Tag Archives: nurse

The Last Patient (Covid Story #10)

Photo by Erkan Utu on Pexels.com

Sophie leaned over the bed, “Ready to go home, Pete?”

The elderly man slowly raised his steady gaze, meeting Sophie’s deep blue eyes head on.

“Couldn’t be more ready,” he said without a trace of emotion.

“Well, let’s get you out of here then.” Sophie retrieved her stethoscope and listened to Pete’s rhythmic breathing.

“Wiggle your toes,” she commanded.

“You mean my once purple toes?” Pete asked as he vigorously followed Sophie’s instructions.

“Good. Now stick out your tongue.”

“You’re an awfully demanding nurse, ya know,” he said in the same dry tone.

“I’ve brought your favorite shirt.” Appearing suddenly in the open doorframe, a snowy white-haired full-figured woman held up a Chicago Bears long-sleeved t-shirt.

“Clara, are you prepared to deal with this cantankerous man?” Sophie said as she wrote on the clipboard.

“No. But I have no choice now do I?” Clara smiled as she walked to the bedside and smoothed back Pete’s thick gray hair. “Besides, I can’t leave him here. You nurses would kill me!”

“Okay, that’s enough. And ironically, you are quite wrong. They tried to kill ME!” A slow smile crept across Pete’s face.

“I think it’s the other way around, dear. They did everything in their power to save you. And, thank God, it worked.” Clara said as she smiled down at Pete.

“Well, Pete, are you ready to go home?” A tall, gangly man strode in, his white coat fluttering in time with the briskness of his walk.

“Dr. Regada, please tell these women to get off my back.”

“I promise to do just that, after I examine you.”

Dr. Regada pulled the curtain around the bed as Clara and Sophie left the room and stood outside the door.

“I’d better make my rounds.” Sophie said to Clara. “Pete will be fine now.”

She patted the older woman’s hand. “He’s a real stinker, but I am going to miss him.”

As she started to leave, Clara took her arm, “Sophie, wait.”

“I wanted to thank you—“

“I’m just doing my—“

“No. You are doing more than your job, and under such difficult circumstances. I’m so glad for you and the other medical staff that Pete is the last one.”

 Clara gave Sophie a tight-lipped smile. “When Pete was so bad, well, you know how it was, all I could do was wait. And for some reason this one thought kept running through my mind.”

Sophie’s interest was piqued. “What was it Clara?”

“I kept thinking I wasn’t going to have that spumoni date ever again.”

Sophie gave her a puzzled look, “Spumoni date?”

Clara laughed, “We had a recurring date, first Friday of the month. We went to our favorite Italian restaurant and had spumoni. Oh, sometimes we had dinner, too, though not always. But we never missed our spumoni nights and most of the time we sat in the same little booth in the corner.”

“Anyway, I realize it’s just a stupid little thing, but I couldn’t keep the image out of my mind, the two of us sitting in our booth eating that wonderful dessert! I think that image was subconsciously planted in my head to keep me from thinking about all the other moments I might not get a chance to share with the old coot. Spumoni, huh? Crazy!”

Sophie tilted her head, smiled, and grasped Clara’s arm with a firm hold, “No, Clara, it’s not crazy. Crazy would be if you didn’t have more spumoni moments with him. Now, go back in there and get that man ready to go home before he starts bellowing loud enough that the noise echoes down the hallway again.”

“Okay, you take care, ya hear?

“Most definitely.”

Sophie walked to the nurse’s station. Her coworker and friend, Marnie, looked up from the computer screen as Sophie approached.

“Did you know that Pete and Clara have a spumoni date every first Friday of the month?” Sophie asked as she laid down her clipboard and stretched her neck.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I did.  Pete told me. Why?”

“Clara just told me.”

“What’s up, you two?” Another nurse, Beth, walked briskly up to the desk.

“Pete. He and his wife have a spumoni date every— “

“Yeah, Pete told me.”

“Why didn’t I know that?” Sophie asked with a slightly annoyed tone.

“I’m sure he told you. Or, he’s quite a jabberer, maybe he jabbered on about other things to you.” Beth replied.

“You’re right, he did. He told me stories from his days working at the post office and said he still attends retiree breakfasts. He relayed a story he heard there about a fellow mail lady and a cat.”

“And he mentioned that his granddaughter works in some newsroom. Oh, and his other daughter is working from home and slowly going crazy, what with family always under her thumb.”

Beth laughed. “That’s Pete.  He was here a long time. I’m going to miss him. But I’m glad he is going home.”

After a few laughs about their last critical patient in C-Ward, the nurses quieted down as they worked separately, reviewing new patient information, and gathering more supplies. As a welcome change, these new patients arrived with familiar issues of old routine illnesses and injuries such as flu, bronchitis issues, or mending of bones.

The silence allowed the sound of the waiting room TV news. Newscasters announcing the latest catastrophes, crime, and a few random acts of kindness.

“Too bad we don’t know each other’s spumoni stories.”

“What?”

“Well… if we did, maybe we’d realize we’re all a part of the same story and maybe this world wouldn’t seem so cold.”

Marnie laughed. “Like spumoni?”

Sophie’s name came over the loudspeaker with instructions to visit Room 221.

“That’s Emily Bellows. She’s in with some kind of blockage that no one can figure out. Better get going. As my mom would say, making hay while the sun shines or something along that line.”

