Every life altering moment has a spark that fans that moment into a flame. And this story, is no different. In the second semester of my second year in the university, I was to take a course on Nursing ethics and jurisprudence. Rumor had it that the lecturer to handle to course was a toughie whom everyone feared. And because we were still babies in the field, we swallowed every word they said hook, line and sinker. This one however, I refused to swallow; not because I knew the woman, but because I knew that starting a course with fear in mind, was the surest way to fail the course. So, I told myself I was going to be civil with madam aunty no matter what.
First class with her came, and I was late. Aunty was already giving me bad eye but a girl just turned a blind eye to it. Everyone in class was shaking and when I asked my friend why, she said aunty was asking everyone why they chose nursing. And for every response she had gotten, she had given a condescending reply. A.k.a, to every Gbas, there was a Gbos. It finally reached my turn and I told aunty the reason why I chose nursing was because my mum is a Nurse. Surprisingly, there was no gbos response for me.
After everyone had answered, aunty told us the reason for the question. She said she was certain no one had oriented us on what nursing is and judging from all we had said, we knew nothing about what nursing was all about. She said, “Nursing is doing a dirty job in sparkling cloths. It is restoring dignity to that ailing person and providing comfort and care to your patient even when your world is upside down”
I didn’t dwell so much on those words until I got posted to the pediatric unit.
It was my first afternoon shift and I don’t know if its just me or if everyone feels that afternoon shifts are the shortest. You close your eyes to sleep, next minute it is 1pm and you have to be in the hospital. So, that day I rushed off to the hospital not wanting to be late; lo and behold, I was the only student nurse on ground. The ward was in chaos and the reason for that chaos, was just one person. One person had all the doctors and nurses running from pillar to post. When all was a bit calm and people could make out faces, my Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) saw me and asked where the rest were. I told them they were on their way.
Madam now said “since you are the first one to arrive, your duty today is to look after this patient. You are not to look after any other person but her. Do not leave her bedside for any reason unless you are called by the charge Nurse. Here’s her folder. Read it and know what to do. Use your gloves at all times remember she’s an RVD patient”
My patient was a teenager with HIV. Mode of contracting the virus, was unknown. She was admitted based on respiratory related issues. My job was to feed her, monitor her vitals and keep her comfortable.
Shift was going on fine; patient had been fed, vitals were being monitored and I hadn’t left her bedside. Halfway through the shift, patient looks at me and says, “Nurse will you pray for me? Please help me tell God to forgive me”
To say I was shocked is an understatement because since I took over her care, miss hadn’t said a single word. Not to me, not to her mum, not to anyone. And then she says this?
I tell her mum what she wants, and her mum is like, if that’s what she wants, no wahala. We finally pray and a few minutes after she turns to me again and says, “Nurse please can you be talking to me? I don’t want to go like this” I decide to check the vitals earlier than stipulated because of what she was saying and vitals are quite okay. I then ask her what she wants to talk about and she says “I no be bad girl, I be good girl” and I’m like I know you are a good girl and God loves you. Next she says “please hold my hand”
I make to hold her hands, then I remember what the CNO told me. But she doesn’t have any open cuts, I have no open cuts, I’m not coming in contact with any fluids, so why the gloves? I wave the memory away and hold her. She keeps staring at me and because I’m shy, I don’t look at her too often. I just smile, continue to hold her hands and talk to her.
All seems to be going well, till my charge nurse calls me. I look at my patient and her eyes are closed. So, I stand up to go answer my charge nurse and she grabs my hand and says “Nurse no leave me”
I tell her I’m coming back now and that I just want to answer someone. Barely two seconds after I leave her side, I hear her mother’s scream. Miss is gasping for air!
Once again, the ward is on fire. I rush back to her side, try to get the oxygen mask back on, but there’s no more oxygen in the cylinder. The ward maid rushes to borrow from another ward, resuscitation process is ongoing, mother is crying and praying every other mother in the ward is praying, but while all of these are going on, miss is breathing her last. All of a sudden everywhere is quiet. The doctors do all they can, and then let out the famous last words, “time of death”
At the mention of time of death, all hell lets loose again. And there I am staring in shock, because it feels like a decade ago when I was just holding her hands and talking to her. Unable to hold it anymore, I rush into the nurses’ room and start to cry. At that point my mum’s call comes in and I’m just speaking gibberish to her. When I’m a bit calm, I finally explain to her what happened and she tells me how such things come with the job and that I should be happy that I was there to give her comfort during her last moments. In that moment, I recalled the words my lecturer said to us that day and I couldn’t help but smile. I smiled because finally, I had come to know what nursing is. There and then, I chose it not because my mum was a nurse, but because I wanted to keep giving that comfort to as many as I could. I wanted to keep making my patients matter. I wanted to keep showing them that their ailments don’t define them, and that they too deserve to be loved and respected at all times.