The bubbly blond with the big heart came rushing into the hospital, crashing through the doors in her haste not to be late again!
‘Please don’t let there be another ticking off from Matron!’ she thought.
The diminutive nurse took the lift and made her way up to Neurosurgery, where she walked briskly across to the nurse’s station. Her stomach felt less than secure after a night on the tiles and she hoped she’d be able to keep its contents from leaving her. Not a good image to have a nurse vomiting all over their bed.
‘Ugh! Never, never again!’ She told herself for the umpteenth time.
She passed Mrs. Bennett’s bed and waved a hand in her direction.
‘You look as if you should be in my bed my dear – another heavy night was it!’
Cathy put a hand on her stomach and pulled a face displaying to the lady she was right. ‘Oh god, even the patients know about my indulgent life-style! I must put my social life on hold for a bit!’ she chided herslf.
The deep thunderous voice of Matron echoed around the ward! Cathy took a deep breath. Oh well, here goes!
‘Nurse Jackson! Thank you for eventually dragging yourself into work, particularly as you’re not feeling up to the mark I see!’
‘I’m sorry I’m late Matron’ she stammered.
Matron’s beady eyes scanned Cathy Jackson.
‘Maybe you should first visit the Ladies Room and tidy yourself up. Apply a little blusher; it will make you look more like a nurse and less like a patient. When you’ve done that perhaps you will do me the honour of visiting me in my office.’
Matron actually rather liked Nurse Jackson. She reminded her of herself many years ago, before the NHS had knocked all the stuffing out of her. Nurses, she felt, needed to be spirited as well as caring to successfully deal with patients and all the problems that their treatment put before them. However she wasn’t going to tell Nurse Jackson that!
In the corridor outside the Ladies Room Cathy bumped into Doctor Green – or Mike as she knew him outside the hospital grounds. Her heart missed a beat – she’d give him bed room any time!
‘Good morning Nurse Jackson – in a hurry?’
‘Yes, late again I’m afraid Doctor Green. I’ve just been sent to tidy myself up before going to get a dressing down from Matron.’
‘You need to learn to pace yourself Nurse,’ he laughed, as she hurriedly disappeared into the washroom.
She looked at herself in the mirror. Ugh! Matron was right, she did look a sight. She certainly wouldn’t be whispering sweet nothings into Doctor Green’s ear looking like this!
Having spruced herself up she went to knock on Matron’s door to hear her fate – and after being well and truly disciplined she was given her duties for the day. She went across to bed 4 – Mrs Brenda Milburn – who was looking pale and worried as she fixed her eyes on the lights in the ceiling, her mind a million miles away.
‘How are you feeling today Brenda?’ she asked.
Brenda looked across at Cathy, seemingly confused as she came back down to earth, leaving her far away thoughts on the ceiling.
‘You’re having your Op tomorrow, aren’t you? Is anything worrying you?’
Mrs M nodded.
‘Can you advise me, my dear?Should something happen during the operation I don’t wish to be resuscitated. Is there a form I need to sign for that?’
‘Nothing will go wrong!’ assured Cathy.
‘But if it does, I want to be prepared.’
‘I’ll get someone to come across and explain everything to you – but I’m sure you’re worrying unnecessarily! What’s made you feel like this?’
‘I’ve always been very independent, my dear. I don’t want to spend the days I have left having to be looked after. I would rather take the wonderful life I’ve had and leave it at that. I don’t want to be a burden to my family. I’ve had a good life and I want them to have the same – I don’t intend being the one to spoil it for them.’
Cathy squeezed Mrs. M’s hand.
‘I’m quite sure you’d never do that! From what I’ve seen they love you very much!’
‘That’s exactly why I need to do this. They do love me and would want to do all they could for me. I want to spare them that. If I don’t sign that form – and if it did happen that the children were put in the position of having to pull the plug – that would be unbearable for them! Can you imagine their guilt? Better it’s me than one of them.’
‘I’ll send someone to talk to you.’
Cathy was troubled. In a way she could sympathise with her patient. She’d seen, only too often, worn out carers trying to do their best for their parents.
Mike had just come onto the ward and she told him of Mrs. Milburn’s worries.
‘She wants to sign a DNR Mike. Can you speak to her? I didn’t know how to advise her.’
Mike walked across to Mrs M and Cathy watched as she once again explained what she wanted. He sat by her bed and talked to her, answering the questions she posed to him. Eventually he rose and came back to speak to Cathy.
‘Give her a minute or two and then go across and see if she took it all in – see if she’s understood what I told her. She’s a frightened lady trying to hide her emotions. Just give her time to absorb what I said.’
‘Does she still want to sign the DNR form?’
‘Yes. She seems determined. Let’s hope her operation goes well and we don’t have to abide by it.’
At the end of a long shift Cathy went home to her little flat. She couldn’t get Mrs M off her mind. This was new to her. Most patients were only too happy to know the doctors would do everything they could to save them! She sat thinking. Would she also want to make this decision – could she be unselfish enough to ask for it? How will Mrs. M’s children feel when they know her wishes? Cathy knew she would always want be there for her mom – but will her mom always want her to be?
And WHY! Why did the poor lady have to make this decision now? Why couldn’t she just sign a form saying she wants out if or when her quality of life becomes too hard to accept? Why couldn’t they just give her a lethal injection then, if her suffering became too much for her? Why had she been driven to make this choice before anyone knew the outcome of her operation? Sometimes a heart can stop beating during an operation but often it resolves itself within a few days. The law had taken this option away from her. How could it possibly allow people to choose to end their life via a DNR but not to choose to stop the medication they need to survive when life becomes intolerable! As long as the patient was of sound mind and it was their decision, what was the difference?
When she arrived at the hospital next morning Mrs. Milburn had already been taken up to theatre and hadn’t returned by the time Cathy had finished her shift.
When she saw Mike later in the bar, he was laughing and joking, obviously the life and soul of the little group that stood about him. He saw her watching him and sent across one of his dazzling smiles. She wanted to go and ask him how things had gone with Mrs. M’s op but knew better than to ‘talk work’ with a group of medics out enjoying themselves. She’d wait until tomorrow.
She decided she didn’t want any more to drink and made her excuses to leave her group of friends. Somehow she didn’t feel like socialising tonight. As she got to the door an arm reached across her shoulder and pushed it open for her. She looked up surprised to see Mike standing behind her.
‘Had enough already?’ he asked cheerily.
‘Yes, not in the mood tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.’
To her surprise he followed her outside.
‘She didn’t make it Cath. I had to stand back and let her go.’
They stood in the drizzling rain, lit by a pool of street light.
‘I’m sorry Mike,’ she whispered.
‘It happens! We have to pick ourselves up. We can’t dwell on it. As they say, ‘tomorrow is another day.’
She nodded, understanding now that his life and soul mood at the bar was there to protect him, to protect him from getting too close – from feeling too much.
‘Do you fancy going for a bite to eat, I’m starving,’ he said jovially, apparently back to his old bon homme self.
‘That would be great!’ she replied.
Perhaps she would be hearing those sweet nothings after all!