Looks Can Be Deceiving

Looks Can Be Deceiving

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.

Sally Koch

I woke up at 7 AM on the ninth day of my hospital stay and saw the night nurse writing the day’s shift information on the chalkboard across from my bed.

Tracy would be the nurses’ assistant for the day. I looked to see who would be my nurse and saw the name, Lady Di. Great. Just what I need, I thought. Probably some Queen Latifah wannabe with more ego than actual nursing experience.

I was definitely not in a good mood. Recovery from emergency abdominal surgery had been a nightmare in itself. The daily injections to keep my blood from clotting and the twice-daily finger pricks to keep a check on what looked suspiciously like an acute diabetic condition had me at the very end of my rope.

I was a bit frustrated with the fact that years of constant complaining to doctors about abdominal pain had been casually dismissed as “nothing to worry about.” Now here I was in a hospital bed trying to come to terms with the reality of how this surgery and my condition would affect the rest of my life. The surgeon had explained it as a congenital defect. After 30 percent of my colon and small intestine were removed, I was told I was very lucky to have even survived. I tried my best to hold on to grateful thoughts as the pain seared through me.

I had not eaten since days before the surgery, not had so much as a sip of water. With tubes in every orifice of my body, I looked like death warmed over. My lips were dry and cracking from lack of moisture, and my hair—well let’s just say the matted mess was in dire need of a Clairol makeover.

The only good thing I could deduce from this dilemma was that I had lost ten pounds, and even that didn’t seem to make much difference, not with the six-inch scar running up the middle of my body. Every day was a stifling repeat of the one before, but at least this day I had something to look forward to—I was curious to meet the royal RN dubbed Lady Di.

Tracy, my aide, came in to get me ready for my morning bath. She helped me to sit up in the bedside chair, placed the tray table in front of me with all the necessary toiletries, and then left to help the nurse with a patient in the next room.

I may as well have had both my hands tied together, with the tube down my nose and IVs in both hands. I sat there wondering how I was supposed to manage to soap up without getting myself tangled up in a mess of tubes and cords that were now an external part of me. The water in my wash basin was nearly ice cold when an elderly woman poked her head in to see how I was doing. She took one look and correctly guessed that I was in desperate need of an extra pair of hands. She ran fresh, hot water and began the chore of helping me clean up.

I was having a hard time placing this friendly woman. She didn’t wear the customary smock of the nursing assistants. She certainly wasn’t dressed like a nurse. Her scruffy shoes, baggy clothes, and tousled hair had me guessing cleaning lady, but they, too, wore identifying uniforms.

She took a bottle of shampoo from her pants pocket and began to lather my messy mane. The shampoo’s scent resembled floral paradise. Out of the other pocket she produced body lotion, smoothing it onto my skin until I felt like silk from head to toe. I still looked more than a little under the weather, but now my inner spirit was beginning to shine. I felt more human and alive than I had in a long time.

She made my bed, cleared everything away, and set up my bedside table so all my essentials were within easy reach. She told me she’d be back in a little while to check on me. That was the first day that I truly felt like smiling since my medical ordeal began. No amount of flowers or fancy gifts could have given me what this kind and caring woman did. I didn’t feel like I was drowning in a mountain of medical problems. I was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

I looked in the mirror and almost recognized myself again, knowing I owed it all to this mystery woman who whipped me into a better frame of mind with a little TLC.

Tracy returned, apologizing for being gone so long. She immediately noticed I was all coiffed and chipper. I tried my best to describe the wingless angel who had hovered around me like a mother hen, giving me a much needed lift with her loving touch of human kindness. Tracy knew right away who I was talking about. “Oh, that’s Diane, she’s always helping out whenever she has the chance,” Tracy declared matter-of-factly. That’s when I found out that this kind and gentle woman was Lady Di, the nurse on duty that day. I also found out it was the nursing staff who gave her the nickname, Lady Di.

I often think of her, especially when I’m tempted to judge someone solely on looks. Thanks to her, I now know better. I never did find out why the hospital staff nicknamed her Lady Di, but if you ask me, I think it just may be because she treats her patients like royalty, going beyond the call of duty to make a difference in the lives of the patients who cross her path.

There are nurses who do their job with professional expertise, and then there are some who go above and beyond the job description. They have a special gift and have perfected the art of treating their patients with down-to-earth compassion and care. They are the angels among us who are a blessing in disguise.

Kathy Whirity

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