Don't Curse the Nurse!

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A Love Story

“I went off on my first mission and when I returned, she was different. I flat out asked her what was up and she said she had found God.”


It was my turn to be on call for Saturday. We pre-op patients in Recovery (PACU) on the weekend. There is no sense in opening two departments for what we expect to be a three or four patient day.

He had a Veterans cap on. I nodded, tapped my finger to my forehead to acknowledge his service, and thanked him. He carried the conversation from there, sharing a summary of his two year spent living and fighting in Da Nang, South Vietnam.

When there was a lull in conversation, I asked him how long they’d been married.

His wife, moving little due to her hip fracture, lay with her hands folded together, a content smile on her face as if his presence removed the pain she was enduring.

My question prompted his response above. Below is more of what he shard:

“There was something different about her. I couldn’t put my finger on it; I just knew I had to have whatever it was she had. So, she explained it to me and the next Sunday morning, I put on my suit, held her hand real tight, and walked into her church. It was as scary as landing at Red Beach – I knew what I was facing there.”

I waited to hear more, but he, like most veteran I’ve met, got to the point fast.

“I worked hard and got God in my heart so I knew she and I would be together forever.”


Another one of those days I can’t believe I get paid to do this job.



The hats

  Image    Maybe I am prejudiced after all.

I treat them different — the patients that come in with the hats on, that is. They are almost always in wheelchairs, and they don’t talk much. At first their eyes seem vacant. Then you realize it’s not the case, they’ve just seen a lot, and life now is a surreal but glossy 8×10 in comparison to their past.

But back to the hats.

            Even though they are in a building, these patients don’t take their hats off. And no one would ask them to. The caps they wear are faded from the sun, the threading on the bill frayed from the fingering they do when they pull it lower. In the center skull of the cap is the embroidered emblem of the military branch of which they served. Their years of service or the war they fought in is always stitched in gold. They don’t wear their caps in a jaunty way like high school punks. The hat is all the way on, the bill pointed straight forward, protecting their eyes from sunlight and glare from fluorescents, not obstructing their vision, or yours of them. You can see the dark pupils of a veteran, the straight on intensity of their stare.

            When I see the hats, I feel like a new nurse again. I’m nervous, overly eager to please. I keep my voice low, my tone gentle, almost submissive. It’s not fear. Its overwhelming respect —admiration for their willingness to risk their lives so I can exercise all the freedoms I have.

            I often have to ask them to remove their hats before leaving the pre –op area. When I do, I take the hat in two hands and walk it to waiting family member.

            If they can leave it on great, if not, it is never thrown casually in a belongings bag.


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