From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

All in a Day’s Work

If I can ease one life the aching,

or cool one pain,

or help one fainting robin

unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson

He was admitted to emergency receiving and placed on the cardiac floor. Long hair, unshaven, dirty, dangerously obese, with a black motorcycle jacket tossed on the bottom shelf of the stretcher, he was an outsider to this sterile world of shining terrazzo floors, efficient uniformed professionals, and strict infection control procedures. Definitely an untouchable.

The nurses at the station looked wide-eyed as this mound of humanity was wheeled by, each glancing nervously at Bonnie, the head nurse. “Let this one not be mine to admit, bathe and tend to . . .” was their pleading, unspoken message.

One of the true marks of a leader, a consummate professional, is to do the unthinkable. To tackle the impossible. To touch the untouchable. It was Bonnie who said, “I want this patient myself.” Highly unusual for a head nurse—unconventional—but the stuff out of which human spirits thrive, heal and soar.

As she donned her latex gloves and proceeded to bathe this huge, very unclean man, her heart almost broke. Where was his family? Who was his mother? What was he like as a little boy? She hummed quietly as she worked. It seemed to ease the fear and embarrassment she knew he must be feeling.

And then on a whim she said, “We don’t have time for back rubs much in hospitals these days, but I bet one would really feel good. And it would help you relax your muscles and start to heal. That is what this place is all about . . . a place to heal.”

The thick, scaly, ruddy skin told a story of an abusive lifestyle: probably lots of addictive behavior with food, alcohol and drugs. As she rubbed those taut muscles, she hummed and prayed. Prayed for the soul of a little boy grown up, rejected by life’s rudeness and striving for acceptance in a hard, hostile world.

The finale was warmed lotion and baby powder. Almost laughable—such a contrast to this huge, foreign surface. As he rolled over onto his back, tears ran down his cheeks and his chin trembled. With amazingly beautiful brown eyes, he smiled and said in a quivering voice, “No one has touched me for years. Thank you. I am healing.”

Naomi Rhode

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