38: Nurse Jesse

38: Nurse Jesse

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Nurse Jesse

It is not how much we do — it is how much love we put into the doing.

~Mother Teresa

The room was dark save for the green glow of monitors, yet I sensed his presence before I opened my eyes, made heavy by morphine. He stood with his back to me. I watched as he replaced the IV bag suspended from a pole.

He turned. “So, you’re awake.”

“Who’re you?” I asked.

So many doctors, nurses and technicians had been in and out of my hospital room that I once mistook a uniformed maintenance man for a member of the medical team. I had blurted out my bowel concerns before he had a chance to tell me he was there to fix the radiator.

The man flipped a switch on a monitor and took a step closer to my bed. “I’m Jesse,” he said. “Your nurse. There was a shift change while you were sleeping. Becky’s gone for the night.”

“Oh,” I said, taking in this new information. More changes. “I need the bathroom.”

“Okay. Just a minute. Shade your eyes.” Jesse flipped on the overhead light.

He had brown skin, shiny black hair, and light blue scrubs like a surgeon. He was my first male nurse and didn’t fit the old picture stuck in my head. When I was a kid, nurses were mostly perky young women in white caps and dresses.

Jesse helped me sit up. The thick gauze turban swaddling my head made me feel top heavy, and the drugs made me woozy. I counted three IV lines attached to ports inserted into my arm. Jesse maneuvered the IV pole so I wouldn’t get tangled. He placed a walker in front of me. I didn’t think I could stand and I told him so.

“You can do it,” he said. I stretched my toes to the floor and shifted my weight onto one foot and then the other, gripping the walker. Jesse wheeled the IV pole along beside me, put a firm hand on the small of my back, and guided me the few steps to the bathroom.

“I’ll be right here,” he said, as he closed the door.

After I was back in bed, Jesse asked me if I had been able to urinate. I nodded.

“Okay, let’s see how you did.”

Jesse pushed a cart up next to the bed and explained the ultrasound machine he’d use to measure the volume of liquid remaining in my bladder. He rolled the wand back and forth on my lower abdomen and frowned. “Your bladder is still pretty full. If you can’t empty it you’ll need a catheter.”

“No!” I cried out in a panic. “Not that!” It had been almost two months since I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Thank God it was benign. I was through with being a patient. I didn’t want any tubes tying me to that hospital bed. I wanted to go home.

“What’s wrong?” Jesse asked softly. “It would just be temporary.”

I couldn’t answer as I choked back tears.

Jesse pulled a chair up next to my bed and sat down. I eyed him with curiosity, wondering just how long he would wait for my answer. I had become accustomed to the fast-pace of the hospital staff, which allowed no time for conversation. I was in a teaching hospital, and when a doctor with a group of med students crowded around my bed, I felt like a lab rat under observation. Questions to me were focused on the physical: On a scale of one to ten, what’s your pain level? How’s your appetite? Are you drinking? Have you gone to the bathroom yet? No one had seemed interested in what was going on in my heart or mind.

Jesse leaned back in the chair and rested his arms in his lap.

“I’m afraid of a catheter,” I said. “Before my dad died he had a catheter and he hated it. I felt so bad for him. Catheters remind me how much he suffered. And how I couldn’t help him. I just don’t want one.”

Jesse paused a moment. “Okay. Then let’s see what we can do. You rest for a little while longer, then I’ll get you up again and we’ll walk the hall. Walking usually helps.”

Jesse sat with me. We talked. He asked about my work and my family and about what I liked to do. He didn’t ask about my brain tumor. He talked to me like a friend, not a patient. Though his primary responsibility was with my body, he was as interested in what concerned me and what brought me joy. For the first time in a long time, I felt like more than a wrecked car in a body shop.

When I was rested, Jesse helped me stand up again and I wrapped my fingers around the IV pole. He took hold of my other arm. Each step was an effort, but he supported me and we walked partway down the hall and back. It was exhausting. When we returned to the room, he steered me into the bathroom.

After I was back in bed, he ran the wand over my bladder again.

“Better,” he said. “But not good enough. You’re not empty.”

I groaned, expecting him to bring up the catheter again. But no, Jesse sat back down in the chair and I relaxed back into the pillows.

It took two more strolls, separated by dozing and conversation, before he repeated the ultrasound and proclaimed, “Empty!”

All night I’d felt as though I were Jesse’s only patient, though I knew that he had others. When he finally left my room, dawn was breaking. I fell back to sleep feeling abundantly grateful. I had been cared for in body, heart and mind.

~Lorri Danzig

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