20: Men Needed

20: Men Needed

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Men Needed

There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.

~Walter Reuther

In the spring of 1971, a lead story in Sunday’s newspaper magazine read “Men Needed.” The article reported that nursing was opening up to men and there would be a great demand for them in the future. My husband Larry had recently been honorably discharged from the Air Force and was attending college on the GI Bill. Civil engineering was his field of study, but he wondered if there might be another career for him.

“Look at this.” Larry pointed to the article. “I should look into becoming a nurse.”

“But you can’t even stand the sight of blood. Your hands got clammy and you almost fainted watching a film on chest surgery in our personal hygiene class,” I reminded him.

Although he had never considered nursing or any other medical career before that moment, the next day he called the local city college and asked about the process for acceptance into the nursing program.

After completing the application and interview, Larry could hardly wait to tell his family his plan to be a registered nurse. Unfortunately neither his father nor his stepfather viewed nursing as a career for men. Larry was steadfast. “I’m supposed to do this.” He said. But just in case he didn’t get into nursing school, he also applied for the California Highway Patrol. He was accepted to both programs, and he chose nursing over law enforcement.

Larry graduated in 1974 with his degree as an RN. He would spend his career in rehabilitation, education, and the cardiac catheterization lab, but his real stories took place when he was off duty. Larry always seemed to be “there” when people needed him.

He was still in school when a young boy cut his head badly on a travel trailer where we were camping. The blood would not stop spurting so Larry used his fingers to hold pressure on the wound while the boy’s dad drove to the nearest hospital.

One Christmas night a neighbor pounded on our door. A guest was having a heart attack. Larry started CPR and waited for the paramedics. “She won’t make it,” he told me when he returned home. But two weeks later, she came to our door with a two-pound box of candy to thank Larry for saving her life.

He was “there” again when he saw a young girl fall off the playground bars. The bones in her arm protruded. Larry stopped her father from scooping her up in his arms, thus averting more damage. He used thick pieces of cardboard to stabilize the fractured arm during transport by a private vehicle to the hospital.

Sitting on a tram at the Grand Canyon, he heard on the radio that someone was having a heart attack at the next stop. He asked the location of the person and approached the scene, then took charge of the situation until help arrived.

Once when waiting to be seated in a restaurant, he saw two men dragging a woman out toward the entrance. He approached the trio and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“She is having a diabetic attack and we need to get her home.”

“She’s not going anywhere,” Larry cautioned. “Penny, call 911,” he directed me. “This lady will die before she gets home.” He asked a waitress for syrup, which he had the woman drink.

Then a family on a snow trip had an accident when their sled turned over on a downhill slope. Five people were ejected and one young woman was badly hurt. Larry quickly assessed the situation while waiting for help to arrive. He asked for my sweatshirt and wrapped it around the woman’s neck to stabilize it. Once the paramedics arrived they cut my sweatshirt off her and used their equipment to stabilize and transport her to the hospital. Two months later, she found Larry at the hospital where he worked and gave him flowers. “The doctor told me whoever took care of me on the scene of the accident took steps that prevented me from being paralyzed.”

Larry held the hand of his stepfather as he struggled in his last minutes of life, telling him, “Relax. Take a deep breath. Go on to Jesus.” The calmness of his voice allowed his stepdad to let go of this world.

The most poignant off-duty nursing was when Larry spent hours caring for my brother Sam while he was dying from cancer. Under the direction of hospice, Larry got up every hour to check on Sam and ensure he was pain free, while the rest of the family sat with my brother on two-hour shifts. It was Larry who gathered the family around and held Sam’s head as he took his final breath.

These are but a few of the many stories of Larry serving in those unexpected off duty moments. He certainly answered the call… Men Needed.

~Penelope Childers

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