I have worked many Christmas Eves during my 19 years as a nurse but none of them stands out to me like the one I experienced a few years ago while working as a nurse at the Carbonear General Hospital.
That Christmas Eve found me leaving my two children at home, with my daughter crying and asking “why can’t somebody else take a turn mommy?” I explained to her that there were others who needed me more and that it was my turn to care for our patients this year. Although this was indeed the case, I cried all the way to work.
Because it was the holidays, the surgery unit I was working on had only one patient, an elderly lady who had been there for several weeks. This lady was a joy to have around and was known to all the staff. She always greeted you with a smile and some good conversation, but on this night she was as down as I was even though we both tried to hide it.
I asked her to join another nurse and I for a lunch I had brought from home. She sadly declined but I insisted. So, another nurse on duty and I got her ready, then wheeled her out to our nursing desk to share in our festivities. We played Christmas music and she enjoyed the nacho dip I had made. We talked, laughed and told stories of Christmases gone by. Even though her husband passed years earlier, she talked about many happy times they had shared.
We laughed so much we cried! She went to bed that night with the biggest smile ever!
I will never forget how that patient made me feel that night. We each had a family we were missing but we made the best of our Christmas Eve and ended up enjoying each other’s company so much. I know that my Christmas experience may not stand out to many, but to us it was significant. We enjoyed each other’s company so much that we forgot for a little while that we were separated from our families for a bit during the holidays.
It became clear to me that Christmas Eve that sometimes it doesn’t matter where you are; it just matters that you are doing what is needed … and that someone cares. One patient that special Christmas Eve gave me that gift – the gift of friendship. I will always remember that experience and the patient who made one working Christmas Eve so memorable. ■
This story was written by Sheila Whalen, a nurse and care facilitator for the Obstetrical Surgery Program at Carbonear General Hospital.