Monday, January 12, 2009

Clarity amidst chaos

I loved science. Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology etc. The coursework for nursing was enjoyable. The problem was I had no idea what kind of nursing I wanted to specialize in. I was determined not to work with the geriatric population. My great grandmother had died in an old nursing home. It was horrific to me. A once proud woman who was chastised for not drinking her cranberry juice. She had to sit in the dining room alone well after breakfast while the CNA threatened her she couldn't leave until she finished it all. She had finger point bruising under her arms because they lifted her roughly. The place was old and smelly. They lost her dentures so her food was pureed. What a miserable place I thought and I swore I could never, would never work in a place like that.

The first patient I was assigned in Nursing School was Bertha Malhaney. I was to get a full set of vitals and review her chart the first day. My assignment the second day was to get her roommate into the shower.

When I walked into Bertha's room she was seated in front of her bureau applying lipstick as rouge. She then dusted on Coty face powder to set the makeup. I had watched my great grandmother in this same routine for years. Bertha turned around and as she turned I saw a picture of she and her girlfriends above them was a banner "Girls of 68". I said to Bertha, my great grandmother belonged to that group. It turns out they knew each other and were great friends. Bertha had memory loss, so she kept forgetting my great grandmother had died and I stopped reminding her. I spent time with Bertha listening to stories.

The next day I was to give Bertha's roommate, Helen a shower. Helen was quite frail and very sweet. The next morning I walked in the room both ladies were up, dressed, hair combed and makeup applied sitting side by side waiting for me. I knew Helen was not physically able to complete her tasks by herself. I also realized since I arrived at 6:30 am both of these ladies must have gotten up very early to get the jump on me. Bertha and Helen sat very proud both with the twinkle of mischief in their eyes. I questioned the staff and found out Bertha was the one who got Helen ready for her day! She must have had her hands full! They both looked great and got a pass on their showers for the day. (I can almost imagine the two ladies high fiving it when I left the room)

It was through my encounter with Bertha and Helen I realized, it didn't have to be the same way it was for my great grandmother. I could and would make a difference.

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