June 19, 2024

Imposter Nurse a true storyAfter Angie, her husband, and their 4 children were settled into their new home in the quiet little New England town in the summer of 1973, she started missing the job she had left at their former location many miles away. She had been so occupied with selling a home, buying a home, moving, settling the older children in new schools, finding new doctors and dentists, and learning her way around the new territory that she hadn’t thought much about looking for a job.  But once they were into a routine, with the oldest children in school, and the youngest with playmates right next door, she realized that she missed interacting with the patients she had cared for when she as a nursing assistant on the evening shift at a hospital near their prior home.

She had many wonderful experiences there, working with very professional and caring nurses and aides. Some of the patients she met during that time made a lasting impression on her. As much as Angie enjoyed the time she spent with her children, she also liked being able to interact with other adults.  She wasn’t one who liked to join clubs but working part-time in a field where she felt she belonged, while supplementing the family income, made her feel like she was making a contribution. The time had arrived for her to start reading the want-ads in the local paper. She knew that working the 3 PM to 11 PM shift at a hospital would not make sense, as she no longer had reliable the help that her parents had provided to take care of the children until her husband got home from work in the evening.  But she thought that it might be possible to find a position in a nursing home where the hours she could comfortably work would be acceptable.  Although the Main Street Nursing Home was looking for part-time help on the 3 PM to 11 PM shift, she decided to ask if management there might consider hiring her from 6 PM to 11 PM.  She had worked in nursing homes previously, and she knew that was when the residents needed the most help. If she could work those hours, she wouldn’t have to leave home until after her husband had returned from work and the family had dinner together.  When she called to ask for an interview, she decided not to mention the hours she would prefer. That would come later.

The Main Street Nursing Home was located in the center of the small town. Angie remembered seeing it when she and the children had visited the Town Library shortly after they arrived there.  It was a lovely old New England home, white with black shutters and set way back from the road with an oval driveway in front, and large trees surrounding it. The wrap-around porch gave the large home a stately look. When Angie drove up for her interview, she noticed that there was an addition to the side of the home that was not easily seen from the street due to the many trees and hedges in front.

After she parked the car and opened the door, stepped out and saw a dime on the ground. She picked up the dime, smiled and held it thinking that she probably was meant to be there. She said, “In God We Trust,” to herself as she remembered her former patient, Bill. He was a young man who had returned from war with stomach trouble that he thought was a result of the poor diet he had eaten during the time he was deployed. However, when the problems persisted, he learned that his stomach trouble was really caused by cancer.  By the time the cancer was discovered, there is very little that could be done for him, but he was willing to try the various chemotherapy drugs recommended by the doctors who were treating him, even though they all made him extremely sick.  The way in which the young man accepted his fate, with tremendous faith in God, was something Angie had rarely witnessed in those she had cared for.

When Bill was first admitted, it was expected that he would die within weeks. However, to the surprise of everyone, he survived for many more months.  In all of that time, his demeanor never changed.   He was most grateful for anything that anyone did for him, always using the words please and thank you.  Angie was not the only one who thought Bill was a very special young man.  All of the others working on that floor were quick to respond when his call light went on.  The nurses who were responsible for giving him his pain medication tried to get to his room before he had to ask for it because they were all aware that he didn’t like to ask. If the usual nurses were not available and a different nurse was on the floor, the others were quick to let her know when his pain medication was due.

When an older man across the hall from Bill noticed that the nurses seemed to spend extra time in his room, he complained to Angie one day about the younger guy getting so much attention.  He wondered what the heck was so special about him.  At first, Angie didn’t know how to respond.  It really wasn’t right to talk to one patient about another, but it appeared to her that the older man was jealous of the attention that Bill was getting, and she wanted to let him know that he need not be.  She reasoned that if they had both been patients in a semi-private room, they would know just about everything about each other’s condition, so she took a deep breath and walked to the door and closed it before turning toward the man to tell him about Bill’s situation.

