By Kristina Tehrani July 26,2021
I’ve been a nurse for many years- about 13. I haven’t been working the entire time but I have several long term experiences under my belt.
One of my favorite nursing jobs was working for the GLBT population in an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment program. Why? Because it was fun and I learned a lot.
Also, even though my medical background wasn’t very extensive, my desire to learn and dedication quickly elevated me to a position of “charge nurse”. This is significant because there was literally NOT a doctor in the house. It was me or whoever else was the charge nurse.
My patients, for the most part, were gentle, kind and patient. They told me jokes and helped me with getting my hairstyle right for Halloween. If I forgot to put on eyeshadow- no problem! They had it! Sometimes it was hard to remember that this was a facility and not having coffee with friends.
I worked with some of my favorite nurses of all time there. It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone by their behavior alone. You don’t even need to know how to spell their last name- you know them through and though.
One such nurse was Kathleen. I loved her from the get go as she was brutally honest, yet somehow tactful and she was emotionally supportive to…everyone I think.
I had fallen on difficult times. I was married to a violent alcoholic and I had just gotten the diagnosis that my son had autism and that needed to be dealt with immediately. I was exhausted. I knew next to nothing about autism and that was frightening.
I was never opposed to taking antidepressants, but at this time, I didn’t have a doctor I trusted. Therefore, I screwed around with my medication myself (never a good idea).
Mornings were notoriously busy at this facility. Basically, four hours were spent on getting all 40 patients all of their medications plus checking vital signs and anything unexpected coming up.
One morning, I showed up for my usual day shift as charge nurse and Kathleen asked me “how are you doing?” I started to sob like the titanic was sinking. Her response? She shut the door and I said “what about the patients?” And she said “don’t worry about it”. She hugged me and let me cry on her shoulder for probably ten minutes while I choked out that my husband is not who i thought he was, that my son had autism, I don’t know what to do and I need a new psychiatrist….
So I cried it out, with the promise that I would adjust my medication.
Kathleen was kind to me like that. She was kind to everyone like that. I never thanked her.
Management changed after a year or two and the facility was looking to cut costs. They had already fired our highest ranking and by far most knowledgeable nurse. They were cleaning house and everyone knew it. My time came eventually. I didn’t do anything to really be fired for- especially after four years of loyal service. But they got a new nurse manager who didn’t seem to take issue with random firing.
Nobody wanted to fire Kathleen. She was well loved by patients and staff alike. I eventually found out that she was forced out of her position because they really had no grounds to fire her. She had worked there for at least 10 years.
I went on to public health nursing, which I also loved but I didn’t have a staff- it was me as charge nurse always. It was lonely. Plus I was involved with a man who didn’t want me working at all.
Once I got pregnant with my daughter, I left my last position for medical reasons. Then I had to deal with other things, like my newborns medical issues. And a custody battle that seemed to have a slash and burn feeling to it. It was the closest example to guerrilla warfare that I can imagine but worse as it attacked ones identity and faith in the law.
After that long two years, I was in no rush to associate with people (they can’t be trusted!). Maybe a year later, I felt safe enough to make a Facebook account to maybe (maybe!) connect with friends from “before”.
Kathleen requested to be my friend pretty quickly. I was thrilled to hear from her after all these years . She was insistent that we meet up soon so that she could meet my daughter and revisit with my son again. I was trying to schedule something with her when I got the news from another nurse friend.
Kathleen died. 60 years old- heart disease. I never got to thank her for holding me while I cried. I went to her mass (didn’t occur to me that she was catholic and pretty dedicated to it). My first outing in four years consisted of a Catholic mass. I realized that although Kathleen had died l- it didn’t mean I had to also. And completely isolating oneself from friends is a form of slow suicide.
I vowed to appreciate life and live it. No more hiding out at home because people are unpredictable. No, I was going to live the life I still had.
One month later, my state shut down and prohibited seeing people from other households. This lasted for over a year. The timing seemed almost biblical. A woman who loved life died and now I’m back in isolation- this time by mandate.