To the ’Scary’ Nurse I Hoped Wouldn’t Be Looking After Me
You didn’t really know me. You came through the ward door onto a night shift and all you knew were the basics that the nurse before had handed over, as you shouted up the large ward that had been full and busy with people. There was just me and another two ladies left. At first you frightened me, with your high-pitched loud voice shouting, “I don’t know if you’re in pain, you have to tell me.” I buried my head into the pillow as you grabbed the blood pressure machine to check my blood pressure. I didn’t speak to you. I simply smiled. You seemed rude, scary, one of the horrible nurses everyone hopes isn’t looking after them, the sort of person I would avoid like the plague. I wrongly judged a book by its cover.
You see, I have spent a lot of time in hospitals, meeting endless doctors, nurses and receptionists. May of them treat you and look after you as a number on their list of patients. I mean, you can’t ask for more, can you? They’re all doing their job, rushed, off their feet with small breaks in between, stressed, exhausted, longing and counting down the hours for their shift to finish to get home to their own lives.
Maybe it was your voice that made me judge you or your attitude, I don’t know, or the way you walked around. I was sore yet too scared to say anything to you as you muttered away to yourself making up the beds for the next day. I was too scared to be an inconvenience.
As I lay there, you knew I had just had my pacemaker removed and a new one implanted, but what you didn’t know was really how brokenhearted I was. I was missing my little boy who I had left behind on many occasions with no choice because of my heart. As he would wave goodbye to me, it hurt me inside that I was his mom and I wouldn’t see him for a few days. I felt like a failure, like I was letting him down, forever left wondering, Would I miss the first word he ever said? Did he miss me at night? Did he wonder why Mommy was always sad and not around much, why I cried myself to sleep every night I had been in hospital which had become my second home all because of my heart, just grieving and longing for the life I used to have, or the tears I shed after every soul-destroying moment I was told my heart couldn’t be fixed but they would try again, but that “try” kept turning into a fail? I felt jealousy, just wanting to be like any other 25-year-old. I would be reminded as my Facebook feed filled up with pictures of my friends and work colleagues out enjoying themselves. That invitation out with them turned to a quick text; after a while, that text turned to nothing. Loneliness filled my broken heart that I would forever be the one who is always too sick to do anything.
My birthday was just two days before and instead of celebrating, I was consumed with sadness knowing I would be spending it in the hospital, and spent the next day packing my hospital bag. You didn’t know I had been through what felt like hell and back again, that my heart was now damaged beyond repair, that I was the girl who if you held my hand or touched my shoulder you would feel how heavy the weight was, the anger, sadness and frustration eating away at every last piece of me that didn’t already feel broken.
But what you didn’t know was how a random act of kindness made me feel that little bit better. You restored my faith during what was a really horrible time for me. As you saw me lying there, you noticed my pillow and sheets were soaked and covered in the cleaning solution, mixed with dark spots of stained blood, where just a few hours before I had laid before being put to sleep, praying and hoping I would wake up to the same pacemaker and that it wouldn’t come to it being taken out and I wouldn’t be met with a new scar and a new pacemaker. All that hope had been shattered just a few hours before. I owe my life to this little piece of machinery propelling my heart to beat, so you could question if it was such a big deal? But it was — it meant another couple of weeks of being pushed further back from were I had wanted to be.
My long brown hair was stuck together and painted red. You helped me up to the chair, stripped the blood-soaked bed as you muttered away some more and said, “Everyone who’s unwell needs a clean, fresh bed.” You were just doing your job, but not only did you give me a fresh, clean bed, you guided me to the toilet that was close, yet felt so far away. Walking and standing was a challenge. I was sore and tired and didn’t care how I looked, but you sat me down and washed my hair despite how busy you were. You didn’t give me the option to lie down and sulk about it all, telling me, “How can you feel your best if you don’t look it?” You guided me back, found my pajamas, helped me out of the horrible hospital gown and tucked me into my clean, fresh bed, turning the lamp above my head on, and wished me good night.
I hadn’t had a good sleep for weeks beforehand. Every day had been another long day spent worrying, undergoing tests, hoping it wouldn’t come to my pacemaker being removed so soon, and that just maybe this one more course of antibiotics would kill the infection that had struck and was slowly taking over my tired body and this whole nightmare would be over. Or that before my pacemaker I would wake up during the night gasping for air, struggling to breath because of my heart pausing or beating too slow, or the times my husband would shake me violently to wake me up as I was yet again having another nightmare were all the difficult times flooded back to me. I would be frightened even though I struggled and it was a fight to keep my tired eyes open. I would lie awake scared, in case my heart did pause and didn’t unpause again, forever wondering if I would make it through the next day the next hour without that faint happening, just scared of the unknowing. But that night I slept like a baby, all my fears were washed away like the blood and dye you had washed from my hair.
Maybe you saw through the fake smile as I smiled as you took my blood pressure. Maybe you had even been there yourself, but you took that few seconds to notice despite how busy you were. You did make me look that little bit better which made me feel a million times better. And that simple act of kindness of washing my hair, tucking me in and wishing me good night made that horrible day and few weeks that little bit brighter. For that I am forever grateful, and from the bottom of my broken heart, thank you for restoring my faith and washing my hair when I didn’t have the strength to wash it myself.
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