Don't Curse the Nurse!

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The Singing Patient

on October 28, 2014

Imagine James Earl Jones, or at least his twin brother, in a hospital gown, that’s what he looked like — and he filled the bed. I don’t mean in a “your medical records confirm that you are morbidly obese” way. I just mean that everything was big — his arms, his fingers, his head, and his, as his wife put it, amazingly big size sixteen feet.

I wasn’t struck by his size when I met him in Bay 4 to help prepare him for surgery. I was humbled by why he was there. Jay, I’ll call him that to avoid confusion with my earlier reference, had Stage Four Colon cancer. That means it had already spread to somewhere else in his body. I knew from reviewing his history he had already had a colon resection. Today he was getting a port placed so he could begin chemotherapy.

I hooked him up to the monitors, pulled his pre-op meds, and said a silent prayer before starting his IV. There are some patients you’re willing to ask for a little extra help on. Most patients get detailed explanations of everything we are doing, but with him I kept it short and sweet. Treating him like this was all new seemed like kind of an insult. Jay, in return, was polite, and acquiesced with deep breath sounds, and extended arm, and a willingness to answer questions I’m sure he’s answered dozens of time.

So let’s cut to his return. That’s when he blew me away.

OR said they had a patient to bring out to recover. I gave them a Bay number. OR nurses give bedside reports, no patient name is necessary. Each bay is fully equipped for any post op patient
The double doors open and at first it sounded like humming rising from the stretcher. Then as the supine figure in the stretcher came closer, I could tell it was singing, a soulful gospel tune, not sad, just heartfelt, and at first I didn’t want to believe what I was hearing. People rarely come out to us wide awake. And Jay, he didn’t seem to be awake in the typical sense. His lips barely moved. He didn’t respond to any comments or directions from me.

He just kept singing.

It took me a few minutes to realize he wasn’t singing a tune maybe heard over and over again on some popular Christian station.

He was talking to his maker.


He didn’t sound like he had a care in the world.

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