Chicken soup for the nur.., p.11
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       Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul, p.11

           Jack Canfield
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  Susan Pearson

  Where Do Babies Come From?

  As Mercy Hospital’s three-to-eleven nursing supervisor for forty years, I experienced just about every medical emergency. I donned my administrative hat when needed, but loved it most when I donned my nursing one.

  Late one evening, I was paged by the understaffed emergency department saying a mom was threatening to deliver her fourth child while en route to the hospital. I hustled to the ER driveway just as a frantic husband sped their car into the ambulance driveway. He jumped out screaming, “The baby is coming! It’s coming!”

  I opened the door to the passenger’s side to find the young mom leaning back in the seat, groaning and pushing— with three little boys gawking over her shoulder from the back seat. I raised her skirt. There was the baby’s head. With one more groan and push, the infant was in my hands. People from the emergency-room staff raced to the car with medical supplies as I heard one little boy gasp, “Now I know where babies come from!”

  His little brother responded, “Yeah! From under the car seat!”

  Elaine Stallman

  Raspberries and Cream

  I once worked in a hospice, giving comfort to the dying.

  Although I loved the work I did, I often found it trying.

  The people that I cared for became like family,

  And when they died my heart would break just as easily.

  One woman in particular became a dear, close friend.

  Her children rarely visited her, especially near the end.

  Mrs. Wiggins was quite frail, her body wrought with illness.

  At first, she barely spoke to me, content to lie in stillness.

  Eventually, we became pals, as I learned more about her.

  She had three kids and one great love, who passed on long before her.

  Her children had no time for her, and she felt so alone.

  I tried to make her feel loved, as if this were her home.

  She’d tell me stories of her past until my shift would end.

  And then the next time ’round she’d tell them all again.

  One night I took an early shift and came to sit beside her.

  She whispered that her time was close and asked if I would guide her.

  Her fragile body looked so still, her breath was weak and shallow.

  I felt the coldness of her hands, her skin was dulled and sallow.

  I left to call her children, so they’d know the time was near,

  And that I’d spend the night with her to guide her through her fear.

  When I came back into her room, I saw that she’d been sleeping.

  And from the moistness in her eyes, I knew that she’d been weeping.

  I leaned close to her face and asked her if she’d had a dream.

  She gently smiled and said she’d dreamt of raspberries and cream.

  I guess I must have looked surprised at such a strange reply.

  But Mrs. Wiggins softly laughed and said she’d tell me why.

  “When I was just a little girl I had a favorite aunt,

  Who’d spoil and treat me like a queen and give me what I’d want.

  “My aunt would take me out to lunch and order anything I dreamed,

  And for dessert we’d share a bowl of raspberries and cream.

  Oh, how I loved the special taste so smooth and rich and pure.

  And how I’d so look forward to the times I’d spend with her.

  “But soon she passed away and I got older with the years.

  So busy with my schoolwork and my teenage hopes and fears.

  And since my parents worked so hard to fund my college dream,

  We never had the luxury of raspberries and cream.

  “The time flew by and I matured and soon was college-bound,

  Living in a tiny dorm, my freedom I had found!

  What little money that I had went towards my books, it seems,

  So never once did I indulge in raspberries and cream.

  “Soon I graduated and took on a full-time job

  Working for the minimum for some obnoxious slob.

  I met a man who stole my heart and married right away,

  And two years later had a child, with one more on the way.

  “All through the early wedded years of family love and bliss,

  Our finances were way too tight to think of things I missed.

  And as the children grew and went off to pursue their dreams,

  How then could I afford to buy my raspberries and cream?

  “Then my husband became ill and soon my love was gone.

  The kids went off to college and I was once again alone.

  His pension barely covered the expenses week to week,

  So I went back to work again to try and make ends meet.

  “And as the lonely years went by I managed to survive, But never had enough to spare to truly feel alive.

  I’d had a check-up for some pain and went in for an answer. That’s when my doctor told me I would lose my life to cancer.

  “The medicine and treatment cost more than I was insured for,

  And soon I’d cashed my savings out and spent all I had worked for.

  So how could I have possibly indulged in such a scheme

  As spending money on a bowl of raspberries and cream?

  “And now my hour of death is near and all that I can see

  Is how my heart breaks with regret for what will never be.

  Why do we wait to do the things that make us feel alive?

  Why do we give our life away in order to survive?

  “And all the times I wanted to I really had the means.

  I just didn’t think that I deserved my raspberries and cream.

