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!
Reblogged this on Big Red Carpet Nursing and commented:
thank you kindly for the reblog! =D
My pleasure 🙂
If you left everything at work, then we won’t have such interesting things to read. 😉
I’m scared that one day I will lose my memory and independence. Life is short.
you’re right. i fear losing my memory too… i journal prolifically but worry that future generations won’t be able to decipher my poor penmanship. *_*
and… you make an excellent point there, nocturnaltwins! ^_^
You are sooooooo good. I love how you quickly tell your stories and the conclusions, obserations and what you draw out. You are going to write a book, right?
thank you lani! i keep talking about that book but find a million ways to procrastinate… ^_^
Very nice. 🙂
This is so poignant. I am very attuned to seasonal change around me too. It’s a beautiful, sometimes tragic, thing.
This is a touching story told beautifully. So much wisdon – we all end up that way, and it happens quickly – and poetry – your descriptions of the moon, the snow, the river. Truly lovely.
Very well done. The world is better because of caring nurses like you.
aww. thank you for your kind words. it is a privilege for me to serve my patients. =)
Awe. You made my day. My grandma recently passed away and one of my thoughts was how her hospice nurse must have felt. The morning after, my grape vines which I was sire were dead for good, had little green leaf shoots. There was death….and life…. thank you, for being a caring nurse. Few nurses get credit, or treated how they should be, and I appreciate the caring gentle ones.
i’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandma. =(
i haven’t worked as a hospice nurse but losing a patient, regardless of the setting, is always sobering, humbling, and difficult. every patient i care(d) for has made a profound impact on me and taught me so much… i am sure your grandmother’s hospice nurse felt the same way.
green leaf shoots on your grape vines…that’s beautiful. thank you for sharing…
and thank you for your encouragement! it means a lot. =)
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Beautiful imagery. You captured the melancholy feelings of contemplating old age, as well as the way we desperately grasp for Spring to give us hope. And you are obviously the good kind of nurse 🙂
This was so heartfelt, what a compassionate nurse you are. I love asking people about their most personal stories even when I first meet them. Sometimes I have to refrain for the sake of decorum.
Growing old is scary … especially losing simple functions. *sigh.
you are good at what you do. not only because you know what you supposed to do, but also because you have the heart for it. on a side note, you making me miss boston. i haven’t been back since 2006 😦