64: Angel at My Bedside

64: Angel at My Bedside

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Angel at My Bedside

Thy purpose firm is equal to the deed. Who does the best his circumstance allows, does well, acts nobly; angels could do no more.

~Edward Young

The subdued lights and muted voices frightened me. I could sense the tension and worry in the room. Something was wrong. Women had babies every day and I’d never heard of any of my friends being whisked away into a dark, isolated area filled with strange intimidating monitors.

I was three weeks past my due date, and although my labor was induced, I suspected the dull ache I’d been feeling in my lower back all day heralded my child’s intent to finally enter the world. The dripping tube connected to my arm was simply speeding up the process. Hushed whispers, the worry on my husband Don’s ashen face and his weak assurances that everything was all right only increased my anxiety.

Despite the epidural I’d been given, my discomfort grew. A roaring pressure reverberated in my head. I heard moaning, then screams of pain. As they grew louder, I realized they were coming from me.

A cool palm touched my feverish forehead and I glanced up to see gentle eyes behind a masked face. “I’m Debbie, your nurse. I know you’re frightened and you’re hurting, but we’re taking good care of you. Trust us, okay?”

I nodded, then groaned as another cramp ripped through me. When it dissipated, I became aware of a doctor at the foot of my bed. He examined me while Debbie grasped my hand, positioning herself so she blocked him from my view. A tilt of my head, however, exposed his worried face.

“I want you to breathe with me,” the nurse instructed, distracting me. “I understand it’s difficult, but we need you relaxed and calm, so follow what I do.” She proceeded to inhale and slowly exhale. I tried to imitate her, but all I could do was pant. “Focus” she crooned. “Close your eyes and count to ten with each breath.”

I attempted to follow her example, but another agonizing contraction tore at me. My husband gripped my hand, urging me to squeeze as hard as I could. I heard voices emanating from a dark corner of the room. Doctors conferring. The grim, barely audible way they spoke terrified me. “Severe toxemia.” “Danger of stroke.” “High blood pressure.” “Not rotating properly.” “C-section.”

Staff tiptoed in and out. The dim lights were finally turned off altogether, replaced by flashlights when my vital signs were checked. Eventually, even my husband was asked to leave. I began to cry and protest.

“Shh,” Debbie soothed hypnotically. “He’ll be in the waiting room, but I’ll stay. I’m not going anywhere.” Her voice had a mesmerizing effect on me, lulling me through my haze of agony.

As promised, she didn’t leave my side, asking me questions about myself, showing genuine interest, and amusing me with anecdotes about her job. As she chattered, her eyes darted to the various monitors and machines. She illuminated my chart with the weak rays of her penlight to jot down the information she read.

I don’t know how much time elapsed. Pain and fear mingled together. Every time I became too distressed or incoherent, Debbie managed to pacify me by stroking my hair, wiping my face with a cool cloth, murmuring quietly, or asking questions.

Doctors continued to enter and exit the room, conferring with each other out of my earshot, but their grave expressions were impossible to ignore. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, one of them approached my bed, where I was balled up in a fetal position.

“We’re going to take you into the delivery room, now,” he announced. “You’re fully dilated.”

“My husband,” I croaked, clamping on to Debbie’s arm. “I told him I didn’t want him in the delivery room, but now I do. Please, can you ask him to come?”

“He’ll be there,” she promised.

I was wheeled down a long hallway. Debbie walked briskly beside my gurney, continuously soothing me with soft-spoken words and reassuring smiles.

“You’re coming in too!” I demanded rather than asked.

“Of course!” she grinned. “After I wash up and get a gown on.”

“My husband?”

“He’ll be right behind me.”

After that, everything became a blur. I thrashed and cried as I was pushed through swinging doors, only relaxing when I recognized familiar eyes behind masks — both my husband’s and my nurse’s. Then suddenly my world went black.

I woke to the sounds of a baby’s lusty cries. Turning my head weakly, I saw a small bundle in Don’s arms.

“You have a beautiful, healthy son,” someone told me, as my eyes closed again.

The next time I opened them, I was in another darkened room. I groaned and heard some movement at my right. From the dim glow of the hall lights, I could make out a human form sitting in a chair beside me.

“Don?” I called, through parched lips.

“It’s me — Debbie,” came the response. “We sent your hubby home. But I’m still here.”

She stood and approached me, reaching for a small carafe of water. She poured some into a glass and raised my head to take a sip.

“I wanted to make sure you were okay,” she told me, adjusting my pillow. “Drink this and try to sleep some more. You’ve had a rough time.”

“My baby?”

“He’s perfect,” she assured me. “He weighed in at eight pounds ten ounces. You’ll see him in the morning. Right now he’s screaming down in the nursery with those strong lungs of his.”

I drifted off again. Every time I awoke, it was to find that dedicated nurse right beside me, seeing to my every need.

Finally, sunlight streamed through the drawn blinds of the quiet room. I opened my eyes to see Don sitting in the chair Debbie had vacated, relief evident on his face.

“Welcome back,” he whispered, wrapping his arms around me. “You had us all scared for a while, but you’re going to be okay.”

I stared at him, puzzled.

He explained that I had preeclampsia, and that I almost died. My obstetrician had missed the warning signs of toxemia. Luckily, both my baby and I were fine.

That afternoon, I walked a little and stopped at the nurse’s station to ask where I could find Debbie.

“She left on vacation as soon as she was sure you’d recover,” the head nurse told me. “She was terribly worried about you and changed her flight because she didn’t want to leave you.”

Stunned, I asked, “Why on earth would she do that?”

“That’s Debbie,” she replied.

Although I never saw that wonderful, dedicated nurse again, several weeks later, I called to thank her. Her voice on the phone was as caring and kind as I remembered, and I could almost see her shrug humbly when I babbled my thanks for her devotion and care.

Over the years, I’ve learned one universal truth. Nurses are angels at the bedside.

~Marya Morin

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