Thanking Ruby

Thanking Ruby

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

Thanking Ruby

I knew I wanted to be a nurse at a very young age, and at the ripe old age of eighteen I graduated from LPN school. I thought I knew everything about everything!

My first job was as charge nurse of two floors of a large nursing home. My day consisted of giving medications and changing dressings. I was completely overwhelmed. Imagine how intimidated I was to be in charge of a middle-aged woman who had been giving patient care since before I was born. Ruby was probably forty-five or fifty, which at the time seemed very old to me. There were many times I would have to ask her how I should do something. She always said, “Girl, you are so green.”

Ruby took me under her wing; I learned more nursing skills from that woman than I learned in school. Ruby always touched patients when she talked to them and asked them how they were feeling. I think what struck me the most about Ruby was the way she cared for the unresponsive patients. She took such care in cleaning them when they had soiled themselves. She talked to them gently the whole time. And God help the person who was less than kind to one of Ruby’s patients—and they were all Ruby’s patients. There were many times I heard her say her famous line, “This is someone’s mother or father.”

I stayed at that job for about a year and I left without thanking Ruby because at the time I didn’t comprehend how much she had taught me. Remember, I knew it all. I went on to work in several other areas before landing in dialysis twenty-one years ago. I had worked there about ten or twelve years when we got a new patient who had, besides renal failure, end-stage cancer. Bertha R. Johnson weighed about ninety pounds.

One afternoon, she was incontinent while on the dialysis machine. One of the new nurses and I took her to the bathroom to get her cleaned up, and it was obvious my coworker was disgusted with the situation. I sent her away and told her I would clean Bertha.

As I was washing her, I said, “Mrs. Johnson, I am so sorry if she made you feel embarrassed. She’s new.”

She replied, “Oh, girl, she’s still green. She will learn. And why don’t you call me Ruby?”

I could not believe my ears! I said, “Oh my gosh, Ruby Johnson! You used to work at the Clover Hill nursing home in 1977, didn’t you?”

She smiled with pride. “Girl, I worked in that place until I got too sick with this cancer. Why?”

“It’s me. Jacqueline!” I said. Then as we reminisced, I finally got a chance to thank Ruby for her kindness and all that she had taught me.

Ruby laughed. “You were so green, but it looks like I taught you well,” she said, patting my hand.

I gently dried her face. “Indeed you did.”

Jacqueline Gray Carrico

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