35: Tossed Salad

35: Tossed Salad

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Tossed Salad

Laughter is higher than all pain.

~Elbert Hubbard

My ten-year-old daughter had been hospitalized for more than three months with a painful, unknown disease. She could barely eat, and when she did her pain level increased dramatically. Both of us were worried, exhausted, and overwhelmed by all the unanswered questions and the unknown diagnosis. My heart was heavy with concern for my beloved daughter. She had missed so many events… her birthday, school activities, soccer games. Her smile had gone missing.

She had been such a happy child, always bringing joy to our family. My prayers were frequent, but my hope that she’d laugh again diminished with each passing day, each medical test that revealed nothing, and each treatment that proved incorrect.

A nurse named Henry gave her special attention and helped me decipher what the multiple doctors said. He brought balloons and made them into animals and visited her every chance he could, even when she was not his assigned patient. Although he was unable to make her smile or laugh, her eyes lit up when Henry came in. He seemed as concerned as I was that the doctors could not find the cause of her severe pain. He became a trusted friend and a nurse who gave us the medicine of friendship and compassion. His concern was our balm.

One afternoon, when Henry brought her lunch tray, she refused all of the food, including Jell-O and pudding. Henry, trying to be funny, said, “You should eat a tossed salad because it’s St. Patrick’s Day and you need your greens.” He put the salad bowl on her food table.

When she didn’t laugh and turned her head, Henry took the bowl of salad to return it to the tray on her nightstand. But he tripped over the IV pole, and the tossed salad flew up in the air, sending tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and carrots soaring. Most of it landed on her face and shoulders, with some lettuce decorating her IV pole.

My daughter laughed and laughed and laughed. Months of pain seemed to be released as we all joined in laughter, a discharge of bottled up emotions that had weighed heavily upon us.

“I’m sorry.” Henry apologized and chuckled as we removed salad from my daughter’s beautiful face. But the more he tried, the harder she laughed.

The doctor came in and saw her tossed-salad complexion. He joined in the laughter and asked, “What kind of dressing do you want?” And we laughed some more.

A few days later, the doctor ordered one more test and thankfully, her illness was diagnosed properly with treatments that began the healing process.

Or was it the laughter?

~Malinda Dunlap Fillingim

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