The first several days of this new month, the first two weeks, in fact, focus attention on a vital profession: nursing. One never realizes just how vital that profession is until one needs a nurse’s care; then it becomes critical.
The second week of this month is designated Nurses Week. May 6 is National Nurses Day, and May 12 is International Nurses Day. During this time, special days focus attention on student nurses (May 8) and school nurses (May 10).
The first nurse I remember encountering was Lois, the nurse in Dr. Cruze’s general practice in Powell, Tennessee. She had a gentleness about her that put even the most fearful child at ease. Especially noteworthy was the way she gave shots, getting them over with before one even knew that she had administered them. I recall only once when she did not give me my childhood shots, and that was the time that Dr. Cruze himself gave it to me. That was in the days when doctors made house calls, and Dr. Cruze called upon me and prescribed a shot in the posterior. I jumped so hard when the point entered that I bent his needle and cut tender parts. Determined to give me the shot I needed, he readied another needle, bent me over his right knee, and put his left leg over my back. Daddy held my feet, and the needle was administered, that time without damages but no doubt accompanied by much squalling. I never trusted him thereafter, but I appreciated Lois’s skills even more.
Over the years, I’ve encountered innumerable other nurses, some good, others bad, and a few extremely good. For the most part, they have cared for me well. At least I got better from whatever ailed me at the time.
But the most memorable nurse and the one of whom I’ve been most proud, has been my daughter Elissa, who answered the call to become a nurse. She persevered through four grueling years of classes, labs, practicum, and clincials, only complaining that she was always tired. But she got her B.S.N. degree and has made us proud of how she has ministered to countless patients using the skills that she learned in the excellent nursing program at Bob Jones University.
Her first nursing assignment out of college was at Charlotte Regional Hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida. Just weeks after she began that job, Hurricane Charlie hit, and the hospital, located mere yards from the banks of Charlotte Harbor where the Peace River enters it, was the bull’s eye at which the storm aimed. Elissa was at home with her grandparents when the storm hit, but she reported to work on the next shift and helped care for the patients who had been evacuated to the second floor when the ground floor flooded. She also worked with the Florida National Guard as they set up a temporary emergency facility in the parking lot to care for area residents who had been injured during the storm. When she wasn’t working tirelessly at the battered hospital, she was helping her grandparents deal with property damages at home.
Since that time, she has worked at Wake Forest University Baptist Hospital and private medical practices in several different types of nursing duties, including surgical recovery, oncological care, joint rehabilitation, and urology . Once while visiting us when her grandparents were also here, her grandfather suffered difficulty breathing, chest pains, and other symptoms of a heart attack. Suddenly, the daughter and granddaughter transformed into nursing professional, and off to the hospital he went, all objections brushed aside by one who knew what had to be done.
Now that Elissa has two active children of her own, she’s getting plenty of opportunities to practice her pediatric nursing skills, treating everything from cut lips from falls down the steps to bee stings and bug bites to burns, and who knows what else will inevitably occur during my grandchildren’s normal growing-up process. A loving mother is without question the best nurse.
I sometimes wonder how my mother survived my own childhood emergencies. There were sudden, late-night trips to the ER occasioned by head injuries from falling on the edge of a concrete porch (18 stitches), facial injuries from a bike wreck (3 stitches), a lacerated scalp from playing Frisbee with a sharp metal sign (10 stitches), broken bones, and innumerable other injuries incurred in the life of a normal, active, growing boy. Mother was my EMT and recovery nurse for all of them.
Then there are the school nurses, who have the unenviable job of trying to discern what is real illness and what is merely students’ clever attempts to get out of class or to be sent home. They must deal with the annual outbreak of lice that seems to infect every elementary school and the almost daily cuts and scrapes and bruises incurred on the playground. Students get pencils jammed into their hands or eyes. And then there are the real illnesses that often hit students of all ages. School nurses perform a necessary and too often unnoticed service for all students and their parents.
So let’s hear it for nurses this month, not only the student nurses and the professionals but also the longsuffering mothers who nurse their youngsters and guide them safely through the myriad dangers and illnesses of childhood. If you must go to the doctor or a hospital, thank the nurses you see, especially those who serve you well. They do a lot more than we see, and they deserve our thanks and gratitude. And thank the mother who saw you through childhood!