From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose


Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.

William Jennings Bryan

He shouldn’t have been on my unit, but Medical was full and Orthopedics had a bed opening. I shouldn’t have been his nurse, but the R.N. assigned to that wing called in sick for the evening, so the rest of us divided up her patient load. If he had been sick just two weeks later, I would have been gone, since I had already accepted a job at a different hospital in another city.

Our first meeting was a bit unusual; it involved two rather uncommon items: an aspirin suppository and a large hypodermic needle. Not what one would call standard “get to know you” equipment.

During my administration of his nasal douche, I remember saying something like, “I know this is uncomfortable, Mr. Nichols, but it has to be done.” Where’d I get that little tidbit of bedside manner? Not very comforting when someone’s squirting saline up your nose, I’m sure. Most of the time, he hid under the covers in 541-2 and clearly wanted to be left alone.

On any other shift, he would have been the most critical patient on my team, requiring the most attention. But the moon was full and any nurse knows what that can mean. The night was crazy! I had a biker, involved in a motorcycle accident, who had definite attitude issues. He was not adjusting well to the pins in his legs and entering his room meant ducking airborne bedpans. An elderly gentleman, recovering from hip replacement, was a tad disoriented. He hid chewing tobacco and spit it on the walls, the linens, the dresser, the bedside commode . . . and the nurses’ white uniforms. Three units of blood were infusing down Hall #1, which necessitated countless vital signs and checks on the blood warmers. There were complicated dressing changes and one unexpected Code Blue. So, with these situations and the extraheavy patient census, it was impossible to do more than meet basic needs. It was a night of “no frills” patient care—no back rub, no bedtime snack, no teaching, no interaction for psychological assessment, nothing but ordered procedures and meds. High stress is definitely not the best environment under which to recognize and appreciate your future mate.

My shift ended at 11:00 PM and with patient needs now in the domain of the crew on night duty, my charting began. By 1:00 AM, heading home seemed remotely possible, when a nurse’s aide stood at the desk with bundles of clean linens in her arms and reported that the patient in 541-2 had soaked the bed. I was shocked!

“That young man wet the bed? What happened?”

“Your aspirin suppository is what happened!” she laughed. “His fever finally broke.”

Now the guilt started to set in, gnawing at my conscience for being a basic nurse instead of a good nurse. Since he was awake anyway, and no doubt feeling better now that his temp was normal, I decided to go in and apologize for his less-than-five-star treatment.

Our eyes locked. There was instant electricity, a sense of “something’s happening here.” In that first relaxed moment of a totally insane night my internal voice murmured, “He’s been my patient?” He later admitted to a similar voice that said, “She’s been my nurse?”

Running a hand through his tousled mop of hair, he sighed, “Forgive me, this is the worst I’ve looked in my life.” But somehow I just didn’t notice.

In a whispered conversation, so as not to wake others, we got acquainted. As it turned out, all of our lives we had been crisscrossing and missing each other. He lived four houses down from my little cousin for whom I babysat. Time and again I had pushed her stroller past his yard and glanced at the boy playing in the Lone Ranger tent. As teens, he went to West High, I went to East, and we’d been at countless rival school functions simultaneously. I often joined friends after school at the local burger joint where, coincidentally, he was working the back grill. I shopped frequently at the corner store where he was a stock boy, and so it went, on and on.

“Can I call you when I go home?” he asked.

The professional voice in my head said, “No,” but “Yes” came out of my mouth.

A few days later, after relating to my aunt the events of that evening, she asked, “How will you know if he’s the one?”

Terrified of a commitment like marriage, I answered, “He’ll bring me flowers on the first date.” This was a safe declaration, because flowers were a social grace of the past, all but abandoned in the 1970s.

So, guess what he had in his hands when he showed up at the door? Serendipity? I think not! Somewhere around coincidence number 101, a reasonable person must abandon the “accidental” theory in favor of true destiny, kismet.

His version of how we met is a bit more condensed. His story is that I saw his butt and it was love at first sight. Of course, as is sometimes the case with those of his gender, he tends to oversimplify things.

Over the passing of the last twenty-eight years, we’ve still enjoyed late-night, whispered conversations, but they’ve been a bit more intimate. And I can say that my love has deepened as the tables have turned, for he has nursed me through spinal surgeries and cancer, among other medical trials.

And when I have been ill and have felt it was the worst I’ve looked in my life, somehow he hasn’t noticed.

Tori Nichols

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