15: Bobby

15: Bobby

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses


Death — the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening.

~Sir Walter Scott

I met Bobby early in my nursing career. I don’t remember his specific diagnosis, only that he suffered from a genetic disorder.

I wasn’t sure what I would find when assigned to the terminal ward on the pediatric unit that night. I was prepared to be depressed. I looked at the first three empty beds and thought they seemed to relish a temporary respite from sickness and disease. Then I looked at the fourth bed… and my spirit instantly lifted because of Bobby’s smile.

A boy held hostage in an aging body, the eleven-year-old looked to be in his seventies. He was three feet tall. “Three feet and one inch,” he was later quick to add, “if I really stretch.”

Bobby’s chest, starting high under his chin and ending at his hips, was shaped like a barrel. His arms and legs looked like toothpicks. His yellow skin was leathery, rough, and wrinkled. Then there was his smile, like a speck of hope shining through the darkness. I couldn’t help but smile back.

“I need a bath,” he said with a grin as I walked over to his bed. “I have to be clean. I am going home early tomorrow morning to see my brother. I want to be real clean.”

I knew from reviewing Bobby’s chart that he was not going to be discharged tomorrow or any time soon. As I prepared him for his bath, I gently tried to tell him that. “You have tests and treatments scheduled and those will take at least another week.”

Bobby’s grin just grew wider, as if keeping a big secret. “I’m going home to see my brother early tomorrow morning,” he repeated. “I need to be real clean.”

I agreed with the idea of a bath, thinking it would help him rest. And I was glad to spend the extra time with him, to talk and to listen. Knowing he suffered from constant itching due to the poisons building up in his system, I bathed him once and then laughingly bathed him a second time when he kept saying, “Make sure you don’t miss a spot. I need to be real clean for tomorrow when I see my brother.”

We giggled as I applied lots of lotion. “Okay, Bobby, whatever you say. You are so clean, you squeak. If we put on any more lotion you are going to slide right off your bed onto the floor and get dirty again!”

Bobby did go home. He died shortly after his mother arrived early the next morning. As I comforted her, I told her about our last hours together and the joy he got out of something as simple as a bath. “I’m just sorry he didn’t get to see his brother again; he talked about going home to see him.”

She looked puzzled as the tears streaked down her face. Then she spoke softly. “I had another son years before Bobby was born and he died at birth. But I never told Bobby. I’ve never told anyone.” She smiled through tears. “But somehow Bobby knew.”

~Debbie Sistare

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