Marnie laughed, “Ellie would have said that and more. The doctor in her, ya know.”

As Sophie walked to Room 221 she met Clara and Pete coming down the hallway.

“Goodbye, you two. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m glad to see our last C -Ward patient leave.” “You and me, both, Sophie!” Pete hollered. “You and me both!” As he passed, he threw his arm up in a salute. She heard his laughter until the elevator doors shut.

A Normal Morning (A Covid Story)

Grocery cart

Zeroing in on the task before her, Ellie drew in her breath, opened her car door and swinging her 80-year-old legs around, planted her feet on the concrete.

“There,” she thought to herself. “The first step.”

At 8:00 a.m. the parking lot spaces closest to the storefront filled quickly as shoppers made their way to the front doors labeled “Seniors Only – 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m”.  Armed with lists, shielded faces set in poker face mode, these proactive beings stood waiting. Battle lines drawn, the doors open, allowing the shoppers to spring into action. Each grabs a grocery cart as they follow their plan of attack.

Her cart before her, grocery list in hand, Ellie steers toward the fruits and vegetables, aiming for the green peppers. She spies an opening and checks her perimeter. Seeing only free space in front of her as well as around the peppers, she makes her move. As she grabs the vegetable of choice (having made her selection as she drew near) she discovers another shopper staring at their list and headed in her direction. Swiftly and deftly tossing the vegetables in the cart, she steers away from the shelves, doing a ‘180’ in the middle of the aisle as the other shopper glances up. A smile creases her mask as she moves toward her next target.

Halfway through, Ellie takes a breath while she glances around at her fellow store patrons. With purposeful stride, most of the masked souls focus solely on their goal, no lingering over the canned goods or yogurt, no requests for the attending staff. Only determined and artful cart maneuvers meet her eyes as she looks around.  

A small, rail-thin woman stops, allowing the appropriate number of feet between her’s and Ellie’s cart, “Excuse me, do you know where I might find pesto?”

Ellie smiles, “I believe pesto is with the pasta. Try two aisles that direction.” She points to her left.

“Your hair is beautiful,” the woman says. “It’s so white.”

“Thank you,” Ellie replies as she touches her short bob. “It needs trimmed, but, well… you know.”

The woman laughs, “Boy, do I? Do you see this mess?” She points to her head. “The only saving grace is the fact that everybody needs a haircut right now, right?”

Ellie scans the store then looks back at the woman, “Yep. As it stands, we are all in this together.”

“I venture to say, at our age, that both of us have been through tough times before. We’ll win this war, too.”

“I hope you’re right. If everyone were on the same side, we just might win—this war, as you call it.”

The woman’s mask moves, indicating a smile beneath it, “We’re tough old birds. With us on the right side of this, doing our best to beat it, we have a fighting chance. Well, it was very nice talking with you—mask to mask, that is. Beats Facetime!”

“Same here. Take care and stay safe.”

“Plan on it. I’m going directly home. I only go out every two weeks right now—to do this.” She gestures toward her cart.

As Ellie moves on toward the dairy section, she turns around to wave at her new friend. Focused on her task, the woman doesn’t notice. Glad for the opportunity to conduct an actual conversation with a stranger, Ellie has to fight the urge to turn her cart around, find her friend, and suggest that they have coffee sometime in the store. A what-used-to-be normal reasonable request.

Ellie reasons to herself, “I’m at the grocery store. I’m shopping. When I go outside the sun will be shining and the weather pleasant. I’ll get in my car and drive home with my groceries. A normal day.” Then, for a brief moment, her thoughts darken, “Only the day isn’t normal. THIS isn’t normal.”

With a shrug, she starts moving again, “But this is what is. It just… is.”

Finished with her shopping, Ellie wheels the cart to her car, unloads her groceries, falls into the driver’s seat and pulls away.

At home, after unloading the groceries, wiping each item down with spray bleach, and putting them away, she wipes the counter and washes her hands as she sings the alphabet song.

Her cell phone rings at the same time a photo pops up on the screen. The picture is of a nice-looking young woman with shiny red hair, blue eyes, a soft smile. “Sophie,” Ellie says into the phone, “Are you already at work?”

“Yep, came in about three hours ago. Did you go to the store yet, Mom?”

“I did. I’ve followed protocol. Wiped everything down, put up the groceries and now I plan on relaxing with a cup of coffee. How has your morning gone?”

“We lost another patient.” Pause.

“But two were discharged yesterday. I’m glad your home. I don’t like you going to the store.”

“I realize that. But it’s nice every once in a while to see people face-to-face, or mask-to-mask I guess I should say. With your dad gone, it can be rather quiet around this place. Besides, I do use delivery services and I limit myself to going out only once or twice a month.”

“I know I can trust you to do what’s best. Hey, I have to get back to work. They’re admitting more patients.”

“Okay.  Be—” Sophie hung up.

As Ellie puts her cell phone down on the side table, she glances at the photo resting there. She smiles as her eyes light on the women, both suited up in scrubs, arms around each other’s shoulders. The older woman wears a stethoscope around her neck. She is the taller of the two and sports short platinum white hair. The other woman is smiling brightly, her red hair held back in a ponytail. Inscribed below the photo, etched in gold, are the words: Because you were a doctor, I became a nurse. Love you mom, Sophie.