Lest you think I am a hospital’s worst nightmare (see earlier entry on the Bolsheviks), I will now pay humble tribute to the many wonderful nurses in the neuro-unit. The first day there was Heather, of the beautiful teeth and somehow attractive nose-piercing, who, against the odds made me feel welcome and at home, and the cute blonde (sans name—sorry) who fairly shone from the inside out (How many times did I want to ask if she was LDS—and I was on drugs, so I probably should have?) Then there was Connie, funny full-of-energy, Hispanic, and Hey-Sook, both so much nicer about my vitals and my many IV bruises than all others. And there was my friend Julie Hatch’s doppelganger (when she had dark hair), who gave me my first shower after surgery (May I quit being humbled). It was odd having someone just like my friend bathing me, but I just thought to myself about how good Julie is with all the kids at playgroup and oddly enough I just relaxed right into it.
I also had some wonderful physical and occupational therapists. My favorite was Valerie, who had lived in Salt Lake for fourteen years before Anchorage and knew what my g—‘s were. She was very respectful about them too as she helped me put them on after re-teaching me how to shower myself (May I quit being humbled). I loved her because she was so positive. She claimed I could do anything I put my mind to, and at those moments I swallowed her words like they were the bread of life. I was so desperate to believe her as my left hand swung uselessly to my side, or as I propped the shower-head on my lap with my dead hand, “See,” said Valerie, “you can still use it all the time!”
But the best nurse ever was April the night nurse. Words to describe her: busy, cheerful, careful, honest, and above all compassionate. Twelve hours shifts through the night must surely be long, but April seemed to thrive on it all. From my bed I could hear the older and somewhat more insane patients coming out to greet her as their bed alarms annoyingly went off. You see, some of us got special orange signs on our doors that said we were in danger of falling, and if deemed untrustworthy, were monitored by a bed-alarm. This was a nasty shrill sound that could really give you a headache if you’d had brain surgery recently. I was only monitored like this once (lapse in judgment by poor nurse, I being less senile than all the other much older patients, and less lonely, because my husband stayed with me every night). Anyway, there was an older man and a woman, both with pneumonic coughs who seemed to quite like April as well. At times when I wanted her, I do believe I felt a little jealous.
But the reason I love her, is because when I would call her in the middle of the night for a bathroom run (and there were many), she always somehow found a way to treat me with respect, pathetic though I was. Afterward, she would gently close my gown in the back while I stood at the sink to wash (May the humility stop now!) There’s something about mirrors when you’re not feeling quite up to par that will attract your attention. I would gaze be-drugged at myself while my right hand grasped my left and pulled it up to lay it in the sink so I could care for it properly, and inevitably I would catch April’s eye in the mirror and would see such humanity and compassion there! She really cared that I was 29 and had lost the use of my arm, etc… So I pay homage to all wonderful night nurses. (By the way, the only way to say the word homage is with a French accent: silent h, soft soft g—as one of my professors at BYU would pronounce it).