Chicken soup for the nur.., p.21
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       Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul, p.21

           Jack Canfield
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  At seven o’clock sharp, I heard Christmas carolers in the hallway, singing “O Holy Night.” I smiled in spite of myself and walked to open my door. Shocked, I stammered, “I’m dreaming! Ol’ Puss ’n Boots put something in my ginger ale.”

  “Nope. No dream,” my husband beamed. “Thanks to your nurse, I’m staying in the hotel one block away.” Nurse Puss ’n Boots had arranged for her husband to drive his Jeep to our town the day before and pick up my husband. Not only did she bring him to me, but she paid for his hotel room for a few days, until I could be discharged. I stood gazing at the mean nurse, now turned heroine. She even smiled at me, as I stood with my jaw dropped open in marvel.

  I learned this extraordinary nurse and her wealthy husband did generous deeds for many people. She didn’t even have to work, but chose to fulfill her life with nursing. My husband adored her. “She’s tough, like my old drill sergeant,” he said. “We need more nurses like her.”

  Today, as a nurse, I trot through snow in the hospital parking lot wearing white boots in honor of my favorite nurse. I called her hospital to inquire about Puss ’n Boots and to tell her how she had inspired me. They said she had passed away in her sleep at home—her generous heart stopped beating.

  If I know Nurse Puss ’n Boots, she’s standing at the gates of heaven right beside St. Peter with her ink pen and chart. She’s grabbing each lost soul who tries to slip through the cracks, saying, “By the book, Missy! By the book!”

  J. C. Pinkerton

  The Pinning

  The future destiny of a child is always the work of the mother.

  Napoleon Bonaparte

  Northern Oklahoma College invites you to

  attend their Nurse’s Pinning Ceremony

  Friday, May 7, 1999.

  I was the first member of our family to graduate from college and I had waited for this moment all my life. As we assembled in the auditorium, I joked with my family and friends that I was finally graduating. My two-year degree took me ten years to complete while I raised a family and worked as an L.P.N.

  The final weeks of school had been so busy and life so hectic, I could hardly believe this moment was actually here. In my new dress and shoes, I didn’t look too bad next to all those younger nurses. Then my best friend Dru came with the news—Ronnie may not make it on time. How could my husband, who had supported me so faithfully all these years, be stuck at work and miss this?

  My mom had been my first choice to pin me, because she had always been there for me on this journey. But she declined, saying my husband and sons should share in this moment—a moment already bittersweet. My son Jesse was in the Navy, stationed in Chicago, and couldn’t attend. Now, with Ronnie stuck at work, my mom and son Clint would have to do the honors. The script had been written for my pinning weeks before, and now it would be changed—again.

  My nursing buddies knew my disappointment, as I had spoken often of missing my Navy boy, especially with this being Mother’s Day weekend. As my turn approached to cross the podium, I looked around the auditorium to catch a glimpse of my husband, but to no avail. I did see Dru poised to capture the moment on film, but I couldn’t hear my script, only my name when I caught the line . . . “will be pinned by her husband and two sons.”

  There in front of me, coming my way, was my handsome husband, son Clint, and Jesse, fresh off a plane in Navy attire, with smiles so broad and a hearty “Surprise!”

  My whole class and all the instructors cheered wildly as the pin I had worked so hard for was lovingly placed.

  Dawn Koehn

  Last Rites

  Music is the universal language of mankind.

  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  I took care of Sam on med-surg for about nine months during his frequent admissions for end-stage liver disease. Sam, a World War II veteran with a caring wife and family, had slipped into a coma for nine days and was not expected to recover. On a slow Sunday afternoon, Sam’s family had left for the day. When I went to check on him fifteen minutes later, I knew by his breathing he was about to pass on. I walked into the hall looking for other staff members, since we were all quite close to Sam and his family. Just outside the door stood Father Charlie, the Catholic priest who made rounds every weekend. I asked him to give Sam last rites. He checked the chart outside the door and informed me in a kind way that he could not, because Sam was not Catholic. He offered to come in and say a prayer, though.

  Entering the room he said, “Oh, I know this man. We’re both veterans and have had many discussions.” He took Sam’s hand. “Do you mind if I sing a song?”

  I was so surprised at this request but, of course, said, “No, go right ahead.”

  Father Charlie started to sing, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord.”

  To my astonishment, Sam, who had been in a deep coma all these days, had tears streaming from both eyes. As Father Charlie sang the words, “Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!” Sam took his last breath.

  Jacqueline C. Hadeland


  Conscience is the root of all true courage; if a man would be brave let him obey his conscience.

  J. F. Clarke

  I served as an army nurse in Vietnam from February 1967 though February 1968. It was a chaotic, trying time, encompassing two infamous Tet offensives. Tet and the months right before were times of enemy buildups and especially high casualties for Americans.

  Although nurses were generally assigned to large base areas, because of overwhelming casualties, many nurses and medics found themselves in quite primitive places with less than the best protection.

