When I was 16, I needed to have my wisdom teeth removed. The surgery was not available in my hometown, so I set out on a road trip to Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. I was admitted next to a woman who seemed to be in her thirties. I don’t know what she was admitted for (I’m awkward with small talk), but I do know that she was unable to walk to the toilet, so the nurses would bring her a bedpan. Somehow she always managed to feel natures call just before lunch time and the smell would brutally violate my nostrils every time, killing my appetite! She had no problem eating though and she gladly ate my lunch too.
I’d watch the nurses bustling about, doctors scribbling orders, patients walking about with their booty exposed through their hospital gowns (the hospital gown made little sense to my teenage mind). The nurses’ routine seemed a bit excessive to me. I wondered why they spent so much time tidying up the beds, only to find that the patient ruffles it up again in a matter of seconds. Checking vital signs every 4 hours also seemed a bit much since I was a healthy 16 year old just trying to get my teeth removed. The anaesthetist came to ask me “pre-op-like” questions and the doctor ordered blood tests.
It is quite a stimulating experience getting a front row seat in a hospital ward. The wonderful thing about the nurses was that even though they were always visibly stressed out, they always smiled when they spoke to me and they frequently checked in on me. Even though I didn’t think they should be spending any time worrying about me, it did make me feel much more at ease. When the doctor did his rounds, it was always intimidating; he would mumble foreign words to the nurse and he always seemed too busy to be bothered with little things like translating medical mumbo jumbo into simple English. The nurse would explain things to me and in effect, I would imagine her as my friend and the doctor as an evil villain (I’ve always had an overactive imagination).
Sleeping in a hospital is a bit freaky. Patients started screaming in the middle of the night, some of them were crying, some were vomiting and if I’m not mistaken one of the patients died but I can’t be too sure, because the nurses did a great job of keeping me sheltered from it. I could smell my neighbours’ bedpan deposits while I watched the nurses creeping around silently in their ghostly white uniforms. I just couldn’t wait to go back home.
At about 5AM, just when I finally nodded off to sleep, the lights went on and the nurses cheerily said “good morning”. I was taken by surprise; 5AM was still NIGHT TIME as far as I was concerned! They started distributing thermometers and checking blood pressures, helping patients bath, tidying up beds, prepping patients for surgery and writing reports. They all look exhausted, like they had been through hell and back and while I could sympathize with them quiet easily, I had absolutely no idea what they actually went through until I myself became a nurse.
I frequently complained to my friends and family about the woes of nursing but none of them understood it the way a nurse would understand it. To put it simply, nurses are the true heroes in any hospital (the hardworking ones that is) and they truly hold everything together even though they don’t get recognition for all their efforts. The public in general tend to recognize bad nurses more easily than they would recognize a good nurse but if you do meet a good nurse, do your best to show some gratitude (a little gratitude goes a long way), because he/she is doing far more than you know to keep everything in place.
Happy Nurses week to all the wonderful, strong, hard-working nurses out there, I may have quit nursing but I take with me everything you guys taught me about what it takes to be a truly outstanding human being.
If you know a nurse, do something nice for her during Nurses Week, she rarely gets anything back for everything she gives – and she gives a lot more than you could ever know!
(I am not a nurse anymore, so no I’m not hinting to anyone that I want something nice done for me!)