Angel of Mercy or Crone From Hell?

A blogging buddy of mine is a registered nurse. And from what I can tell, a pretty darned good one. She’d probably be the one to gently pat your hand while you fight back tears of pain or bring you an extra pillow or some other little nice thing to comfort you and let you know it’s all gonna be okay.

Then there’s the nurse that my mother had during the last month of her life at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

My mother mentioned the incident to me when I came to visit her one day. She suffered from emphysema and congestive heart failure. (And I have the death certificate to prove it.)

Shortness of breath is a hallmark of the emphysema sufferer. And for some reason, the Army decided that cardiac patients and cancer patients should be housed in the same ward. (Perhaps their needs were similar; I just don’t know.) And for anyone who hasn’t experienced a military medical facility, you don’t get a room or a semi-private room (unless you’re a ranking officer). Unless you are in ICU, you are thrown into a ward, which is just a series of beds (like you see in some war movies) with the typical “shower curtain” drawn around it.

The nurses changed shifts sometime around 1:00 a.m. It was right after that that my mother rang her bedside buzzer to summon a nurse for help into the bedside potty. When the nurse snapped her head round the curtain and barked “What?,” my mother, being the Southern belle that she was, prefaced her request with “Good morning, ….” and then was cut off with this pithy reply: “Is THAT what you called me over here to tell me? I don’t have time for this; I’m busy!” Or words to that effect. Without bothering to find out what mother needed as she attempted to draw her next breath to speak. She held it in until the next shift, apparently.

Well I went ten kinds of livid when I found that out. There’s no reason for anyoe to act that way, especially not a care giver. These people had terminal illnesses, cancer patients and cardiac patients alike, it was probably that few of them would get out of there alive. They deserved more compassion than that barking bat of a nurse. I went to the head of the ward and explained how I felt and that while the woman might have been an excellent nurse, her bedside manner sucked pondwater and she probably didn’t need to be nursing THAT particular group of patients (I was every bit of 22 years old and didn’t mind speaking my mind).

I noticed that on my next visit, mother told me the nurse had been removed from the ward. Good. Let her wait on some other group of patients. Not my mother or anyone in her condition.

Of course, there’s the flip side of this bad nurse/good patient scenario, as I found out in 1991 when I had my cancer surgery. I didn’t get a private room, but shared a two-bed room with a noisy young lady and her even noisier family. Mind you, I had just come back from major abdominal surgery. My head was awash in morphine. God Bless the wonderful morphine drip. But when I came out of my purple fog, I was treated to nonstop soliloquy, monologues and dissertations, rants and raves by the patient herself and her family members. All this in addition to the TV being on, blasting away, nonstop.

But the worst part of it was that the woman and her entire family treated the nurses — and these were NURSES, mind you, NOT candy stripers or nurses’ aides — like handmaidens. I overheard her one time asking the nurse to go downstairs and fetch her something from the cafeteria. Geesh. I think that nurse has better things to do.

So it’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose. I do have to say that all the times (one that I can remember) I’ve had nursing care, it has always been outstanding.

So hope for this:

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Or better yet — for me at least — this:

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And definitely NOT this:

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