn.”
“Did you do it yet?” he asked.
After removing the old dressing, I applied a new one. “It’s off now, sir.”
He sat up. “Ahh… so much better. I was expecting intense pain when you ripped the old one off.”
“When you’re in the hospital, there are so many things you can’t control, like pain. So if I’m able, I want to help you to control what you can, as much as possible.”
He smiled. “Thanks for being so attentive and careful with me.”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
~ ~ ~
Around 5 a.m, I tiptoed into his room to draw blood.
His eyes were closed, his breathing calm.
I peered out of the window. The city was still asleep, too. Few cars were driving down the bridge. Sometimes runners jogged by the river, but today there was none. As the dawn rose, the pale moon faded. A frozen Charles River sat thawing at its feet.
I yearned to ask him about his life and his experiences…
….but isn’t this how we all will end up?
His eyes opened. “Do I have to get my blood drawn today? Can I refuse?”
“Yes, you definitely can,” I answered.
He nodded and returned to sleep.
~ ~ ~
Driving home, my gloved hands grasped the cold steering wheel. My muscles ached, my mind was foggy.
“To everything, there is a season.”
I tried to leave work at work, but kept lingering over my patient, in my mind.
Regardless of our accomplishments, one day, we will lose our independence. We will lose our bodily functions and require help to do the simplest of things, like breathing, turning, or sitting.
From a season of success, to a season of sadness, time passes by in a blur, quickly shifting from one season to the next.
Then, as I approached my driveway….an unexpected surprise.
Tiny shrubs, the palest of green, peeked out. They were little leaves conquering old snow.
My heart burst into tears.
I had never been so happy to see signs of spring.
Update: I’m super humbled to be chosen as an Editor’s pick this week on Yeah Write!