It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was a dark and stormy 5 a.m. as we headed our way toward the University of Kansas Medical Center where I was to undergo an operation for oral cancer.
I expected to be out of commission for a while since Dr. K had warned me that my tongue would be swollen, and I would need a feeding tube during my time in the hospital. What I didn't know was that I would be totally unable to speak even one word clearly enough to be understood.
Now, I'm not Italian, but I do know how to talk with a suitable number of hand gestures and arm motions. To be truly effective, however, the voice is a necessary tool for communication, unless you are being treated at KU Med, where the RN's major in pantomime as well as nursing. It is such a relief to find that you can communicate, even when hampered by slurred speech and trachea tubes.
My condition remained uncomfortable and frustrating throughout the time I spent at the hospital. The only bright spot was the incredibly cheerful and attentive support of those KU nurses. Among these was a specific nurse whom I christened as head cheerleader, attentive listener, and "figure-outer of what is needed."
She is a truly delightful person who goes above and beyond while helping her patients recover. She worked with me on challenges like swallowing, talking, and yes, even smiling.
I was always delighted when she came into my room. I found myself looking for her help as she anticipated my needs and wants -- things like straightening my bed so it was more comfortable, making sure everything I wanted was close by and answering the questions I tried to ask.
I soon began referring to her as 'Agent Carter" the young lady who could and did do everything. Indeed, this nurse was incredible. I never had to ask more than once before she picked up on what I wanted. Her arm was always available when I wanted to go to the bathroom or sit up in a chair.
She encouraged me to take walks and kept up a running chatter about the hospital, the artwork, the views from the windows, and the nice employees we passed. (I know they were nice because they all greeted us and smiled as we passed.) All the while she stayed close in case, I needed help, but also gave me room to test myself as well. For that, I am very grateful!
In my room, she constantly encouraged me to sit up and face the world and listened patiently to my attempts to talk. She noticed every subtle change in my speech and made me feel good about how I was progressing. She complimented my attempts to do more and say more.
With such enthusiastic support, how could I fail to respond?
In summation, this nurse showed kindness, caring, and intuition.
She worked diligently to help me feel better, get better, and overcome my infirmity. All this was done with grace and humor. I can't thank her enough for her many kindnesses, and I can't think of anyone more deserving of recognition for such wonderful patient care.