“I really shouldn’t be talking about other patients,” she started, “but since you asked, I guess I should tell you.  When he first came in, he had a lot of company.  He was a basketball player in a local high school before he joined the Army and went to Vietnam, so a lot of people know him.  I don’t know if people got tired of visiting or if they just didn’t like seeing him getting so sick, but most of them have stopped visiting.  Seems like only his parents and sister visit now.  I guess that is one of the reasons that we feel like we should spend more time with him. He is only 23 years old, and he’s going to die soon.  He has tried everything the doctors have offered, but we just don’t know yet how to cure stomach cancer.  I’m not sure that any of us feel sorry for him as much as we are kind of in awe of him, because he really never complains.”

“Oh! My God! I had no idea!” the older man exclaimed, and thoughtfully followed with, “I’m glad you told me.  I think I needed to know that.”  For the remainder of the time that he was a patient, he asked what kind of a day Bill was having. Angie thought that breaking protocol was perhaps not a bad idea at times.  But she didn’t tell the other patient about the condition of Bill’s body after he lost so much weight that there was little flesh on his bones.  She didn’t think she could adequately portray how much his body had been ravaged or how much pain he endured, anyway.  The nurses worked constantly to keep bedsores under control by changing his positions frequently and putting fresh dressings on his wounds, and they all admitted to each other that his condition broke their hearts.

Instead of going to the break room when she had time for a break, Angie chose to visit with Bill, with the hope that some of his acceptance of the Lord’s will would rub off on her.  Sometimes she simply sat with him while he watched something on television or dozed off for a few minutes.  He thanked her for doing so.  One evening when he requested a cola drink, Angie discovered that there wasn’t any in the refrigerator on their floor, so she went to the break room and bought one for him from the machine.  When she brought it to him, he noticed that it was in the type of cup that comes out of a vending machine, rather than the usual hospital cups.  He asked her if she had bought it, and she acknowledged that she had done so because there wasn’t any available in their refrigerator.  He told her that wasn’t right, and he should pay for it.  She said that was nonsense.  They went back and forth for a few minutes when he declared that she had to at least take a dime out of his drawer, because his mother always told his sister that a girl should always have a dime on her, in case she needed to make a phone call.  Angie thought that was the sweetest reason to accept a dime. She thanked him and put it in her pocket, thinking that it was the kind of gift she would always treasure.

Bill died shortly after that.  She felt that she was most privileged to have been one of the last people to be with him before he drew his last breath.  It was a profound loss to everyone who cared for him. For many days there were no new patients in his room, which seemed to make his absence even more profound.  Angie believed that he was with the Lord, but she felt that she would be comforted if she would receive some kind of sign of confirmation, so she prayed that one would be given to her.  A short time later, she was on her way into the hospital with another nurse one day when she spotted a dime on the steps.  She stopped abruptly declaring, “That’s mine.”   As she bent to pick it up her thoughts were of Bill, and she smiled.  She looked at the words, “IN GOD WE TRUST” on the dime, and she smiled again.  It seemed like a sign… a reminder that although there were many things she didn’t understand, she knew that God was in charge, and she needed to trust.  The other nurse remarked that she never saw anyone so happy to find a dime. Angie felt that was her own personal connection, so she didn’t have any desire to explain her reaction.

As time went by, she noticed that she often found a dime here, and a dime there. Perhaps she had found money in the past, but she couldn’t remember ever finding dimes so easily. After a while, she didn’t find them as frequently, but it seemed that every time she was feeling troubled by something, or had a difficult decision to make, a dime would land in her path.  She would think that a girl should always have a dime on her, and that she needed to keep trusting in God.  Of all the patients she had cared for when she worked there and at other hospitals, Bill was by far the most spiritual one she had ever encountered.

With the newfound dime in her pocket, she approached the nursing home believing that she would get the job if God wanted her to.

Read the rest of Denise Crompton’s Imposter Nurse today via Kindle

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