Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Marriage, Love and Holistic Nursing.

My husband and I have been married for 27 years, and have been together for 29.  We were high school sweethearts. I love to think back on those days.  I was the cheerleader and he was the jock from a small town high school.  I used to sit in the middle of his truck seat while we were on dates, snuggled up close.  I couldn’t get enough of being near him!  Today it really is still like that for us… I know people will moan and groan at reading that, but by the grace of God it is true. 
I say this because I was witness to the sweetest and saddest thing today, and as a nurse it was my honor to be a part of it. 

I walked into the room of my newest patient, a 94 year old woman with increased confusion.  She was sent to the ER from her nursing home residence.  Her chart tells me that she has dementia and a long history of UTI's and resulting sepsis. 

"Good morning _____, I'm Bobbi and I will be your nurse today,"  I say as I enter the room, put the chart on the counter and move to the stretcher.  

She says nothing, and only watches me.  Her eyes are large and brown.  She seems to go long periods with blinking...but her eyes see me~ they are not vacant.  She has elegant white hair that is styled in a rather severe bun on top of her head, held in place with a gold scrunchy elastic.

"Your care givers are concerned that you may be sick, so they sent you to the ER for a check up...I need to do my assessment now if you don't mind."

Again, nothing but her eyes watching me.  No recognition of my words making sense.

As I undress her to look for any indication of infection (sores, wounds or skin breakdown) I continue to tell her what I'm doing and why.  I change her into a johnny, listen to her heart and lung sounds, give her warm blankets and place her on our vital sign monitor. I collect a fem-cath urine sample, draw blood while starting her IV and do an EKG.  

"I'm finished for now Mrs. _____.  I have to go and give this EKG to the doctor and then I will return in a few minutes.  Here is your call bell, this red button is the one to push if you need me."  

Just as I start to leave the room a very elderly man enters and introduces himself to me as “…….’s husband.” He is dressed in a navy blue sport coat over a black sweater, dark gray pants and a very dapper gray hat.  He walks hunched over with a cane for support.  His eye brows are very full and seem to move on their own as he spoke.  His accent sounds British.  I explained to him what I have done so far with his wife and what we would be looking for.  I pulled up a chair by the bed for him to sit.  He shook my hand and smiled.  His large arthritic hand is very cold. He moved to the bed and leaned over the rail and kissed his wife on the lips.  She smiled, but didn’t speak. He then took the chair I had offered but continued to hold his wife's hand through the stretcher rail.
“We have been married for 75 years.” He said.  

An ER tech stepped inside and took the EKG from me and winked.
“Congratulations, what is the secret to such a long marriage?” I inquire as I sit on the stool next to him. (I knew I had other patients but nothing was immediately pressing and I just felt compelled to sit and talk to this man.)
“Empathy for one another’s start in life, passion for the teenager you once were with each other and for the man and woman you grew into, pride in the other’s strengths and overlooking most weaknesses and Love ….Love for child of God that you married.” He answered while holding his wife’s wrinkled hand in his. 
I became a little teary as he shared this with me, as he was a little teary.  I told him of my husband and my children and that I felt so blessed.  He told me that God puts 2 people together to make them one, to make them stronger and to make them whole.  He told me that they had raised 4 children and 14 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren, and that his wife loved him and their children fiercely and that, “it just kills them that she cannot communicate with them anymore.” 
I couldn’t talk, I wanted to cry.  He stood and once again kissed her lips.  She once again smiled but said nothing.  He then said to me, “she may not be able to communicate with words anymore but when I kiss her she still smiles at me the same way she always did….so I still kiss her on the lips as much as I can.”
I thanked him for sharing this with me…for allowing me a glimpse into their world.  He just smiled and tipped his hat.  The doctor came in, oblivious to our conversation and oblivious to the gift that I had just been given.  


  1. What a beautiful story..I have heard many similar experiences during my 12 years doing hair in a local nursing home. It takes a heart full of God's compassion to be able to see through the eyes of the elderly. People tend to forget that elderly people were once young and vibrant people such as themselves, fulfilling dreams and making their way through life. So yes, be thankful for the many blessings God has given us and when you have a chance to listen to someone whose life's journey is nearing it's end, listen.....I'm sure you were a gift to him as well. I have found that just being there for someone may very well be why we are

  2. Sharon, You are right...seeing a person through their eyes is so important. this woman was mute and it was only her eyes that communicated. The elderly get looked over and pushed aside so often...I was very happy for the reminder!!

  3. I had a similar experience when I worked on the floor. I had an elderly man with dementia, he was soft spoken and didn't recognize anyone in his family, but his daughter would bring his wife (also with dementia) to visit him. The two of them would sit and watch tv together and smile and flirt from across the room. He would offer her the cake off his dinner tray. I asked him who that woman was and he told me he didn't know who she was... "but she is beautiful"

    Its amazing that even after the brain forgets, the heart doesn't.

  4. Thanks for sharing Ellen, that is a beautiful story and another picture into the heart of love.