  I was sent to AnKhe because of my surgical training and also administrative background. AnKhe was the base camp for the elite First Cavalry. Casualties were especially heavy, so a first-aid station was converted to a 100-bed hospital. Eight nurses worked under tents without sufficient medical equipment.

  Small miracles occurred there every day. Mayonnaise jars became chest drainage bottles. With some crude additions, they also became suction machines. Corpsmen from a previous war taught us all to suture and perform surgeries. None of us required much sleep nor became ill. So we worked impossible stretches of time to treat as many as were brought in by helicopter.

  We had so many surgical patients they were forced to lay on the tent floors after surgery. All the cots were full. Supplies and surgical instruments had to be shared. Antibiotics were long ago used up. Guys were dying for lack of supplies. Then the angels came.

  Two corpsmen reported to me one morning. They had been assigned here as punishment. Well-educated men, both had just been released from the stockade. Seems they refused to “hump ammo”—to load 200-pound rounds of artillery pieces, after seeing what the results were. It is still unclear why medics were in an artillery unit in that capacity, but they were. They came to AnKhe humble and beaten down, but not without integrity. “We will do anything—absolutely anything to save lives, Captain. No matter how risky.”

  They seemed sincere and almost as desperate as me. I called their bluff.

  The only way in and out of AnKhe was by air, and the flights were too few and far between. The road was mined several times daily. Many vehicles were blown up. Needed medical supplies could not be legally obtained, let alone transported in.

  I briefed them on the risks and the need for supplies. With great guilt and fear and uncommon prayer, I sent these two to almost certain death, over the road, off the record, unauthorized, to get supplies however they could.

  Five long days went by. I began mentally writing the letters to their families.

  But angels were with them. They returned with an intact truck loaded with penicillin, surgical instruments, a real suction machine and even a steel litter on real wheels.

  What a faith moment when they drove in! I’ll not recount how they got the supplies, but many lives were saved because of their effort and grace from on high. And as a result, all were reenergized to continue our breakneck schedule.

  So her
oes come out of stockades, angels do roam the battlefield, and there is a God, even in war.

  Rhona Knox Prescott



  In helping others we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.

  Flora Edwards

  A Piece of Paper

  Hope is life and life is hope.

  Adele Shreve

  For twenty-five years, I have been involved in emergency nursing; the last fifteen years as a flight nurse with over five thousand patient flights. Along the way, I have collected many diplomas and certifications, and they are displayed on my office wall. One piece of paper on that wall means more to me than all the others. It reminds me why I am a nurse—because I can make a difference in the outcome of a person’s life.

  Every weekend, Lake Havasu, a popular reservoir on the Arizona–California border, is full of skiers, boats and alcohol. Unfortunately, when all of these mix it can become a deadly cocktail. One Labor Day weekend, our AirEvac unit was called to transport a patient badly injured in a boating accident to a trauma center in Phoenix. A pilot, respiratory therapist and I quickly loaded our equipment into our twin-engine plane and lifted off for Lake Havasu City. Within forty minutes, we landed at the airport and raced to the hospital.

  Our patient was a twenty-eight-year-old man who was badly injured when his boat collided with another, and he was thrown into a propeller. I first saw this man, who I’ll call John, as the nurse on duty gave me a quick report while we prepared him for transport. John was already secured to a backboard. His color was ashen, and I could see fear in his eyes. As I introduced myself to him, he whispered, “I am going to die.” This was quite possible, because the propeller had thrown John into the boat, breaking his ribs, partially severing his right arm, puncturing his chest cavity and collapsing his lung. Now a tube was protruding from his chest to help him breathe. His arm was wrapped tightly to his chest with an ace bandage to prevent further bleeding. His abdomen was firm, tender to the touch and slowly becoming distended from internal bleeding. We put John on our stretcher with oxygen and a heart monitor and moved him to an ambulance. Our pilot was waiting for us at the airport, and we quickly loaded John into the plane and headed back to Phoenix.

  During the flight, we administered a large amount of blood. We had taken blood from the hospital in hope that it would help sustain him during the flight to Phoenix. Since blood is kept refrigerated, giving that much cold blood would add another insult to John’s already weakened body. To warm the blood, the pilot, respiratory therapist and I sat on each one-half-liter bag. John remained awake and continued to moan, “I hurt all over.”

  The respiratory therapist looked at me. “Maybe you should give him some morphine,” she suggested.

  But John’s hope for survival was surgery, and we were still over forty minutes away from the Phoenix hospital. Many times I had given pain medicine to help a patient wait out the long minutes until we reached the hospital, but John was different. His condition was so critical that he needed to stay awake and will himself to live. I wasn’t going to take away his chances with sedation. As I leaned over John, our eyes met and I said quietly, “I want you to feel the pain. I want you to hang in there and fight for your life.” He nodded and closed his eyes.

  On takeoff from Lake Havasu, our pilot had radioed the air traffic controllers in Phoenix that we had a patient on board. This is known as a lifeguard flight, which means that we have priority over other airplanes to land. Because of the wind direction that day, the air traffic controllers at the Phoenix airport had all the planes landing from east to the west, but our pilot requested special clearance so we could land “straight in” from west to east, shaving precious time off of our flight. As we taxied to the AirEvac hanger, I could see a helicopter waiting to take us to the hospital. We loaded John into the helicopter while the engines were running, saving the time it would have taken to start them.

