Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Upstate Nurse

This is a true story and one that shows us with a great deal of certainty, the truth of Maya Angelou's statement , “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Life was so hard in upstate NY. I was married to an alcoholic that did not like to work and the start to our living there had already been rough. My daughter started Nursing school at age 17 and when she graduated, I immediately began.
I knew that I had to do something if we were going to survive.
The next 4 years were a blur. I had a 3 and 9 yr old at home and had been taking care of my 2 yr old grandson until my daughter was working and on her own. Then I immersed myself into my study, because I felt it was the only way to be able to make it and assure my children had what they needed.
There were many days that I worried that one or both of us would die, or our children. The Beaver Fever, whooping cough, the badly broken ankle of my husband while cutting wood and having to crawl through the snow, out of the forest for a half mile, my incident of skidding on the ice in my Mustang and my oldest daughters 3 accidents in as many years, the Ax that chopped through my husbands foot between the 1st and 2nd toes and the burn , but we made it somehow.
One day in summer just as I was finishing up my LPN School, I was outside and saw a truck coming down the road, steaming to high heaven. It was about 1/8th mile away, but I could make out a man in a t-shirt getting out and opening the hood.
I could hear myself saying, "don't open the radiator" and just as I formed the thought, he did. I heard him scream and watched him tear off his shirt. I quickly ran inside to get my huge tube of silver sulfadiazine cream that I kept on hand in my emergency kit. I put my youngest in the crib and I ran down the road to see him.
It was bad but he was not crying or screaming other than the initial reaction. I could smell the liquor on his breath and was thankful for it, because it helped to dull what I knew he must be feeling.
You see, I have had experience with burns. I visited my Daddy in the hospital when he was burned while working for Alger Sullivan Lumber Co. He had done a heroic thing and saved another, at peril to himself. It was so hard for me to look at the blackened and browned skin that was my Father at the hospital but he was not complaining of pain. It got him mostly on his neck, arms and some of the face. It took many weeks to recover, but he did and went back to work. I believe my sister told me that the man that he saved, survived for a time and then passed. (Maybe she can talk to this in the comments and add anything that she may remember that I do not.)
It happened again when I was a co-Apt. manager in National City, Ca.. One of the tenants set himself on fire. He was drinking and smoking and fell asleep in his wheelchair. The cigarette fell onto his slipper and it caught on fire and spread across his body.
When the neighbor and I grabbed a blanket and threw it over him to extinguish the flames, he never made a peep. He was awake after we threw the blanket off of him but he was also not feeling any pain, Thank God. He also did not survive his wounds. I could tell you why, but it would make you as sick as it did me, to witness it.
I was in college getting my credits to become a Nurse and I said aloud to the paramedics, "I never want to be a burn nurse." It was horrific and has stayed with me from 1975 to now.
The third time I had experience with a burn was with my own husband. He worked for a local cheese factory for a few months and on one of the nights when he was cleaning the huge vat that they kept the Whey in, the hot water hose doused with chemicals, exploded onto his body. He called me from his late night shift and I went to pick him up because he said he was not going to the hospital and downplayed what had happened.
When I arrived and took one look at him, I rushed him to the hospital knowing that it was only going to get worse. He had burned the right side of his face, his right shoulder and arm, and his chest. He was still burning from the chemicals and they could not treat him at the ER right away, because they did not know what chemical. I was so upset because of his pain and at thirty minutes in, I said to the Nurse, "bring me a tub of silver sulfadiazine cream. I took responsibility for my decision and slathered it all over the wounds as he flinched and was in pain. That action soothed the burning long enough for him to stand it until they found what chemical it was and could treat him. Many dressing changes, surgical meetings and months later he healed and I had become the burn Nurse that I never wanted to be.
This last hot water burn was bad. The skin was a bright red and blistering as I watched. I had him sit and with gloves on, I covered him in the Silver sulfadiazine cream. He was uncomfortable, but I knew that he would be more so if I did not, so I continued while talking to him about his life, about where he lived, about who I could call. He refused to let me call anyone, but did allow me to put a clean shirt on him and gave me a promise that he would go directly to the hospital in his town, 20 miles away. It was the best I could do with what I had and he was sober enough to make that decision.
I thought I may never hear from him again but a few weeks later, he showed up on my doorstep with eggs, bread, and fresh milk. I asked him to come in and he told me that the doctors wanted to know who had treated him. I told him I was a Nursing student and he told me , that they had said my quick action saved him. I wasn't looking for anything for doing what any human being would have, but he brought me what he could give and he continued to do so until one day, he didn't. A few months later, I read that he had died.
His son worked in the nursing field with my daughter and he found out what I had done for his Dad. He called me and thanked me for what I had done. I was just in the right place at the right time.
This type of thing happened several times during my stay in Upstate. I ministered to the Amish during a really bad buggy wreck, during tooth aches, during various other assorted illnesses and I never thought a thing about payment but in every instance, they gave me what they had. We had fresh milk often, and the girls and I would skim the cream, put it in a mason jar and I would shake it while sitting on the couch, til it made butter. I did not have a fancy Butter churn. My arm was the churn and the butter was delicious. Sometimes I flavored it with honey and sometimes with garlic and we always put it on homemade bread hot out of the oven.
I could continue writing forever on our life there but I really wanted to say, that we never know how the way we treat others will come home to roost. In my case, it was fresh eggs, bread and milk. It was being invited into Amish Homes that the English rarely saw, and having them treat me with respect.
My sister Donna witnessed some of this when Grandma Miller signed the quilt I bought from her. That was never done because it was prideful, but it was done on the quilt that I bought.
I am so thankful for the 19+ years that I lived there. They were hard working, cold numbing, heart shattering years, but they taught me so much about who I am and want to be.
These people told me that I made them feel safe and that every thing was going to be alright. I am sure that they barely remember when I was saying while tending them but they remembered how they felt, when I was there. That is what mattered to them.
Ghandi said to be the change you seek and I pray for that every day. Much love to all, Kimmee

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