Chicken soup for the nur.., p.5
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       Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul, p.5

           Jack Canfield
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  Later that same week, when I was back in Sid’s room, he decided to give a repeat performance. Lifting himself onto his elbows again, he asked, “What day is it today?”

  Again telling the truth, I said, “It’s Good Friday.”

  Without looking up from his book, his roommate muttered loudly, “I hope to God he doesn’t die today—he might rise again on Sunday!”

  Dennis Sibley

  As told to Allen Klein

  Fresh Sample

  Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.

  Karl Barth

  It began as a typical working day. As a registered nurse, I traveled to clients’ homes to complete paramedical health assessments for an insurance company.

  As I entered this lady’s neat, attractive home, I smelled the delicious aroma of pies baking. “Umm, sure smells good in here,” I commented.

  “I just put a couple of lemon meringue pies in the oven. They’re my husband’s favorite,” my client volunteered.

  Returning to the purpose of my visit, we completed the questionnaire quickly. The last section involved collecting a urine sample.

  “I collected it earlier and saved it in the refrigerator,” she said. “I’ll get it for you.”

  As I emptied the sample into the collection tubes, I noticed the unusual thickness of it. When I tested it with a dip stick, I was shocked at the extremely high protein content.

  “Are you sure this is your urine sample?” I questioned. “This almost resembles egg whites.”

  “Yes, I distinctly remember placing it in the refrigerator in the bottom right-hand corner. Oh! Oh, no!” She wailed. “I’ve made a terrible mistake. Don’t use that. I’ll get you a fresh sample.”

  Not wishing to further embarrass the lady, I asked no more questions. But as I opened the door to leave her home, I heard her removing pies from the oven and the grinding sound of the garbage disposal.

  No lemon meringue pie that night!

  Donna McDonnall

  Reprinted by permission of John Wise, R.N.

  Codes for the Holidays

  ’Twas the night before Christmas and in SICU

  All the patients were stirring, the nurses were, too.

  Some Levophed hung from an IMED with care

  In hopes that a blood pressure soon would be there.

  One patient was resting all snug in his bed

  While visions—from Versed—danced in his head.

  I, in my scrubs, with flowsheet in hand,

  Had just settled down to chart the care plan.

  Then from room 17 there arose such a clatter

  We sprang from the station to see what was the matter.

  Away to the bedside we flew like a flash,

  Saved the man from falling, with restraints from the stash.

  “Do you know where you are?” one nurse asked while tying;

  “Of course! I’m in France in a jail, and I’m dying!”

  Then what to my wondering eyes should appear?

  But a heart rate of 50, the alarm in my ear.

  The patient’s face paled, his skin became slick

  And he said in a moment, “I’m going to be sick!”

  Someone found the Inapsine and injected a port,

  Then ran for a basin, as if it were sport.

  His heart rhythm quieted back to a sinus,

  We soothed him and calmed him with old-fashioned kindness.

  And then in a twinkling we hear from room 11

  First a plea for assistance, then a swearing to heaven.

  As I drew in my breath and was turning around,

  Through the unit I hurried to respond to the sound.

  “This one’s having chest pain,” the nurse said and then

  She gave her some nitro, then morphine and when

  She showed not relief from IV analgesia

  Her breathing was failing: time to call anesthesia.

  “Page Dr. Wilson, or May, or Banoub!

  Get Dr. Epperson! She ought to be tubed!”

  While the unit clerk paged them, the monitor showed

  V-tach and low pressure with no pulse: “Call a code!”

  More rapid than eagles, the code team they came.

  The leader took charge and he called drugs by name:

  “Now epi! Now lido! Some bicarb and mag!

  You shock and you chart it! You push med! You bag!”

  And so to the crash cart, the nurses we flew

  With a handful of meds, and some dopamine, too!

  From the head of the bed, the doc gave his call:

  “Resume CPR!” So we worked one and all.

  Then Doc said no more, but went straight to his work,

  Intubated the patient, then turned with a jerk.

  While placing his fingers aside of her nose,

  And giving a nod, hooked the vent to the hose.

  The team placed an art-line and a right triple-lumen.

  And when they were through, she scarcely looked human:

  When the patient was stable, the doc gave a whistle.

  A progress note added as he wrote his epistle.

  But I heard him exclaim ere he strode out of sight,

  “Merry Christmas to all! But no more codes for tonight!”

  Jamie L. Beeley

  Submitted by Nell Britton

  Christmas Magic

  When we accept tough jobs as a challenge and wade into them with joy and enthusiasm, miracles can happen.

  Harry S. Truman

  I wish I could tell you that the whole thing happened because I’m caring and unselfish, but that wouldn’t be true. It was 1979, and I had just moved back to Wisconsin from Colorado because I missed my family and Denver wages were terrible. I took a job at a hospice in Milwaukee and found my niche working with the patients and families. As the season changed into fall, the schedule for the holidays was posted:

  DECEMBER 24 3–11

  Barbara DECEMBER 25 3–11 Barbara

  I was devastated. Newly engaged, it was my first Christmas back home with my family after many years. But with no seniority, I had little clout to get Christmas off while my dedicated colleagues worked.

