There was a stretch several years ago where every time I went to St. Louis to be with my folks, something happened to Mom. As someone who had never spent time in a hospital, it was not always easy watching others be in charge of my mother. The following was written during a Spring Break visit and ran March 13, 2006.
Yesterday was long. I spent seven hours in Mom's hospital room. During my lifetime, I have infrequently been in hospital settings, either as visitor or patient. My mother is undergoing tests to determine why she passed out two days ago. It has been a blessing for me to be here in St. Louis. It takes some of the burden off of my father and I have been able to spend time with Mom, albeit in a manner I would not have chosen. The hardest part of Mom's Alzheimer's for me is the role reversal. Yesterday, Mom had two choices. She could stay in bed or she could sit in a chair. Since she was hooked up to an IV drip, she had to remain relatively immobile. At least twenty times, she tried to get up and walk away; I had to restrain her. Mom kept tugging at the heart monitor attached to her; I had to repeatedly intervene. Even though I understand it's for her well-being, it is very difficult for me to take the position of the adult when it comes to Mom. If there is a bright side, it is that she tries to be cooperative and please those caring for her. That part of her personality the Alzheimer's has not been able to penetrate.
That brings me to the nurses. Seeing others care for a loved one is not easy but the nurses attending to Mom have been incredible. They come in a variety of ages and ethnicities but they have this in common: they are extraordinary in the protection of the aged. In 1st Corinthians 13, the first two definitions of love given by Paul are patience and kindness. Those descriptions fit the women watching over my mother as if tailor-made. Their touch is tender and never rough or brusque. They speak gently to her, calling her by name. They let her speak, even though much of what she says is incoherent. They make eye contact with her and let her maintain dignity. They deal with thousands of patients per year but I left feeling my mother was viewed as an individual with worth and value. And so, to the nursing staff on the seventh floor of the DePaul Health Center in St. Louis, I say the only word befitting one in my position- THANKS. You have blessed my family as I am sure you have blessed many families. I know you don't get paid enough but it isn't a paycheck you chase. You help the world, one patient, one family, one crisis at a time. You do it with class and you do it with empathy. And you did it for my mother.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Constant attention by a good nurse may be just as important as a major operation by a surgeon."
Dag Hammarskjold (Former Secretary General of the United Nations)
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org