63: Nurse Katherine

63: Nurse Katherine

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Nurse Katherine

Nurses are angels in comfortable shoes.

~Author Unknown

She approached me as I entered the hospital’s wide vestibule. I didn’t recognize her face, but dressed in her starched white uniform, she looked every inch a nurse. She smiled. “Don’t worry,” she said. “Your dad will be just fine.”

“Thank you… Katherine,” I answered as I checked her nametag, noting both her first and last names. The friendly woman smiled again and gave me a warm pat on the shoulder. Then I watched as she turned to exit the building. Funny, I mused, after all these weeks I thought I knew all of Dad’s nurses by sight.

Nurse Katherine’s words had been kind. Still, as I made my way to Dad’s room in the intensive care unit, I didn’t feel particularly encouraged. The team of professionals that had been attending to my dad during the long weeks he had been in the hospital hadn’t drawn a very hopeful picture of his recovery. In fact, only the day before, one of his doctors told me candidly that the likelihood of Dad being weaned from life support successfully this second time around was highly unlikely. “I’m very sorry,” he added, then nodded and left the room.

It had been a tough road. Well into his eighties, Dad had already survived two emergency surgeries and the myriad complications that entailed. I looked at him now, as he lay prone in his hospital bed, pale and unresponsive. Hopeless was indeed the only word that came to mind.

Still, day after day, I kept vigil at Dad’s bedside, often in prayer. My cousins were on board too, visiting, lighting candles in church, and offering novenas. My dad was their last surviving uncle. I wasn’t the only one holding on; none of us wanted to let go of our patriarch, the final link to the older generation of our family.

The days passed and Dad remained in what I called his holding pattern, relying on life support. If it were not for his surgeon’s adamant refusal to admit defeat, I suspect I would have been encouraged to disconnect the machinery to which my father’s life clung.

But then one day Dad’s attending physician approached me as I sat in my usual seat next to his bed. “I’ve just reviewed your father’s new blood work and X-rays. It looks like he’s turned a corner,” he said. “It will still be touch and go for a while, but I think he’s going to make it.”

In the days that followed, Dad indeed continued to make progress, amazing the medical staff. At first he awakened, quickly becoming able to respond to simple questions by nodding his head. Shortly after, he was scheduled for a trial period off the respirator and had breathing treatments in preparation.

Then one day I arrived in the intensive care unit to find Dad’s bed empty. Frantic, I ran to the nurse’s station. “Can you tell me what happened to the patient in bed D?” I asked, breathless.

“I just came on duty,” the nurse answered. “Let me check.”

My heart pounded as she clicked the keys on her computer. After what seemed like an eternity, she turned to me. “That patient has been downgraded to a regular room in the surgery unit — number 103. Take the elevator to the first floor and make a right at the corner.”

Too anxious to wait for the elevator, I sprinted down the stairs, then rounded the corner at breakneck speed — right into Nurse Katherine.

“See,” she said, smiling, “I told you your dad would be just fine. Here, let me show you to his room.”

Nurse Katherine and I entered the room and she greeted Dad with a quick “hello.” Just as quickly, she turned to leave. “I’ll let you two visit now.”

Dad shook his head. “That nurse took such good care of me in the other unit. I could tell she really cared.”

My father’s remark surprised me. I didn’t know that he remembered anything from his time in the ICU since he had been unresponsive most of the time. However, I had heard reports of even comatose patients being aware of what was going on around them while they appeared unconscious. Still, I questioned him because I had never seen Katherine on the unit myself. “Dad, are you sure this nurse cared for you?”

Dad clucked his tongue in annoyance. “Of course I’m sure. Every day she would take my hand in hers and say, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to be just fine.’ I could never make a mistake about something like that.”

I was still shaking my head when the hospital’s Director of Nursing entered the room. “Hello. I’m stopping by to check in on our prized patient. Did you know that you’re the talk of the hospital?” she asked. “The way you are recovering is amazing us.”

“Well,” I answered, “I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the good care Dad has gotten here. As a matter of fact, he was telling me now how well he was treated by one of your nurses.”

“Oh really,” the woman said. “Which nurse is that?”

I gave her Nurse Katherine’s first and last name.

The Director of Nursing scrunched her eyebrows. “We don’t have a nurse here by that name.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“I’ve been Director here a long time and I know each member of our nursing staff personally. Maybe she was from a different department?”

“No, I don’t think so,” I answered. “Her nametag indicated RN and besides, Dad said she took care of him in the ICU.”

“That’s odd,” she said before she left. “I can’t explain it.”

Dad and I looked at one another. “Odd,” he echoed.

And so, perhaps some things simply cannot be explained — like how my dad defied all medical opinion to make a complete recovery, and how a mystery nurse named Katherine knew all along that he would be just fine.

~Monica A. Andermann

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