When I worked as a staff nurse on the Skilled Care Unit at Riverside Regional Convalescent Center, I took care of a very special resident. She had Down’s Syndrome and was about 50 years old with a mental age of a preschool child. She was totally blind, about four feet tall and confined to a wheelchair. Her round, pale, wrinkled face brightened like a little girl when she was happy, but her face totally changed when she had temper tantrums.
She underwent peritoneal dialysis daily, and this made her very angry and impatient when not done her way. She would scare some nurses away when she got into this mood, shouting at the top of her voice. Also, she would bounce up and down in bed while holding onto the side rails and yelling. She called my name repeatedly, and I could hear her at the other end of the hallway. I’d go to her room, and she told me what was happening(as a little girl would tell her mother. I hugged her and reassured her that I’d stay until the dialysis was done. This went on daily for as long as I can remember.
We formed a bond that was very special. We’d sing “You Are My Sunshine” together when she was in a good mood. I made sure that she always had buttermilk on her breakfast tray, and that she was covered with only a single sheet especially over her legs when she was in bed.
One day, I was very busy on the unit and at 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon heard my name being called in a very pleasant way as somebody was approaching the nurse’s station. The person seemed very eager and happy to find me. When I turned around, I saw her, in a wheelchair, all smiles and trying to sense if I was there, still calling my name.
On her lap, she was holding a package wrapped in newspaper. I went towards her and gave her a big hug. She raised her short tiny arms and gave me the package with that same big smile on her face. I started opening it and there it was… a very nice, shiny, red ceramic vase! She lifted the vase up and said that she did it for me and that she kept it a SECRET. I was so touched at this point that tears welled in my eyes. I could just imagine how she made the vase with her tiny hands, not being able to “see” her work except cues from the recreation staff. It was so beautiful, what a precious gift! I will never forget this wonderful moment and whenever I think of this red vase, it reminds me of how wonderful nursing can be…
Edna D. Garcia, BSN, RN, C.
Director, Clinical Education and Human Resources Development, Riverside Long Term Care
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