27: Quiet Refuge

27: Quiet Refuge

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Quiet Refuge

A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.

~Steve Maraboli

Alone in a hospital bed in Baton Rouge, I lay in a cocoon of plaster restraining my body in the hope of repairing my shattered bones. My hospital room was a quiet refuge from the physical and emotional trauma I had suffered at the hands of a rival biker gang. I was a victim in a violent gang war, enduring intense pain after being shot in my left arm and right leg with M-16 rifles.

The body cast encased my left arm, chest, right leg to my ankle, and left thigh. A wooden pole separated my legs. Periodically, I was flipped onto my stomach, exposing a gaping cutout in the plaster necessary for bodily eliminations. Along with the physical pain, the agony of humiliation filled my soul with sorrow and shame.

As I lay in the bed, it occurred to me that I could not find an escape from the uncertainty of the future. My husband, Viggo, had dropped me off at a hospital out of state and left me there, alone and totally dependent on the nursing staff to take care of me. I did not know a soul. That is until Reni, a young nursing student with a reassuring smile, opened the door and stepped inside my hospital room. Her unexpected visit was a welcome relief from my loneliness.

Reni looked beyond the biker girl and we found lots to talk about in spite of our differences. She was pregnant with her first child, and much to my delight, let me feel the baby’s movements. Selflessly, she spent time with me, on duty and off duty.

She took care of my personal care needs and frequently washed and styled my hair, which did wonders for my mood. We laughed as she shaved the only part of my leg not covered with plaster. Daily, I became dependent on the life-giving support that her comforting hands and benevolent heart brought me.

Reni stayed with me through difficult physical therapy sessions, holding my hand and encouraging me to press on in spite of the pain. When it came time for the doctor to cut off my body cast, she was there. What a glorious feeling to be free from all that plaster! The months in the cast left my legs weak and feeble, chapped and hairy. She pampered me with the tedious tasks of shaving my legs and massaging cream to restore my skin. Spa treatment in a hospital bed — it felt wonderful.

Yet I faced another surgery. The bones in my leg would be fused together using a bone fragment from my hip. Reni was there when I woke, doing her best to make me comfortable while monitoring my condition. The doctor hadn’t mentioned that the surgery would leave my leg two inches shorter. We grieved together over my loss, and her caring spirit helped diminish the pain.

Eventually my father drove from New Jersey to transfer me to a hospital near home. Reni was there in the hospital parking lot, waiting with love and goodbye hugs. It was the last time I saw her, but we promised to stay in touch.

This incredible student nurse, then friend, continued to give me the gifts of compassion and kindness I’d not known from anyone else in my life. Long distance, she inspired me to be strong during the many years of rehabilitation and recovery, plus many more surgeries and hospitalizations.

Today, I have a wonderful husband and two daughters who love me in spite of my disabilities and my past. My passion lies in sharing the message of God’s hope and healing for the brokenhearted. As Reni taught me, the power in those acts of benevolence restores our strength… and the results can last a lifetime.

~Maureen Hager

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