There Are Some Patients We Never Forget

When you have been a nurse as long as I have there are patients who take residence in your memories and resurface frequently. They could almost be family except they have a short history in your life. What they were like before or after you knew them usually remains a mystery.

Mr. G was a cantankerous, legally blind, brittle diabetic I had taken care of in the late 80’s. His house was the worst on the block: paint peeling off the frame, rickety wooden stairs and overgrown weeds. Thankfully he lived close to the  police station because I had to drive there one day when Mr. G didn’t answer the door. He was convulsing on the floor as I peered through the window. I had to beg the police to break down the basement door to enter because Mr. G often complained to me how many times they had axed into the front door and how expensive it was to repair. He frequently had hypoglycemic reactions.

Mr. G. gave himself insulin injections using low vision equipment to measure out the dose. His much younger wife worked full time, leaving him lunch, usually a sandwich, piece of fruit and a drink on the dining room table. He had confided in me that he thought she was having an affair with her boss. Having an active imagination (I’m a writer aren’t I?), I wondered if his wife was trying to kill him. Maybe the house, inside and out, was in deliberate disarray leading to a potential life-threatening accident. I don’t remember the other scenarios I entertained as I drove to and from his home.

When I left my job to move to another state, my friend, co-worker and fellow nurse practitioner, Jane Van De Velde, took over his care. He died on her watch. She recently emailed me with remembrances about him.

“But I really remember his memorial service. It was so touching, all the people who attended and spoke so highly of him. I was literally brought to tears. I got up and spoke about how wonderful it was to see another side of someone–the strong, healthy, community-involved and well-respected side. We saw him at end of life when he was so very ill and depressed and visually impaired.”

Jane adds, “There are some patients we never forget.”

Amen

12 thoughts on “There Are Some Patients We Never Forget

  1. Jane VDV says:

    Marianna, thank you for taking the lead in sharing your nursing stories. I hope that more nurses will follow your footsteps. We all have touching, inspiring, poignant, and funny remembrances of the patients and families who have crossed our paths. And in doing so…helped us become better nurses and people!

    Like

  2. Michele says:

    Marianna. This piece just makes me want more Nursing Stories. I enjoyed the fact that you connected with Jane who completed the story!
    And, I enjoyed visiting her website. I might just learn more about Reiki!

    Like

      • Jane VDV says:

        The rest of the story….I had drawn some bloodwork on Mr. G. and his hemoglobin was very low. Possibility of a GI bleed and his physician wanted him hospitalized. I went to visit him to make arrangements for him to be transported to the hospital but he initially adamantly refused to go. I finally convinced him to let me call the ambulance. I think he somehow knew that he would not be coming home again, he was so very ill. And he did die later that week in the hospital. So it turns out that Betty was blameless. Mr. G. was so diminished at the end of his life with such serious chronic illnesses and depressions. It was my great pleasure to learn at his memorial service that in his younger, healthier days, he was a Scout Master and very actively involved in his community. I felt that my picture of Mr. G. was more complete in knowing this.

        Like

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