30: Fishing for Help

30: Fishing for Help

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Fishing for Help

True teaching is only achieved by example.

~Plato

Halfway through my nurses training, I worried that I would never graduate. The surgery rotation became my downfall. When I stepped into the operating room, total panic overwhelmed me. My hands trembled and I dropped pieces of equipment. My clumsiness made the surgeons irritable. If a doctor grumbled or criticized me, I became even more flustered. Even my legs betrayed me and I had difficulty standing still. The surgical mask could not hide my teary eyes and red face. The pressure felt so unbearable that I wanted to quit the nursing program and forget my dreams of being an RN.

As soon as I had a day off from surgery, classes, and studying, I made the two-hour bus ride to see my parents. I wanted nothing more than to crash on the sofa and hear words of comfort and sympathy to lessen my stress. Instead, Dad said, “Get moving. We are going to take you fishing.” A fishing trip was not what I had in mind for rest and relaxation.

My parents loved to fish, but I had only tried once and had quit from boredom. Without giving me a chance to protest, Dad loaded the gear while Mom packed enough food to stock a grocery store.

My parents launched their motorboat into Lake Winneconne and Dad glided to his special spot on the lake. “This is where the white bass bite,” he announced. I relished Mom’s freshly caught fish fried into crispy delicacies, but I did not know a white bass from a blue whale.

“All you gotta do is bait your hook with a worm and toss in the line,” Dad advised. “With a little practice you will get the hang of it.”

I had as much confidence in my fishing skills as being a surgical scrub nurse, which meant zip, zero, zilch. The first worm I squished onto the hook fell off as soon as it hit the water.

“If the worm falls off, grab another and try again,” Dad said. I mutilated a few more slimy creatures, but finally maneuvered the worm onto the hook and tossed the line into the water.

“Now keep your eye on the bobber,” Dad instructed.

A few minutes passed and Mom hauled in a fish. “Yep, they’re biting,” she said.

Then Dad reeled in a fish, then another.

I stared into the lake and wondered if I would fail at fishing, too. Suddenly I saw my red bobber go under. I felt a tug on the pole and Dad hollered, “Jerk the line!” I gave my pole a quick tug. “Now reel it in.” I did. Miraculously, a wiggly fish dangled from the pole. “See what can be accomplished with a little practice,” he said. Dad’s grin matched my own. The thrill of catching that first fish motivated me to quickly bait a hook and try again.

The white bass gobbled our worms like starving wolves attacking prey. We’d cast in a line and in a flash we had a fish. It reminded me of the cartoons that show fish jumping into the boat. Within two hours we had our limit. The cooler was full, we were exhilarated, and I had completely forgotten about my miserable surgery ordeal.

We got home and Mom taught me how to filet a fish. At first I was awkward with the scaling, slitting, and cleaning. By the time I finished cleaning my share of the pile of fish, I felt almost like an expert. The day proved rewarding. I hadn’t dropped my pole, my hands did not shake, and I slit open a fish with the skill of a surgeon handling a scalpel. Well, almost.

I returned to nursing school rejuvenated. The fishing lesson from Dad made a lasting imprint on my brain. I can still hear his message. “Bait the hook.” (Prepare.) “Toss in the line.” (If it does not work the first time, try again.) “Keep your eye on the bobber.” (Concentrate on the task.) “Pull in the fish.” (See it through.) I applied his fishing lessons to my struggles in the surgery rotation and passed. In fact, his advice helped me all through school and I did become an RN.

As my dad said, “All it takes is a little practice.” With Dad’s coaching, I learned a lesson to last me a lifetime.

~Barbara Brady

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