To Nurse Liz

A little over a week ago, I went into the hospital for another brain surgery. The goal was to remove a mass that had shown up in the resection cavity of my first tumor almost exactly a year to the day from my first big seizure. After waking up from surgery, I had the honor of being the only patient in the ICU for a couple of nights.

Even when you’re the only patient in the ICU, though, it still sucks. You’re connected to an untold number of wires, tubes, monitors, and sometimes, a catheter (yeah, I went there). There are global alarms always going off, and for some reason, there’s no daylight.

Human contact (in the time of COVID, at least) is limited to your nurses who work in 12 hour shifts – Jesse, Amy, Ben, Alyssa. A constant rotation of names and faces appearing and disappearing. Just when you think you’ve got it, it changes again. These are the hardest working people in the hospital, the true heart and soul of the place. Doctors get all the glory; nurses deserve all the credit.

My last night in the ICU I had a nurse named Liz. I will never forget her. Liz chided me gently for not telling her earlier I had trouble sleeping on my back. She adjusted my bed and pillows perfectly to enable me to sleep on my side. She knew instinctively that when I said the pain was a “6,” I meant “7.5.” She gave me oral Tylenol and Dilaudid because it would last longer, but she also knew the IV Dilaudid would help me sleep immediately and never made me ask.

But, the most gentle, compassionate, kind, and deeply caring thing Liz did for me was something I never expected. Before she finished her shift, Liz offered to wash my back with a warm washcloth and give me a back rub with lotion. I was stunned. Even now, I can hardly recount my experience without tearing up. This exhausted woman (probably my mom’s age) had been on her feet for 12 hours straight and deserved every moment of rest and respite she had coming. And yet, she went out of her way, in a profound expression of her humanity, to restore a tiny shred of my dignity despite the many indignities imposed by medical trauma and its treatment. Thank you, Liz. You have no idea how much that meant to me in that moment.

I guess in this weird and dark time of COVID, I want to remind folks of the Liz’s. They’re out there. They’re almost certainly underappreciated. Maybe take a second to think of a Liz (or a Ben, or a Jesse), and express your gratitude to them in whatever way works for you. I promise – you won’t regret it.

6 Responses

  1. seriously this brought tears to my eyes. One amazing nurse with a thoughtful gesture changes your whole experience. I love the description as “your Mom’s age”. That helps me picture nurse Liz as an nurse with years of experience who continues to love what she does and brings that passion to every patient she encounters. Thanks for sharing this Aaron.

      1. Thanks for sharing, Aaron. My Mom was a nurse … and they are truly special people. Thank you to all the Liz’s who are there for all the Aaron’s .

  2. Good nurses are amazing. I can’t imagine the added stress of working in COVID conditions. Liz sounds like a gem.

  3. Aaron, I’m so grateful you were given this encounter with Liz. She certainly gave an enormous gift of love and compassion. I have you on our Sunday School prayer list. Our prayers are for a complete healing. What may seem impossible for us is certainly possible with God. I’m thrilled that you are well enough to return to writing your blog.
    Take care,

  4. Aaron, I am so glad you told this story here. It comports completely with my experience with nurses. And at the same time gives mad props to “women of a certain age”! I teared up when you first told me about this and I find myself doing it all over again. Thanks, kiddo. Love, Mom

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