"I heard your friends call you "The Bull." Now I can understand why."
— a physician at work to our shared patient: a man in his 50’s, who had terminal lung cancer and had just decided to forgo further medical treatment and switch to comfort measures. By this point, both the physician and I were crying.
As a reply, the man gasped through his bipap mask and thrust his fist forward, as if to say, “I am going to power through. I am ready to die.”
Fiftysomething year old male. Lung CA.
"I know that I look like I’m sleeping because I usually have my eyes closed, but sometimes, I’m just praying for you!"
Sometimes when I think about pursuing a career change and wonder about all the possible avenues I could have explored for my vocation, I end up with patients who have something like this to say to me. I would wonder whether other areas of work would offer a higher, if not only similar capacity to touch people like I can as a nurse.
It makes it all seem not so bad.
This patient was an absolute joy. Armed with such an honest, and grateful personality. She lost her husband 25 years ago yet still wears her wedding ring; explained to me how much she just loves people, but never remarried and does not live with anyone because she enjoys being alone. Despite that last point, she had the most visitors out of all the patients in our surgical intensive care unit that day, all of whom called her “Mama,” and knew her from either her church, or her gym.
Yes. Her GYM. Old girl’s gotta treat her arthritis somehow (her words, not mine).
94 year old female. Atrial fibrillation.
I remember that time you told me You said, “Love is touching souls.” Surely you touched mine. 'Cause part of you pours out of me In these lines from time to time. Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine You taste so bitter and so sweet. Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling And still I’d be on my feet
I would still be on my feet
Joni Mitchell, “A Case of You.” Dec 9
"A Case of You" sung by Noah Gundersen
"You have the best kind of makeup that a woman could ever wear," he said to me. I already knew what was coming next. He may have forgotten that I was his friend’s nurse a few days ago, and that he ended that visit with the same lines then, too.
I was sure that, these days, he was saying it to every female nurse he encountered: back in the halls of the veterans retirement home where he and his good friend probably kept score. And now here, in the ICU, where his good friend now lay.
After a quick, one-sided chat with his friend, and then showing me the spoils of his trip to the hospital thrift shop, he said the above line. To which I smiled and replied, “what do you mean?”
He had probably been saying lines like that for years. I am sure that his eyes, now under the brim of an embroidered, military ship cap, have looked many women up and down in whatever country he ever found himself in during his days as a sailor, and said lines like that in whatever foreign language he had to employ.
"The best makeup is a beautiful smile, of course!"
When you have full-on conversations with your dog, and stare at them while you wait for their insights.
At this point, you are about three instances too late.
A hint that you’re a little crazy
He started off by telling me about his love of theater, and how he’d once won an award for his role in a musical. All of this was said in a very sing-songy, theatrical voice. There seemed to be a piece of him that was always performing. At some point, I abruptly changed the topic, and asked: “Is there a particular memory that comes to mind when you think of your youth?”
“Running outside without a watch,” he answered.
“I like that!” I said. He sensed that he’d captured the interest of his audience, and lapsed back into full theater mode.
“With nothing to tell the time but the sun!” he said, looking up at the sky. “And nothing to call you home but the moon!”
Humans of New York