I’m in the ICU and was just back from an incredible tropical vacation. Nine days of vegging out on the beach. The glistening ocean was just steps away from the five-star hotel I was staying in, where doormen greeted me with fruity daiquiris and a staff that couldn’t wait to serve my every whim.
I was in paradise, and far, far away from the reality of my day-to-day existence as an ICU nurse.
I was nowhere near the code blues, the sputum plugs, nor the bowel movements that dripped onto the floor. I was also far away from demanding family members, management, and that plastic smile I was forced to don in situations with them.
Vacation was over, and I was back. Although this was my profession and I was highly skilled, I secretly wished I never came back.
But here I was. Day one. My assignment? Another old person. An 82-year-old lady with stage 4 lung cancer. Another little old lady gasping for air with her old friends praying over her as if she were already dead. They would visit and sometimes sing gospel music from days gone by as they all swayed.
One day, the patient, Gerde (short for Gertrude), asked me to her lipstick on. And I did.
She asked me to fluff up her soft white hair.
And I did.
She asked me if I wanted to learn to crochet.
And I said yes.
And in between her ABG’s, adding IV antibiotics, giving her nebulizers and putting her on high-flo oxygen, she taught me to crochet.
She taught me even though she knew she was going to die. She knew it was time to go.
And in the dread I felt from leaving that tropical vacation and having to face this assigment, how did I find the most precious lady on earth who could not wait to reunite with her husband.
Within three days, she taught me to crochet a scarf as beautiful as any scarf available in an upscale department store.
She asked me to hold her hand as her final request. She was ready. I sat beside her and held her small, cold hand as she drifted off to the hereafter.
Her face glowed as she left this earth with a smile. No one blinked when she died, nor when they saw me crouched down with my head low in front of the computer with tears rolling down my cheek.
I was no longer sad I left my vacation. I was thankful that I left that tropical island to come back home to a little old lady who gave me bountiful blessings is just three days.
Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse who blogs at Do Not Resuscitate.
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