For the love of nurses

Today’s daily dose of bittersweetness comes from Peter DeMarco, a Boston writer whose 34-year-old wife died after an asthma attack.

He wrote a letter, published in the New York Times this week, reminding us that nurses are not of this world.

How many times did you walk into the room to find me sobbing, my head down, resting on her hand, and quietly go about your task, as if willing yourselves invisible? How many times did you help me set up the recliner as close as possible to her bedside, crawling into the mess of wires and tubes around her bed in order to swing her forward just a few feet?

How many times did you check in on me to see whether I needed anything, from food to drink, fresh clothes to a hot shower, or to see whether I needed a better explanation of a medical procedure, or just someone to talk to?

How many times did you hug me and console me when I fell to pieces, or ask about Laura’s life and the person she was, taking the time to look at her photos or read the things I’d written about her? How many times did you deliver bad news with compassionate words, and sadness in your eyes?

When all hope for his wife, Laura, was gone, they waited for her organs to be donated. They call it “harvested” in the clinical world of medicine. But a hospital room is where humanity reigns.

On the final day, as we waited for Laura’s organ donor surgery, all I wanted was to be alone with her. But family and friends kept coming to say their goodbyes, and the clock ticked away. About 4 p.m., finally, everyone had gone, and I was emotionally and physically exhausted, in need of a nap. So I asked her nurses, Donna and Jen, if they could help me set up the recliner, which was so uncomfortable, but all I had, next to Laura again. They had a better idea.

They asked me to leave the room for a moment, and when I returned, they had shifted Laura to the right side of her bed, leaving just enough room for me to crawl in with her one last time. I asked if they could give us one hour without a single interruption, and they nodded, closing the curtains and the doors, and shutting off the lights.

  • Thomas Mercier

    Must be the cold brisk air affecting my eyes this morning.

  • Geoff Forscher

    Thanks… I wasn’t planning on crying at work this morning, but there it is…..

  • MrE85

    I don’t know how they do it….those who lose their spouses way too early, and the angels who attend.

  • John O.

    It’s a good thing I wasn’t at the office today. This one hits wayyyyy too close to home. This is the darkest of darkest alleys I hope I am not visiting in the near future. I’m always amazed at my nurse friends who do this sort of thing day in and day out.

  • Anna

    This goes to the very core of nursing which is a calling and not just a career choice.

    We stand on our feet for hours at a time and attempt to juggle too many patients but we still manage to empathize with and comfort our patients in the worst moments of their lives.

    The possibility of death is a constant companion yet we still maintain our composure and compassion. We cry with our patients (and their families) and rejoice in their successes whether large or small.

    I miss nursing so much and can’t do it anymore because of physical limitations. Your post reminds me what a privilege it is to be a nurse and the magnitude of what I have lost.