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Seasoned with Sage
The Nurses Who Saved My Day

I often struggle to remember the good days at work. But the good outweighs the bad, otherwise I wouldn't still be a nurse. One of the more memorable, feel-good stories goes like this:

At 41, Mr. Jones was too young to need vascular surgery, especially since he wasn't diabetic, and as far as he was aware, he didn’t have a family history of circulation problems. But the supply of blood to his left leg was very poor and getting worse every day.

"Will I be able to play golf again?" It was the night before Mr. Jones' surgery, and he had asked me this question several times over the shift. "If all goes well, I don't see why not," I replied.

Only six months out of training, I knew never to give a definite answer.

Mr. Jones' surgery seemed to have gone well. When I visited his room, he opened his eyes and asked, "Think I'll be playing golf anytime soon?" He smiled then drifted off to sleep.

It was just as well that things had gone well with Mr. Jones; I was so busy I wouldn't have had time for things to go wrong. I had another patient due back from surgery sometime after the evening meal, plus four other patients. One was a stroke patient, who was fully dependent, and another was a prostate patient, who was now 36-hours post surgery and still having reasonable heavy bleeding and in need of a blood transfusion. The other two patients were medical patients: one a male with congestive heart failure and the last patient, Mr. Davis, with unstable angina.

At five o'clock I was seeing to Mr. Davis, as he had an episode of chest pain. At the same time the bell in Mr. Jones' room rang, and didn't stop. "You'd better go answer that quickly," Mr. Davis said to me. He had been in and out of hospital so many times that he recognized a distress call. I popped an oxygen mask on Mr. Davis' face before leaving the room.

When I entered the room, Mr. Jones’ faced was screwed up in agony, and he was clutching his leg. "Please do something. The pain…it's unbearable," he pleaded. His left leg was swollen, hot, and I couldn't feel a pulse in his foot. I called the doctor immediately.

Within five minutes the junior doc and the registrar were standing at Mr. Jones' bed. "What's wrong doc?" Mr. Jones managed between moans of pain. "We're going to have to take you back to theater," the registrar said. The next hour passed in a blur.

I wanted to rest, but I remembered Mr. Davis and his chest pain. I'd completely forgotten about him until that point. I entered his room expecting the worst. "How you feeling?" I asked Mr. Davis. He looked up from his paper, "Quite all right" he said. "And your pain?" I queried. "All taken care of," he said, and then went back to reading his paper.

I went to check on my other patients, as one was overdue to start his blood transfusion and the others needed some other intravenous medication. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that the blood transfusion was started, and the medications were given to all of my patients. I asked the nurses in the office who had done my work.

"We all did," Jan said to me. Jan had 40 years of nursing behind her and was someone that anyone could turn to for sound advice. "But, no one has done that for me before," I stammered. My first six months had been spent in the gynecology ward and I had been left to fend for myself. "That's how we do things here," Jan said matter-of-factly, "We look after each other."

Years later, I vividly remember that moment and those words. To this day it still is the best-run ward I have ever worked in, and the patients received the best care in the world. We didn't always have the latest medical gadgets and medicines, but we had what mattered: people who care.

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