Death was certainly no stranger to them, but they acted as if they had never met. Tears flowed down their cheeks as they stared at my father’s lifeless body.
These were not family members, mind you. They were seasoned Archbold Memorial Hospital nurses who assisted Wyman Weldon Lastinger during his final nine months in this realm, a period that featured 12 hospital stays varying from a couple of days to two weeks. As a dialysis patient, he was a regular visitor to their floor in the R. Charles Loudermilk Sr. Heart and Vascular Center.
My father’s wife and I were deeply touched by the depth of grief the nurses expressed. It showed that their concern for him extended far beyond their medical duties. One even told me she prayed with my father when they were alone.
Daddy could be tough to handle — he hated being confined indoors — but he cherished every one of the nurses who took care of him. He told me so multiple times and regretted being grumpy toward them during times of frustration.
I am certain the nurses saw right through his gruff exterior. It’s the only way to explain their behavior after his death on June 27.
Eventually, humorous tales of things he said and did during his encounters with nurses began to brighten the room where he died. A few soft chuckles sprinkled with the tears.
Daddy and the nurses had become a family. They treated each other like boisterous brothers and sisters.
While in the hallway en route to his room one day, I heard Daddy say, “I’m not going to do it. I don’t care what you say.”
The nurse replied, “OK, pal. I’ll just throw you through the window.”
Then they both laughed.
Laughter is indeed the best medicine and I am so grateful Daddy maintained his sense of humor even while everything else about him atrophied in his final hours in ICU.
When my pregnant daughter and her husband made their way into his room shortly before he died, he said, “Wow, Stephen. It looks like you have lost some weight.” Seconds later, he continued, “Oh, I see. You gave it to Meg.”
He was always the same way with the nurses. A week or so before Daddy’s death, an angel of mercy entered his room around 9:30 p.m. and found him asleep. She said, “Uh, oh. He is going to be maaaad at me. I have to wake him up to check his blood sugar and give him his meds.”
It had become common for Daddy to go days without significant sleep, so — just as she predicted — he was a bit surly when he was awakened.
“What do you want?” he asked groggily.
“I have to give you your sleeping medication,” the nurse said, bracing herself for an explosion that didn’t come.
Instead of angry fireworks, she got this comical retort that dripped with theatrics.
“You mean to tell me you woke me up to give me sleeping medication. Where did you get your nursing degree?”
Appreciative of the reprieve, the nurse warned Daddy of the precise times she would be back to check on him the rest of the night. She also promised him a cup of apple juice, which he appreciated greatly because of his severe fluid restrictions.
As Daddy’s chances of going home waned, it took less to make him happy. An occasional pack of graham crackers pulled from a nurse’s pocket or a quickly fetched blanket or walker always delighted him.
I have no way of knowing if Daddy got preferential treatment from the third-floor nurses, but I am certain he got “special” treatment — special in that it was topnotch in every way. Archbold Memorial Hospital should be very proud of each of them.
I wholeheartedly believe the nurses cared for Daddy as well as they would have cared for their own fathers. That is a level of service that can’t be beaten.
Nurses, I salute you. Thanks for loving Daddy. He loved you, too.