On a rainy, cold December morning in 1999, I woke up and discovered I was having a miscarriage. My husband and I headed to our hospital in Memphis, but I was going in and out of consciousness. As a nurse, I realized I was beginning to have symptoms of shock. I told my husband to head for the closest emergency room at Baptist Desoto, which was a smaller community hospital. I received fluids, blood transfusions, and underwent surgery.
The day went by in a blur, and after a time my husband had to leave to tend to our other children. Alone in the hospital room, when I finally began to realize the reality and finality of what was happening, I was heartbroken – and felt an overwhelming sense of emptiness. Not long after, a nurse came in to the room, and I could see my pain reflected in her face. She took my hand and simply told me she knew there was nothing good to say, but if there was anything she could do to make me feel even a little better, she would do it. I told her I just felt so empty, and maybe something to eat would help. Her face fell as she reminded me they were a small hospital, and the food service had closed for the night. She offered to bring me some soup and crackers, but I explained it was ok, I wasn’t really hungry anyway. A little while later, though, she came back to my room with a “Lunchable”. She encouraged me to eat something, so my body could begin healing. I am not a big fan of sandwiches, but for some reason, that sounded like the best thing in the world to me. She was right, too. As I ate my meal, I began the first teeny little step in feeling less empty.
Months later, in one of those middle-of-the-night “light bulb” moments, I realized that the nurse had given me her own dinner. As I thought about how she had gone without so I could feel just a little bit better, and knowing I had not thanked her for her sacrifice, I decided that I too needed to be that kind of nurse. I still wanted to be a nurse who had excellent practice skills, but I also needed to be a nurse who looked beyond the physical and cared for the emotional needs of my patients too. That nurse’s gesture of empathy and kindness demonstrated evidence of the culture at Baptist and was a deciding factor in why I chose to work at Baptist not long after.
Since then, I have witnessed countless gestures of kindness to patients and to other Baptist family members. I have heard a newly diagnosed cancer patient thank a nurse who gave him money out of his pocket to pay a utility bill, and I have seen staff collect money for bus fare to bring a housekeeper’s son home for Christmas. I have watched nursing assistants and monitor techs hold hands and sing “Amazing Grace” at the bedside with the 15-year-old son of a patient as she was dying.
I think of that nurse and that sandwich when asked to describe moments that inspired me as a nurse. I am still grateful to work for an organization that values physical and spiritual nourishment ….to feed the patient who feels empty – for “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.