Angels in flat shoes. Why our nurses deserve so much more.

August 28, 2012

From a 5-year-old, it was a stroke of brilliance. A plan that just had to work.

I was in a little coastal hospital, with tonsils that were deemed no good. At a time when the mere whiff of tonsilitis meant an operation to whip them out.

It was sold to me as being necessary to end the weekly sore throats. And as a bonus, there’d be unlimited ice cream afterwards.

Sounded good. Until they told me that I’d be spending the night there alone.

No beds for parents back then. Mum and Dad had to go home without me.

Dad told me everything would be fine, and they’d see me first thing in the morning.

Mum, however, was teary. It was the first time we’d been apart. She was as upset as I was.

She hugged me, a giant squeeze from a tiny lady. And that gave me the opportunity to put my plan into action.

I grabbed her wrist, and held on for dear life. Small fingers in a death grip. Everyone else laughed, but I was serious.

They couldn’t leave me, if Mum was trapped. I’d hang on all night, and keep her with me.

Mum tried to reason with me. Dad tried to unwrap my bony fingers. He could have succeeded, of course, but let the show continue for a little longer.

It was a nurse who saved the day. Or night. I still remember her smiling face, promising me she wouldn’t leave my side, until my parents returned.

My grip eventually loosened, and with more tears, they departed. True to her word, that lovely woman stayed close, until I fell asleep. My first encounter with the angels who nurse.

A few years later, I broke my wrist. Playing soccer in the backyard, I fell, landing on the concrete lid of the old septic tank. This time, it was off to the big hospital.

I don’t remember much of the ordeal, expect that it hurt like hell. But there was a bigger drama, that Dad explained to me when I was older.

There were no beds. So we spent seven hours on a trolley, in the hospital corridor.

I do remember Dad doing his block. It was one of the first times I’d seen him blow up. While he was battling anyone who came near, it was a nurse who took pity on us. Not a doctor or administrator. Another angel.

Somehow, she got me a bed. And soothed the old man at the same time. Quite a feat.

Since then, I’ve seen them work their magic through the eyes of a parent. When you need all the help and reassurance you can get.

One night as a youngster, The Teenager had a fever that would have fried eggs. We’ve always been able to tell her temperature through the soles of her feet. Weird but true.

They were scorching. So it was off to an even bigger hospital.

Every parent knows the feeling of helplessness, when a child is sick. You think the worst, immediately.

The emergency ward was bustling. Doctors were flat-out. When it was our turn, the medico didn’t waste time or words. If the fever didn’t come down in the next few hours, our first-born would be admitted.

I thought back to the five-year old’s death grip, all those years ago. I didn’t want her to have to come up with the same plan.

For her part, the Not-Yet-A-Teenager was more interested in reading their colourful books. With steam coming off her forehead. Try as I might, I couldn’t convince her to drink the water they’d given her, to get that temperature down.

Panic wasn’t far off. Until a nurse came to the rescue. Male, this time. He convinced her what a cool idea it would be if she could read AND drink. Made it a game. It worked a treat.

All those stories came back to me, as I sat in hospital myself over the weekend. An unpleasant but necessary bout of surgery.

Late at night, it wasn’t the surgeon who provided me with comfort (although it should be said that he, too, was fantastic).

It was my nurse. Full of caring and compassion. With expertise to match. And the ability to ignore major levels of yuk. At all hours. Making things better. For scared little kids and impatient old farts.

What a noble profession. What wonderful people. Worth so much more than they’re getting.

Next time you’re in hospital, or visiting someone who is, thank the people in uniform. Our nurses. If you can’t keep Mum with you, there’s no better replacement.