  Oh, promise me you’ll never wait too long to find your dream.

  Promise me you’ll fill your life with raspberries and cream!”

  I smiled and wept and held her hand so tightly in my own,

  And then I kissed her on the cheek and begged her to hold on.

  I ran as fast as I could run to the nearest corner store,

  And stocked up on the very things I knew she’d hold on for.

  When I returned into her room she watched my little scheme,

  And giggled as I fixed two bowls of raspberries and cream.

  We sat and ate together until every bit was gone,

  And then I kissed her hand and held it tight as she passed on.

  Upon her face there was a glow that showed no pain or fear,

  As she went to that place of peace where God was waiting there.

  Her children came the next day to discuss the final plans.

  Her daughter saw the empty bowls upon the bedside stand.

  I told her, “Seems your mother adored raspberries and cream.

  But rarely could she buy them for she never had the means.”

  And as her daughter held the bowl her tears fell to the ground,

  “If I’d have known I would have bought her berries by the pound.

  “If I’d have known her time was short I would have come to see her.

  But I was just too self-involved, and now she’s gone forever.

  Why do we wait to do the things that really mean the most?

  Why do we wait to love someone until their memory’s a ghost?”

  The children left and I went home and wept myself to sleep,

  And dreamed of Mrs. Wiggins and the promise I must keep.

  I woke up to a brand-new day and grabbed the telephone

  To call a friend I knew was feeling sad and so alone.

  I told her I was on my way, but first must make a stop,

  And at the store picked up some things I knew would cheer her up.

  And when I got there she was glad to sit and talk and dream

  As we indulged in two big bowls of raspberries and cream.

  Marie D. Jones



  Obstacles cannot crush me; every obstacle yields st
ern resolve.

  Leonardo da Vinci

  Now We’re Talkin’

  I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.

  Charles Dickens

  It was late at night when they brought him up from the emergency department to the pediatric ICU. He’d been playing outside when he was run over by a car and dragged down the street—by one of his parents, in a tragic accident. I felt intensely sad for parents I did not know.

  He was bruised and bandaged and his four-year-old body seemed nearly lost on the adult-size gurney. And he was alone. The horror and guilt of the accident had distanced the parents; they’d gone home. I wanted to pick him up, hug him and assure him everything would all be okay. But instead I held his dirty, uninjured left hand in mine and said a prayer.

  For the next two weeks he endured bandage changes and wound debridements on every limb of his body, except the left arm. That one was reserved for all the pokes and pricks necessary for the many treatments he could not comprehend.

  And he was still alone. The social worker explained his distraught parents were separated, barely coping. They just couldn’t come. No wonder he hadn’t spoken a word since admission. Doctors found no “medical” explanation for his silence, yet no one could get him to talk.

  Adding to our worries, his fifth birthday was the next day. Would his parents show up? Thankfully, a young resident overheard our concerns. He said he would buy the little guy a present, and we’d all celebrate together tomorrow night.

  But why, for heaven’s sake, would he buy him a high-powered water gun? We should have left the gift buying to a female. Nice try, but this toy wasn’t something practical the child could play with in the ICU. Or was it?

  I filled the squirt gun with water and handed it to my little friend. “Any time you say a word, any word, you can squirt me.”

  He smiled, but rolled over and went to sleep—on his fifth birthday—alone.

  At 5:00 A.M. I started the morning routines. Baths, blood draws, linen and bandage changes.

  When I went into his room, he woke easily.

  Then, “Hi!” he shouted, and blasted me in the face with water. At first, I didn’t know whether to be glad or mad.

  I sputtered, “What’s your name?”

  “Jason!” A spray of water soaked my hair.

  “How old are you?”

  “I’m five now!” He drenched my shirt. “What else do you want to know?”

  I grabbed a towel and mopped my face. Now we’re talkin’.

  Denise Casaubon


  By Bill Keane

  “The school nurse looked through everybody’s hair to make sure we don’t have any headlights.”

  Reprinted with permission from Bil Keane.

  You Can Do Anything!

  Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal: My strength lies solely in my tenacity.

  Louis Pasteur

  I was a twenty-year-old nursing student in 1968, preparing for a rotation through the pediatric unit. Compared to cardiac units or the operating room, how hard would this be? After all, I’d always cared for and played with children. This rotation would be a snap. I’d breeze right through it and be one step closer to graduation.

  Chris was an eight-year-old bundle of energy who excelled in every sport he played. Disobeying his parents’ instructions, he explored a neighbor’s construction site, climbed a ladder and fell. His broken arm was casted too tightly, leading to infection, sepsis and gangrene. Sadly, his condition required amputation.