  While lamenting my predicament, I came up with an idea. Since I couldn’t be with my family, I would bring my family to the hospice. With the patients and their families struggling through their last Christmases together, maybe this gathering would lend support. My family thought it was a wonderful plan, and so did the staff. Several invited their relatives to participate, too.

  As we brainstormed ideas for a hospice Christmas, we remembered the annual 11:00 P.M. Christmas Eve Service scheduled in the hospital chapel.

  “Why don’t we take the patients to church?” I suggested.

  “Yes,” replied another staff nurse. “It’s a beautiful candlelight service with music. I bet the patients would love it.”

  “Great. And we can have a little party afterwards, with punch, cookies and small gifts,” I added.

  Our enthusiasm increased as we planned the details of our hospice Christmas celebration.

  Now, it never occurred to me that all these great ideas may not float so well with administration. It never occurred to me that we might have to get permission for each of these activities—until the director called me into her office.

  “Uh, Barb, I’m hearing rumors of a Christmas Eve celebration here at the hospice.”

  “Well, yes,” I replied. Eagerly, I outlined all the plans and ideas the staff had developed. Fortunately for my career, she thought involving our families with the unit activities was a wonderful idea, too.

  “But,” she said, “certainly you are not serious about taking the patients to church. It has never been done.”

  “Yes, I’m serious. It would mean a lot to the patients and families.”

  “Very seldom do you see any patients at this service, and if they do go, they are ambulatory and dressed.” She shook her head. “Our patients are too sick to go.”

But a number of them have indicated an interest,” I argued.

  “I cannot authorize the additional staff needed.”

  “The family members can help.”

  “What about the liability?”

  Now I felt like saying, “What could be the worst thing that could happen—someone dies in church?” But I didn’t. I just kept convincing her, until she begrudgingly gave approval.

  Christmas Eve arrived. Family members gathered in the lounge and decorated a small tree, complete with wrapped packages. Then we implemented our plan for the staff and families to transport the patients to the chapel. While most of the patients had family members with them, one young girl had no one. At just nineteen, Sandy had terminal liver cancer. Her mother had died of cancer three years previously, and her father stopped coming long ago. Perhaps he couldn’t sit by the bedside of another loved one dying so young. So my family “took charge” of Sandy. My sister combed her hair while my mother applied just a hint of lipstick. They laughed and joked like three old friends as my fiancé helped her move to a gurney.

  Meanwhile, other nurses hung IVs on poles, put IVACs on battery support and gave last-minute pain meds. Then, with patients in wheelchairs and on gurneys, we paraded our group into the chapel just as they were finishing “Joy to the World,” with the organ and bells ringing out in perfect harmony. Silence descended on the congregation as we rolled slowly down the aisle. The minister just stood there with his mouth open, staring. Everyone turned around to look at us. We faltered in our steps, each movement echoing in the large, crowded chapel.

  Then the magic began.

  One by one, people stood up, filed into the aisle and began to help us. They handed patients hymnals and distributed programs. They wheeled patients to the front so they could see well. They handed out candles to be lit for the closing hymn. One woman adjusted Sandy’s pillow and stroked her hair. Throughout the service, the congregation catered to our patients, guiding them through the worship.

  The beautiful service closed with a candlelight recessional to “Silent Night.” Voices rang in disjointed harmony as the congregation assisted us in exiting the chapel and returning our charges to the unit. Many stayed to share punch and cookies and stories.

  As I got Sandy ready for bed that late night, she whispered, “This was one of the nicest Christmases I ever had.”

  When I shared her comments with my family later, we realized the magic that evening was on many levels. The unit had a special climate we’d never experienced before. Sandy had one of the best Christmases she’d ever known. The congregation had shared in a special, caring way. But we also realized that this evening impacted our family as well. We felt closer, bonded in purpose and spirit.

  Since that Christmas of 1979, my family has been blessed with many Christmases together—but I think that one was the best. Like author William Shore, I, too, believe that when you give to others and give to the community, you create something within yourself that is important and lasting. He calls it the “Cathedral Within.”

  Our family cathedral is a little stronger for the privilege of giving that Christmas.

  Barbara Bartlein



  It is not how much we do—it is how much love we put into the doing.

  Mother Teresa

  A Forever Kind of Love

  Treasure the love you receive above all. It will survive long after your good health has vanished.

  Og Mandino

  One of our favorite patients had been in and out of our small, rural hospital several times, and all of us on medsurg had all grown quite attached to her and her husband. In spite of terminal cancer and resulting pain, she never failed to give us a smile or a hug. Whenever her husband came to visit, she glowed. He was a nice man, very polite and as friendly as his wife. I had grown quite attached to them and was always glad to care for her.

