As a nurse, I have the chance to meet a lot of people from all walks of life. Some are fun, some are not so fun. Then there are those that change my life, and changed the kind of nurse I am. For privacy purposes, I won’t use real names, but I want to tell you their stories.
To read about previous patients, click here.
I want to tell you about Jessie. She was ninety years old, and had Alzheimer’s. By the time we met, she’d lost basically all function and sat in her high back chair day in and out. Every once in a while, she would say something, but not very often. In this facility, almost every single one of our patients were feeders, which mean that we had to spread ourselves out to feed everyone on time. I would take a whole table of patients, usually 3-4, and each CNA would take the same number.
When I first started, the nurse before had sat at Jessie’s table. I found pretty quickly that she wouldn’t eat. I tried everything I could, but I couldn’t get this sweet lady to eat. It took several months before I realized that she would drink. She liked the small cups, but if I took my time, she would drink close to 600 ml of supplemental health shakes.
I sat with her for over a year and a half, feeding her every night. We grew a very special bond. There were some nights that would be difficult, when she would clamp her lips together and refuse to eat. Then there were nights that she would drink. I talked to her about random things, about my own life, about what was going on. Whenever she was having a good night, she would give me the brightest smile when I talked. Every time I saw it, my entire night went well.
That’s all she gave me. She never spoke, she never said anything profound. She just smiled, but I still remember that smile, even years after it happened.
Sometimes, a smile really can change a person’s life.