  When we landed at the trauma center minutes later and unloaded John on the helipad, he was no longer responding to my voice. Time was running out. As the elevator doors opened, the trauma team was waiting for us. I gave the surgeons a quick summary of what had been done for John and his response to our treatment. He was taken immediately into surgery, and I returned to base.

  I followed John’s progress and spoke with those caring for him. They were amazed he survived. The surgeons had found five liters of blood (over 85 percent of his total blood volume) inside his abdomen. Aside from his other injuries, he had ruptured his spleen, which was removed, and extensive surgery was required to repair his arm. During the operation, he received seven and a half liters of blood. Despite so many hours in the operating room, John had made it and his prognosis was good.

  I wanted to see John again in a more stable setting to say, “Way to go, you did it.” Two days later, I visited him in the intensive care unit. He was sedated and had a tube down his throat to help him breathe. As I walked in, he saw me and smiled. I was surprised he remembered me. After giving me a hug, he mouthed a “thank you” and pointed to the pictures of his three sons taped to the end of the bed.

  Then he took a piece of paper and slowly wrote on it, “I remember you, you talking to me, saying to hang in there everything will be okay. Thank you, I owe you my life.”

  John went home two weeks after his accident.

  And that is the piece of paper I proudly framed and hung on my office wall.

  Sherri Sorenson

  The Call

  The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one often comes from a strong will and the other from a strong won’t.

  H. W. Beecher

  I’d rarely dealt with residents and interns, and the thought of being responsible for them unnerved me. I resolved to put my best foot forward and be the coolest head in the hospital. Working with them, I was factual, objective and confident. Maybe a bit too confident for the senior resident, who didn’t seem to like me.

  When I confided this to a coworker, she offered, “You don’t make it easy for him, Virginia. Oh, he’s impressed, all right, but he’s just waiting for you to do something so he can take you down a few notches.”

  One afternoon I admitted a seventy-five-year-old man with congestive heart failure. Our new patient was a big, barrel-chested man, about six feet tall, with white hair and large hands gnarled with arthritis. His strong, regal voice boomed through the unit. But he was in trouble. We tried to dry his lungs and pump up his heart, but he grew progressively worse. At 7:38 P.M., he coded.

  After we worked on him for about forty minutes with every approved and experimental drug available, his heart was unresponsive. For the umpteenth time, his rhythm wobbled to nothing on the oscilloscope.

  Suddenly, I began shouting his name over and over. I didn’t even know I was doing it until the resident shook my shoulder and said sarcastically, “Shouting won’t bring him back to life. He can’t hear you. He’s dead.”

  I cringed at the image of me leaning over the dead man, calling into his ear. I was mortified to realize I was acting like a rookie, especially given the scientific fact that he was no longer alive. I tried to say something in my defense but couldn’t explain why it was so vital for me to keep calling his name.

  Disgusted, the resident turned away to record the time of death.

  Then I saw the heartbeat start up again on the monitor. “He’s back!”

  Within minutes, to everyone’s amazement, the patient stabilized.

  I went back to the nurses’ desk, still perplexed by my irrational behavior. Apparently my coworker was, too. “Why did you keep yelling at him?”

  “I—I don’t know. I just had to,” I admitted, helplessly racking my brain for a reason. “I just couldn’t help it. . . . ”

  I was even more bewildered the next afternoon when I reported for duty and the day nurse told me the patient had been furious with me all day and wanted to see me the minute I came on duty. I groaned as
I walked dispiritedly toward his bed, wondering again what had come over me to make me act so foolishly that I angered this grand, old gentleman.

  I pulled back the curtain around his bed to see him glaring at me. “So you’re the one who wouldn’t let me go!” he challenged.

  “Yes, Sir,” I said in a low voice.

  “Did they tell you I was going to sue you for malpractice?”

  “No, Sir.”

  “Do you think you’re God? Why did you think you had the right to call me back?” He held his hand up to keep me from interrupting. “I was on the way out, and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever known. But someone kept calling me and calling me. I was so mad I hollered at you all night!”

  I stammered, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know what I was doing. Will you please forgive me?”

  “Oh, my God, yes!” he said huskily. “Without you, I wouldn’t have known my granddaughter loved me. See, I thought she never wanted to see me again, but when she heard I was in the hospital she tried all night to get a flight, but couldn’t get here until this morning. And,” his voice choked, “if you hadn’t called me back I would have died thinking she hated me. But she loves me. She told me today. Imagine that. And I have a great-granddaughter, too!” He paused, then added, “All I wanted was to stay in that beautiful light, but I’m glad you didn’t let me. I’m glad you didn’t give up.”

  He chuckled at the equal measure of relief and embarrassment chasing across my face. He closed his eyes and said with a sigh, “I guess neither one of us knew what we were doing, eh?”

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