WOSTER: Whether with patients or family, nurses careThe month of May is nearly over, and I forgot to mention that it’s National Nurses Month.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
The month of May is nearly over, and I forgot to mention that it’s National Nurses Month.
That’s pretty important where I live, because I married a nurse. It comes in pretty handy when you’re raising a couple of rambunctious boys to have a full-time registered nurse on staff.
“Is there a doctor in the house? No, but we have a nurse.”
That will do nicely when the older son, age 8 or 9, free-wheels his new bicycle down the sidewalk on the hill next to the high school, can’t get the brakes to work and crashes into the lawn, driving one end of the handlebar into his cheek.
That’s one of those moments when I looked at the blood and the gash in his face and couldn’t think of anything to say except, “Where did you leave the bike?”
His mom the nurse pressed a damp cloth to the wound and had the boy hold it there while she hurried to the closet and pulled out a bag stuffed with gauze and tape and scissors and bandages and salve and more other stuff than you’d expect to find in a hospital. She’d been buying and storing her medical supplies in preparation for just such a day as this, although from the size of the supply, she seemed to think the crash might include the entire third-grade class at Washington School.
Nurses tend to be prepared for the cheek-gouging moments in a family’s life.
She must have done something right. The wound healed nicely, and the son was left with a most fetching dimple.
A nurse will do nicely, too, when the younger son, age 5 or 6 at the time, is enamored of Olympic long jumpers and plants his face into the front of the brick fireplace in the family room as he practices his own leaping ability.
That was the evening I first learned that facial wounds bleed a lot, and that the amount of blood streaming down the kid’s face isn’t necessarily indicative of the severity of the injury. Even so, once the blood had been cleaned away, I looked at the scrape and thought, “Well, this is going to heal pretty nicely if we just leave it open to the air for a few days.”
His mom the nurse took one look at the wound, decided the kid might need stitches and said we needed to call a doctor.
Nurses in the family, at least the one I live with, understand when to call a doctor and when to let things run their course. I might panic in the middle of the night if one of the kids awoke with a fever and cough. The nurse would place a palm against the child’s forehead or the back of a hand on the child’s cheek and decide whether to even take a temperature. Usually, the outcome was that whatever it was would run its course, probably overnight. Once in a while, there was a late-night call to a doctor or the emergency room.
I never could figure out how the nurse decided which of those times was medically important. I couldn’t tell any difference in symptoms, although I guess I did only have one rather unspectacular year of biology in college.
The nurse I know best throws every bit of her skill and experience and emotion into the lives of her family. She does the same with patients and clients, whether she’s known them for years or minutes.
When I think of nurses, I always remember a trip to St. Paul to visit my nurse when she was still in college. One of her roommates worked in a children’s hospital and came home absolutely heartbroken one evening. One of her young patients had died, and the nurse wept and wept. The next morning she got up and went back to the hospital for another shift.
That’s what nurses do, and I love them for it — especially the one I know best.
Terry Woster’s columns are published on Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.