Nursing the End of a Leash

  1. 17

    Nursing extends to much more than merely pushing medications and providing education. It is can be easy to forget that there is so much more to what we do. Nursing includes being genuinely present--supplying a soothing balm to both body and soul. Being human is not a job requirement.

    Nursing the End of a Leash

    "Would you like a visit?"

    You appear doubtful, hesitant and wounded on a level much deeper than physical as you, with quivering hands which flit like nervous birds, gather your blankets tighter around you and momentarily over your hair, tucking a few lose strands back.

    You nod.

    Your naked vulnerability is nothing new to me--I have seen a similar state in countless others. With but a moment I can sense your hurt. With but one snuffling huff I know all there is about the wound on your side, the medications dripping through your IV, the age of your NG tube and the state of your External Fixator. Your body language telegraphs a steady message of anxiety, despair, and pain pain pain.

    But I am not here to judge.

    My partner helps me settle on the bed next to you and offers you my business card. As you glance over the laminated cardstock, I nudge a little closer and you obligingly bring your arm up and around me, pulling me just that much tighter to you. For one moment we both sigh, content, before you thread one hand, no longer trembling, through my hair to fondle at one ear.

    We sit in quiet. It is not my place to talk anyway. It is my job to be still, be present, and to listen.

    You do not disappoint. After a few moments lost in a companionable hush, you pat my cheek to reassure me of your attention and doting before you begin to speak.

    "I had one just like you. She was a bit smaller, though," you chuckle at the memory, your eyes going sad for a moment, ignoring my small look of exasperation at the comparison. It's not my fault I look this way. My body is much smaller than my covering gives me credit. "She was smart like you too. Beautiful." A fond sigh. I cock my head and regard you with pleased silence. Compliments always have a special place in my heart. "Are you always this calm and quiet?" I shake my head and nuzzle a little closer in answer, hoping my response coaxes you on. I'm relieved when you resume carding your fingers through my hair.

    "You know, I'm all alone now. My children don't come to see me now that I'm out of the ICU. They have their own lives. And Ronnie...." A sob takes your voice as you curl closer. Your hand no longer caresses but clings. I don't mind it. "Ronnie's gone. My Ronnie is gone." Breathed into the crown of my head as a terrible, whispering secret. "I never got to say goodbye or I love you..." The nightmare of your heartbreak steeps into my hair with your tears. I close my eyes and lean, struggling to shoulder the weight of this burden, to ease it from you for just one moment so you may rest, so you may smile, so you may hope. In spite of my small size and compact body, I am much stronger than I appear.

    It is a strange moment, the moment of spiritual transference when one's pain becomes shared and it can be overwhelming, stifling. But then your hand moves once more, patting, soothing, brought back to life and action as the tears begin to wane as you realize you are not quite so alone. I raise my face, offering up one of the few consolations I have as I dab your tears from your cheeks with my nose and am rewarded with a hesitant, watery smile and a weak laugh. We lock eyes and, keeping with my code of silence, I will you to see the truth.

    Ronnie knows. He misses you. He loved you too. Smile. Heal. Resume.

    You nod and bend to kiss my nose but I am determined you understand that this is not your moment to give love, but to receive it, without judgment, without desire for reciprocation, so it is I that kiss your nose.

    I'm not a great kisser-- they tend to be a little slobbery, but you don't seem to mind.

    You smile and resume your petting with greater enthusiasm, heartache temporarily forgotten. For the first time, I sense something different in your touch--perhaps it is the real you finally peeking through. You tickle my feet and quietly laugh as I tumble onto my back to offer my belly which you immediately scratch and pat. From nearby, my partner signals amusement as well as the warning that our time is drawing to a close.

    Offering one last nuzzle and a lopsided smile, I allow my partner to guide me off the bed just as the nurse comes in to offer you more pain medication and something for anxiety. Your confident, calm decline of both makes my tail wag and as my partner taps a coded line of pleased praise with her fingertips along my leash, we respectfully take our leave.

    From in the hall, we hear you call out to thank us not realizing that your smile and your time were thanks enough.

    ~~From the desk of Kid~~

    Dictated but not read.
    Last edit by Joe V on Feb 13, '17
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  2. Visit CheesePotato profile page

    About CheesePotato

    Kid is a trained professional. I am a trained idiot. We get along splendidly.

    Joined: Jan '12; Posts: 241; Likes: 2,374
    OR circulating/scrub nurse; from US
    Specialty: Sleep medicine,Floor nursing, OR, Trauma

    Read My Articles


  3. by   TheCommuter
    Thank you for yet another smooth masterpiece, CheesePotato!
  4. by   VivaLasViejas
    Absolutely wonderful......(happy sigh) have such an incredible imagination. Great story, CP!
  5. by   CheesePotato
    As always, such comments fill me with humble gratitude and quiet the rioting voices....for now.

  6. by   amygarside
    Great piece of writing!
  7. by   Esme12
    I have worked at one facility that have specific pet visitation for the general population. I had an order once that stated...."Dog to visit stat!".....

    When I could walk......I did pet visitation with my beautiful weimy. She was a huge hit at Childrens...... I do miss it.
  8. by   nrsang97
    I wish my dog was calmer so I could have him be a pet therapy dog. I would love to do that one day. I am happy that my hospital does pet therapy. It is great when it makes the pateints smile. Heck I like it too.
  9. by   gonzo1
    Still wiping tears away. Pet therapy is a wonderful thing. Maybe I'll do that next.
  10. by   Meriwhen
    We have a small herd (no pun intended) of animals that visit our patients. They do a wonderful job interacting with the patients--and they with them.
  11. by   emtb2rn
    Great article. My ER has a pet therapy dog who comes in a couple of times a week. The patients and families love him. What is also nice is his handler understands the staff also benefits from pet therapy so we get interaction too. And the dog knows us well so we get the big tail wag and head butts (I might actually be the only one who knocks heads with him).
  12. by   mclennan
    I was owner and handler of a licensed therapy dog for 12 years. He was a big, brindled, boxer/hound mix. He passed away in 2009 after many years of service to SNF residents & kids with cancer. He was SO calm and SO quiet, one of my friends nicknamed him "Coma." He often fell asleep in patient's beds or on top of their feet. Nothing fazed him - seizures, call lights, code alarms, children trying to ride him or pull his tail, demented residents yelling, med carts rolling. He was absolutely calm and affectionate, always, and happy to lick away tears or put a paw on a shaky leg. Losing him soured me on owning another dog for a long time. Thank you for writing this. It's raining on my face.
  13. by   NurseDirtyBird
    So sweet!
  14. by   CheesePotato
    Absolutely, the staff and handler benefit greatly. Before Kid worked to heal others, she first healed me. P.S. To those who asked, yes you may, of course, share any of my ramblings in any way you choose. It is always an honor and a pleasure.
    Last edit by CheesePotato on Nov 26, '12 : Reason: waffles.