  I was assigned as his postoperative nurse.

  The first few days passed quickly. I provided Chris’s physical care with forced cheerfulness. His parents stayed with him around the clock.

  As his need for medication decreased, his level of awareness increased, as did his moodiness. When I saw how alert he seemed as he watched me bring in supplies for a sponge bath, I offered him the washcloth and suggested he take over. He washed his face and neck, then quit. I finished.

  The next day, I announced he’d be in charge of his whole bath. He balked. I insisted. He was more than halfway through when he slumped down and said, “I’m too tired.”

  “You won’t be in the hospital much longer,” I urged gently. “You need to learn to take care of yourself.”

  “Well, I can’t,” he scowled. “How can I do anything with just one hand?”

  Putting on my brightest face, I groped for a silver lining. Finally I said, “Sure you can do it, Chris. At least you have your right hand.”

  He turned his face away and muttered, “I’m left-handed. At least I used to be.” He glared at me. “Now what?”

  Suddenly, I didn’t feel so snappy. I felt phony and insincere, and not very helpful. How could I have taken right-handedness for granted? It seemed he and I both had a lot to learn.

  The next morning I greeted Chris with a big smile and a rubber band. He looked at me suspiciously. Wrapping the rubber band loosely around my wrist, I said, “You’re left-handed and I’m right-handed. I am going to put my right hand behind my back and keep it there by winding the rubber band around my uniform buttons. Every time I ask you to do something with your right hand, I will do it first, with my left hand. And I promise not to practice before I see you. What should we try first?”

  “I just woke up,” he grumbled. “I need to brush my teeth.”

  I managed to screw the top off the toothpaste, then placed his toothbrush on the overbed table. Awkwardly, I tried to squirt toothpaste onto the wobbly toothbrush. The harder I struggled, the more interested he became. After almost ten minutes, and a lot of wasted toothpaste, I succeeded.

  “I can do it faster than that!” Chris declared. And when he did, his triumphant grin was just as real as mine.

  The next two weeks passed quickly. We tackled his daily activities with enthusiasm and a competitive spirit. We buttoned his shirts, buttered his bread and never really mastered tying his shoes. Despite our age difference, we were playing a game as equal competitors.

  By the time my rotation ended, he was almost ready for discharge, and ready to face the world with more confidence. We hugged each other good-bye with sincere friendship and tears.

  More than thirty years have passed since our time together. I’ve encountered some ups and downs in my life, but I’ve never let a physical challenge pass without thinking of Chris and wondering how he would cope. Sometimes I put a hand behind my back, hook my thumb in my belt and give it a try.

  And anytime I feel sorry for myself, for some petty grievance or another, I take myself into the bathroom and try once again to brush my teeth with my left hand.

  Susan M. Goldberg

  “I Am,” I Said

  Vision is the world’s most desperate need. There are no hopeless situations, only people who think hopelessly.

  Winifred Newman

  The young physical-therapy aide at the rehabilitation center chattered endlessly while we prepared for my session. I’m embarrassed to admit I was too caught up in my troubles to listen to her. As I watched the other patients struggling with their crutches and wheelchairs, my spirit was overcome by a sense of loss.

  So much had changed. Only weeks had passed since bone cancer stole my left leg. Recently healed from surgery, I could barely sit in a chair for an hour at a time. Now I faced the difficult task of learning to walk with a prosthetic limb, a process complicated by an old back injury. The slightest activity sent scalding “phantom” pain into my nonexistent foot. As if that weren’t enough, chemotherapy had robbed me of my hair and my strength. A wide range of emotions drained my remaining energy: fear, anger and grief, topped off by a huge dollop of self-pity. Worst, though, I was unable to care for my father who had Alzheimer’s disease. I had no choice but to place him in a nursing facility and leave with a load of guilt.

  When faced with overwhelming problems, we often escape by focusing on minor ones. People are funny in that
way. In this instance, I fretted over the loss of my nursing career and the income it provided. Thankfully, my husband handled the finances. Every time the huge bills arrived, we thanked God that our insurance was adequate. Nevertheless, I missed the rapport with my patients and my colleagues. I’d always enjoyed the teaching aspect of nursing and loved seeing the glow of relief when a patient was able to understand his or her illness. It was such fun when the couples in my childbirth classes proudly showed me their new babies, gushing, “Shirley, it happened just like you said it would.”

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