Can you possibly understand the role you play in your patients’ lives? I received a Christmas card the other day (February 10) from a woman I haven’t seen in probably 14 years. She played a critical role in my life 17 years ago when I was a rehabilitation patient at Craig Hospital. I was so scared when I got there. My stay at Craig was almost 5 months because of the stage four pressure wound on my sacrum. It was the result of being strapped to a backboard for over 36 hours. Most of the first 3 months were spent cleaning the wound to get it ready for skin flap surgery. Much of this time I was unable to speak because of the tracheotomy.
A young woman named Marsha was one of my nurses. She was beautiful, funny and had an infectious laugh. She provided my care in a manner that made me feel special and safe. We have kept in touch since I left and even saw each other once when I went back for a reevaluation. I often wonder if she has any idea the critical role she played in my recovery. She has since left Craig and has a family, but still lives in the Denver area.
Marsha work days, but the most difficult time for me was during the night. I had become afraid of the dark and absolutely petrified to be alone. I had a boom box which my wife loaded with CDs before she left. Everything was manageable until the music shut off. In a matter of minutes I would have full-blown night terrors which turned me into a raving maniac. It got so bad that the nurses would wheel my bed out to the nurses station so they didn’t have to continually come into my room to calm me down. There was another young nurse who worked nights. I have long since forgotten her name. I can still hear her soothing voice as she tried to calm my hysteria. Things were always a little bit better when she was on duty. When I returned to Craig for a reevaluation I was saddened to find out that she had left and joined a traveling nurses group. In a wonderful effort to calm my fears she and Marcia bought two packages of the luminous stars and pasted them on the ceiling over my bed. At night the stars would radiate light for a while and then gradually dim and turned dark. When I was getting ready to come home, she came and had her picture taken with me and told me in a soft voice that she had only been a nurse for about six weeks. I was amazed.
When my wife and I were told at Craig that my quadriplegia would require someone to come to my house daily to help with my needs, get me dressed and in a wheelchair I was dumbfounded. I had always been a very private individual and prided myself on my independence and self-reliance. The thought of a stranger coming into my house every day was more than I could fathom. Rhonda began working for us about a year after I came home. She’s worked now for more than 16 years and has become a part of our family. Her job description has grown to much more than that of a nurse. She is always willing to take part in my little adventures and to step up when I need help. One good example of this is the day she drove into my neighbor’s field hooked a tow strap on my wheelchair, which had become mired in the mud, and pulled me out with her four-wheel-drive truck.
I wonder if nurses know the critical role they play in their patient’s life. I am positive my rehabilitation would not have worked out as well as it did without Marcia and the other nurse from the night shift. Rhonda’s always willing to help attitude, has enabled me to pursue activities I never would be able to do otherwise. I look at the role these women played in my life and wonder if they can truly grasp how critical their care and support really is.