I had just learned that last Tuesday was the last day our nurses will be joining Best Day. I thought they'd be Best Day fixtures since they regularly have story slams at Penn Hospital too, but a nurse's work is never done. We'll miss them, but we'll also have some opportunities to see them again. I know for a fact the head nurse Karen's been pushing her fellow nurses to go to The Moth, and I'm planning on bringing some older buds there myself.
We're posting two new nursing stories, but this won't be the only time you see our nurses stories. We'll be spreading them out throughout the next few weeks so you can see everything they wrote. But in the meantime, we want to give them a huge thank you for sharing their stories with us and being a part of the Best Day family:
Lessons From the 10th Floor
Beeping. IV lines, monitors. Echos on linoleum floors. Sirens, wailing. Elevator dings - physicians flood into the halls.
There she was, cocooned amongst hospital-issue blankets. Only sign of life was the tuft of her white hair and the gentle rise and fall of her breathing.
My stethoscope clacked together, startling her - and I told her I was a student, a student of nursing. She told me her life, her past. I divulged too, eager to know her.
When I glanced at her chart, the words glared back up at me: Alzheimer’s. The first patient that I felt I knew - would not recognize me the following day.
It was so unfair - she had so much left of her life, and what a life she lived. And when she told me about living as a gay woman in the 50’s, how she ran a bar with her now-wife, her stories became illuminated in my brain. I could relate to her, know what she had been through. My heart ached when I knew that this moment we had would dissipate in her memories, like water falling through the fingers of cupped hands.
I returned the next day, bittersweetly excited to talk with her more, and sad that she wouldn’t remember our talks prior.
We had a good day - giving me life advice as I took her blood pressure, and making jokes when I assessed her neurological status. Still, my heart felt heavy knowing that she would never know her impact on me as a nurse and as a human being.
It’s time for me to go, I say. Fine wrinkles appear on her frail face. Oh no! she says and holds out her thin arms, and I grasp both of her outstretched hands. Gripping them tight, she looks me in the eyes and tells me words I couldn’t forget if I tried.
Thank you for being here.
To this day I don’t know if she remembered our short time together. Yet, my soul knew in that moment that this was one of those times that remind you of your decision to go into a field of caring for other people. I may not be able to nurse everyone back to health, but I can impact their whole health through nursing.
The Frozen Food AisleI knew I wanted to be a nurse starting when I was about 8 years old. I loved the show Rescue 9-1-1, and my mom’s home remedies book. It told me what to do in the case of extreme bleeding, as well as herbal cures for strep throat. I guess I wanted to be prepared. I’ve always enjoyed my work as a nurse in a hospital or clinic setting but those early days of learning skills for non-hospital setting are quite useful. It is sort of ridiculous actually when an overhead page goes out in a supermarket or an airplane. Nurses are used to having some supplies—oxygen, fluids, an IV—but none of those exist in the produce aisle of Shoprite.
About fifteen years ago, I was shopping for Easter dinner in a Shoprite when such an overhead page went out. “If there is a doctor in the supermarket, please come to Aisle 2.” This was a busy Philadelphia supermarket, and I was not a doctor, so I kept shopping. Again—“if there is a doctor or a nurse, it’s a medical emergency, please come to Aisle 2… it’s a baby.”
Well, my husband was with me, and he stared at me as I hesitated. At the time, I was working in a neonatal intensive care unit. I took care of babies all the time—so I needed to find Aisle 2.
I showed up hesitant, doubtful I could do much without all the equipment I was used to in the hospital. A one-year-old child was lying on the floor next to her mother, who was crying. I felt the child’s forehead—he or she was burning up. The child began to tremor—a fever induced seizure most likely, I thought. The mother was so upset, and I could do so little. I suggested we try to cool the baby down. Someone grabbed frozen peas, we wrapped bags of peas in a light blanket to safely cool the skin.A significant crowd gathered around us. I told the mom she was doing a good job. The fire department eventually came and after what seemed like forever. I wished I could do more. I told the EMTs as much as I had observed and then wondered off into the crowd.
I don’t remember if frozen peas were mentioned on Rescue 911 or in my mom’s home remedies book. I did what I could with the limited supplies, knowledge and courage I had. Hope that everything worked out for that family.
As I went back to my cart and my husband, the manager of the supermarket found me. He looked me up and down, squinted his eyes and said something like, “Ehhh … thanks.” Then he slowly tore off 4 $1 coupons. I said, “OK. Thanks,” and walked away.
If you want to transcribe for Best Day, then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also share our older buds' adventures by donating to Best Day, subscribing to our newsletter, sending a note to our older buds, or following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And if you or the older buds worked as doctors or nurses then you or they can submit stories through our portal right here. We're especially interested to stories from Black older buds, but we're always looking for stories from older buds of color, older buds with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ older buds, older buds of any gender or sex, older buds of any religion, and older buds who just plain break the mold.
And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all.Curated by Caitlin Cieri