The Promise

The Promise

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

The Promise

For the promise is to you and your children and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.

Acts 2:39

It was my fifth year working on the telemetry unit. On this particular day, I was assigned to take care of Mr. E., an American Indian in his late forties. As I read the chart, I remembered him instantly because I had taken care of him before. I was the first nurse to admit him to our unit years ago. He was a father of four, ages six to nineteen. He lived on the Indian reservation with his close-knit family.

In the past years, he’d been diagnosed with diabetes and severe peripheral neuropathy. He was a very quiet, reserved man, but always had a grin and sparkle in his eyes when I asked about his children. He never complained or asked for anything, but eventually I knew his routine and was able to anticipate his needs.

As the years went by, he lost both legs and had to undergo dialysis treatments three times a week. Even if I was not his nurse and he was on our unit, I often dropped by his room to say hello.

This time, after I got the report from the night nurse, she said, “I don’t know what else we can do; he’s in a coma and the dopamine drip is the only thing that is keeping him alive.”

I gave a deep sigh, thinking about his children.

As I entered his room, it was dark and a little bit chilly. Mr. E. was covered with a white sheet. I almost did not recognize him because he had lost a lot of weight. In the corner was his petite, teary-eyed wife, looking tired and helpless. I’d never met her before, so I introduced myself and told her that I knew her husband through the years of his hospitalizations.

Then I went to Mr. E. and leaned over and whispered my name into his ear.

There was no response.

Before I left the room, I asked his wife what I could get or do for her.

She said, “I know my husband is dying. I just want my sons to see him before he dies.”

“Where are your sons?”

“In jail,” she wept. She explained that the oldest one was in prison in Florence and the younger one was in juvenile jail in Phoenix. “The social worker said it’s impossible for them to visit their father,” she sobbed.

I gave her a hug, then bent down to whisper to Mr. E., “I promise that before my shift ends, I’m going to try as much as I can to have your sons come to see you. I know how much you love your kids.”

I gave them both my reassurance and left the room.

I phoned the social worker. To get the son from Florence would cost more than $350 for transportation and a police escort. Plus it would take a day or two to process it.

Next I called the officer at the Maricopa County Jail. He flatly declined my request for the younger son to see his father before he died.

I got the telephone number of the juvenile jail facility and asked to talk to the officer in charge.

“This is a matter of life and death. I need a big favor.”

I asked the officer if he had children and he said he did. I stated that I was asking on behalf of Mr. E. to bring his son to the hospital before he died. I told him he was near death.

“I know his dad is just waiting to see his son for the last time. If security is an issue, I’ll ask our security guards to assist you regarding inmate protocol. I’ll be working until 7:30 PM. Please bring the boy. I beg you.”

All through the shift I kept praying for a miracle. I watched the clock, waiting for security to call me.

Nothing.

The dopamine drip was almost empty and Mrs. E. refused to have another bag hung. “There’s no use,” she said.

It was 7:00 PM when I saw our two security officers come down the hall. One stood outside Mr. E.’s room. The other asked the family to step aside at least fifteen feet from the perimeter. After a few minutes, two uniformed police officers emerged escorting a handcuffed prisoner. Stifling my joy, I introduced myself. The officers listed the rules: the son would be handcuffed at all times with a police officer. No family was allowed to approach or touch him and had to stay at least fifteen feet away from him. I watched his mother and could feel her yearn to reach for him.

I agreed, then went to Mr. E. I whispered to him again, “It’s almost the end of my shift and I was able to keep my promise to you. I have one of your sons.”

I waved to the officer to let them enter the room. I talked to the mother waiting outside, so grateful she started to cry. The security officer stood stiffly at the door. Within minutes, the son and the police officer came out of the room.

I approached the son. “Is that all you can spare for your dying father, after all I did to let you come and see him for the last time? You go back in there and if you feel embarrassed to say anything out loud, whisper it to him and tell him how much you love him. He may not respond, but he can still hear. Ignore the officer . . . talk to your daddy.”

The son went back into the room with the police officer. When they exited later, the boy was crying.

I approached the officer. “One last favor. Can his mother give him a hug?”

Without hesitation, he gave me a nod and waved for Mrs. E. to come. She threw her arms around her son and he clutched his mother like a lost little boy.

I stood with tears flowing down my cheeks. The staff, the security guards, and even the officers had tears in their eyes.

Mr. E. died an hour later.

Gina Hamor

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