  I admired their expression of love. Daily, he brought her fresh flowers and a smile, then sat by her bed as they held hands and talked quietly. When the pain was too much and she cried or became confused, he hugged her gently in his arms and whispered until she rested. He spent every available moment at her bedside, giving her small sips of water and stroking her brow. Every night, before he left for home, he closed the door so they could spend time alone together. After he was gone, we’d find her sleeping peacefully with a smile on her lips.

  On this night, however, things were different. As soon as I entered report, the day nurses informed us she had steadily taken a turn for the worse and wouldn’t make it through the night. Although I was sad, I knew that this was for the best. At least my friend wouldn’t be in pain any longer.

  I left report and checked on her first. When I entered the room, she aroused and smiled weakly, but her breathing was labored and I could tell it wouldn’t be long. Her husband sat beside her, smiling, too, and said, “My Love is finally going to get her reward.”

  Tears came to my eyes, so I asked if they needed anything and left quickly. I offered care and comfort throughout the evening, and at about midnight she passed away with her husband still holding her hand. I consoled him, and with tears running down his cheeks he said, “May I please be alone with her for awhile?” I hugged him and closed the door behind me.

  I stood outside the room, blotting my tears and missing my friend and her smile. And I could feel the pain of her husband in my own heart. Suddenly from the room came the most beautiful male voice I have ever heard singing. It was almost haunting the way it floated through the halls. All of the other nurses stepped out into the hallways to listen as he sang “Beautiful Brown Eyes” at the top of his lungs.

  When the tune faded, the door opened and he called to me. He looked me in the eyes then hugged me saying, “I sang that song to her every night from the first day we met. Normally I close the door and keep my voice down so as not to disturb the other patients. But I had to make sure she heard me tonight as she was on her way to heaven. She had to know that she will always be my forever love. Please apologize to anyone I bothered. I just don’t know how I will make it without her, but I will continue to sing to her every night. Do you think she will hear me?”

  I nodded my head “yes,” unable to stop my tears. He hugged me again, kissed my cheek, and thanked me for being their nurse and friend. He thanked the other nurses, then turned and walked down the hall, his back hunched, whistling the song softly as he went.

  As I watched him leave I prayed that I, too, would someday know that kind of forever love.

  Christy M. Martin

  Happy Birthday, Grace

  Where there is love, there is life.

  Mahatma Gandhi

  Several months before my mother’s birthday, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The crippling illness progressed very quickly. Many Parkinson’s patients’ speech is affected, so in the early stages, during his first hospital visit, Daddy asked me for a favor. “Please take care of your mother, Honey,” he begged. “That’s all that I ask of you.”

  Within six months, Daddy was totally bedridden. The majority of that time, he couldn’t speak above a whisper. Dementia is another complication of Parkinson’s, and one day his doctor held my hand and broke the news to me. “Your father will not get better, Nancy. It’s all downhill from here. In a few months, he won’t even remember your name.” Unfortunately, the doctor was right. Our entire family was heartbroken, as we began to slowly lose Daddy to this horrible disease.

  Since I lived seventy miles away, I couldn’t visit with Dad every day. I called, however, to check on him and Mom every night. I thought I was prepared for the storms that lay ahead of me. I did pretty well, until the holidays and other special occasions crept up on us. Mostly I really dreaded my mother’s birthday. I knew how hard it would be for her, and how hard it would be for me to fulfill that favor for my dad. I bought her a present from Daddy, but I knew things still wouldn’t be the same for her when her birthday came.

  A couple of weeks b
efore her birthday, I began to notice my mother’s downcast mood when we talked on the phone. We never mentioned it, however. I didn’t know what to say.

  Daddy had resided in a nursing home for the previous year. Fortunately, the nurses there loved both Daddy and Mom. Since my mother spent almost every day in Daddy’s room, all of the nurses and their assistants knew her well.

  Tina, one of Daddy’s nurses, sensed my mother’s lack of joy and enthusiasm. Somehow, she found out that my mother’s birthday was drawing close. I was ever grateful for her, as she went way beyond the call of duty to lift Mom’s spirits on her special day. Tina bought a small picture frame and put Daddy’s picture inside it. It had a little tape player at the bottom, which would hold a brief message. Daddy still had the capability to speak in a faint whisper, with a great deal of coaxing, if he was coherent. For two solid weeks, after my mother left the nursing home for the day, Tina went into his room and begged Daddy to speak into the microphone.

  On her birthday, Mom went to the nursing home just as she did every other day. Through her swollen eyes, she was surprised to see birthday balloons adorning every corner of the room. Sitting on Daddy’s lap was a beautifully wrapped box. Tina and some of the other employees slipped into his room right behind my mother. Mom opened her present and pushed the tiny button. Daddy’s voice softly spoke. “Happy Birthday, Grace.”

  The tone of my mother’s voice as she told me the story convinced me that we were surely going to make it through the trying days ahead. And it was all because of a nurse who took time from her busy schedule to care about the love between a sick man, his wife and an important birthday.

  Nancy B. Gibbs

  In the Arms of an Angel

  To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing, that is enough for one man’s life.

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