Friday, March 11, 2016

Patients That Changed My Life: Berta

As a nurse, I have the chance to meet a lot of people from all walks of life. Some are fun, and some are not so fun. Then there are those that change my life, and changed the kind of nurse I am. For privacy issues, I won’t use their real names, but I want to tell you their stories.

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One such patient was Berta. She immigrated to the United States when she was in her twenties, and she was one of the sweetest women I’d ever met. She was mobile up until she died, wandering around, pushing her walker. You could always hear her coming because she loved to talk, and she loved to call to everyone around her and say hi.

One day, while I was sitting at the nurses’ desk, she came and sat next to me. She babbled for a long time, and we had a fun conversation while I charted, and all of a sudden, she pointed to one of our signs and read it to me. I was shocked, because she hadn’t ever shown the ability to read. Not that I’d really tested, but she’d never been able to sign her own consents, or find her own room, which had her name on it.

I quickly covered any sensitive information, then pulled out a piece of paper, writing her name on it.
She pointed to it with a wide grin.

“Berta! That’s me!”

I grinned. “Yes, it is.”

Again, she pointed to the paper. “Berta! That’s me!”

I knew she spoke German, and it had been years since I’d taken any German classes (3rd-6th grade to be precise) but I did remember a few phrases. I pulled out another paper and wrote a simple phrase. I was curious if she could read German as well.

Ich liebe dich.

She read the words silently at first, and then tears came to her eyes. She read it in German before translating into English. “Ich liebe dich. I love you.” I don’t know if it was reading her mother language, or having someone say those simple words to her. In nursing homes, they don’t get visitors very often, and as much as we care for them, I don’t know that they always feel loved.

Then she got distracted by someone walking by. While she wasn’t looking, I taped the sign right in front of her. Throughout the remainder of the time she sat with me, she would talk to those passing by, and when they left, she’d look down and see ‘Ich liebe dich.’ Every single time, she got excited, and translated it so I knew what I meant.

It’s the small things that make a difference. Sometimes, all they need is love.