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  • Steven Marshall

A Nursing Story

A Nursing Story

Google Photos has this cool feature where you can see memories from the past on your timeline. Each day they pick various pictures from your album and provide a little story. Yesterday the timeline contained images taken on July 1st, 2016, the date of one of my most memorable experiences as a nurse.

I was the Director of an inpatient Oncology Department, and part of my daily tasks was to round on all our patients, particularly those recently admitted to the floor. I rounded on this particular patient who had been transferred to us from the Intensive Care Unit after a 42-day stay. She was doing better, but she did have multiple pieces of equipment that prevented her from mobilizing in the Intensive Care Unit.

As she progressed in our department, she became stronger and could be mobile without some of her equipment, such as the IV pump. At this point, I spoke with the attending physician. I asked if it would be okay to take the patient outside to our Labyrinth and Healing Gardens, created for cancer patients and their families.

My patient was excited about this news. We ventured out one morning before the day's heat came and walked around the Labyrinth trails in the Healing Gardens. We sat on a bench together in silence while she enjoyed the outdoors for the first time since she came to the hospital weeks before.

One day she shared that her daughter had a birthday coming up and that she would not be able to do her usual tradition on that date. I inquired what this tradition entailed, and she said she always fixed her a special lasagna on her birthday.

After we returned to the Department, I began thinking of what she had said. The oncology department then had a fully functional kitchen, including a family room. At that point, I decided to pursue the possibility of having the patient prepare the lasagna for her daughter on her birthday in our kitchen.

I discussed this with the staff, who were excited to help. One morning during my leadership rounds, I asked the patient for the ingredients to prepare lasagna for her daughter's birthday. I shared my plan for her to prepare the lasagna for her daughter's birthday.

During her hospital stay, she had been isolated for a hospital-acquired infection. Some precautions were being followed and required the infection prevention team to ensure we could carry out our plan in the department-based kitchen and family room. Guidelines were provided, cleaning instructions were discussed, and ultimately, we were okay to proceed with the plan.

As I do not like grocery shopping, I asked my wife, a nurse, if she would obtain the ingredients for the lasagna on her next grocery shopping trip. She happily agreed and was excited to take part in this plan.

With the ingredients in hand, I set up the department kitchen and family room for the event. The patient's daughter arrived at the department. I escorted them both to the kitchen and family room. The patient shared her plan to make her favorite lasagna for her birthday.

Her daughter was very touched by this gesture. Many tears were shed by myself, the patient, and her daughter. As the patient began preparing the lasagna, she had one of the biggest Smiles on her face. I was honored when she asked me to stay and share the lasagna with her and her daughter.

The lasagna was delicious, and sharing the time with them was one of the most touching moments in my nursing career. I will never forget the smile on the patient's and her daughter's faces as we shared in this tradition.

Unfortunately, the patient's cancer progressed, and after being readmitted to the Department several times, ultimately passed away. During her last admission to the Department, she had become disoriented and unable to recognize the team caring for her.

I was working on the day that she passed away and had a chance to speak with her daughter before she left. Her daughter shared that she never stopped talking about the special lasagna she could prepare while a patient in our department. There were more tears as we said our goodbyes.

As a nurse, you have the power to impact people's lives in a way you could never have imagined. By listening to this patient, we allowed her to prepare the special lasagna for her daughter's birthday one final time.

Perhaps events like these are one of the reasons nursing is frequently chosen as an honorable profession. I am honored to be a part of patients' lives and potentially make a difference.

Photo by Robert Linder

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