This week was Nurses Week (in Canada) and after talking to Chad’s Mom and Dad on Mother’s Day, I felt like it was time.
It was time to go back to the ward and clinic that cared for Chad, time to see the nurses who fought with him and somehow try and offer thanks. I’ve learned from my job at BC Transplant, just how much staff appreciate it when patients come back to visit after they’re “all better” and out of their care. I’ve learned that just because people are out of their nurse’s care, doesn’t meant they are out of their nurse’s thoughts.
My hesitation with this is that Chad isn’t “all better”. Going back to the ward and clinic, without Chad, just emphasizes that.
BUT, I realized that doesn’t mean they haven’t thought of him. That doesn’t mean they got the chance to hear his story, or how much he appreciated them.
So I brought them a copy of The Book.
My first stop was The BMT/Lukemia Day Clinic. I was doubtful I would recognize anyone, let alone be recognized. I hoped I would be able to just drop off a copy, with a little thank-you note at the front desk and skedaddle- avoiding any possible interruption of their work day.
The first nurse I spoke to, I didn’t recognize. But further down the desk, I saw was one of Chad’s favourite nurses. She might be the only face I would have recognized, and there she was, awesome silver hair, great complexion, smiling. She was the one who let Chad cry when he was scared, literally picked him up and helped him walk and who reassured him he would be ok, when he wasn’t sure of anything.
I opened my mouth to talk, and that lump choked any articulation out of me. “Blah blah gulp tear blah swallow blah sniff, it’s just a book, I just gulp blah tear swallow shake wanted to say thank you, and swallow blah tear happy nurses week.” Smile, leave. Gasp for air. Cry in hallway.
My friend Alicia, patted my back. She confirmed when I asked, “Yes, it looks like you’ve been crying. But that’s fine. This is good.”
Next stop, Dr. Nantal’s office. Once again, I planned to leave a copy of The Book, with a little thank-you note at the front desk and skedaddle. Nantal was in between patients and was right in front of the doors when I walked in. “Oh my goodness! How are you!” he said as he offered a genuine hug.
Blah blah gulp tear blah swallow blah sniff, it’s just a book, that I told you about at the tennis tournament, I just gulp blah tear swallow shake wanted to say thank you, and, well, that’s it.” Smile, leave. Gasp for air.
Lastly, the 15th floor. The place my mind goes when I think of The Last Day. The place I think of when I’m low and remembering the details of what has been lost. The place that prevents me from re-reading the last part of The Book, because no matter how much time passes, my memories don’t forget what it looks like.
The elevator doors opened. My first glance was the place on the floor where I had crumbled. I walked through the main doors and saw the room where I had told JJ and Laura that this was the end. I didn’t recognize anyone there – but as I chatted to the nurse who greeted me, my eyes wandered to his room. I’d make eye contact and but I couldn’t keep myself from looking over her shoulder at room 1533something. Part of me wanted to go in there, some weird inclining that if I went to where he was last seen, I might catch a glimpse.
This 15th floor nurse, as well as the one I spoke to at day-clinic nurse had heard of The Book, and were appreciative to have a copy to share with their team. And I am happy to have shared. (But if it were Chad who would have dropped by, he would have generously brought flowers, tea’s, healthy snacks and a dozen books to express his thanks.) But without any real way of saying thank you, I hope my dropping by was ok – and they will have a chance to read, in Chad’s words, just what a difference they made.
Sorry for crying at your work. Thank you for caring as you do.
*Photo of Chad, 6 months after his bone marrow transplant (May 2009), when he was under the care of the nurses in day clinic.