There was a certain kind of desperation on the faces of the family members in the waiting room. I must have counted twenty different faces, gathered close together, rubbing each others’ shoulders or offering up silent prayers. Some paced the small space, others leafed through the magazines on the tables, not really seeing what was on the pages.
I waited by the double doors leading into the waiting room, trying to stay out of sight through the little rectangular window. Dr. Colinth was supposed to inform the family of Mrs. Dunlan’s status. As her main nurse, and my shift almost over, he had asked me to be there.
Mrs. Dunlan was one of my better patients. She had been admitted earlier in the week for a stomach issue. Unfortunately she had suffered a heart attack while waiting to discover what was paining her stomach. She consented to undergo the necessary surgery, which lead us to this moment. I had been working for the past twelve hours and was tired and ready to head home.
I finally saw Dr. Colinth sauntering around the corner. I sighed with relief, holding her file out to him. He quickly read the latest notes before straightening his coat and pushing through the doors.
The waiting room instantly fell silent as all eyes turned toward us. The few people who had been pacing stopped in their tracks. While Dr. Colinth sought out Mr. Dunlan, Mrs. Dunlan’s husband, I glanced around the room at the rest of the gathered family.
Four generations of Mrs. Dunlan’s family sat around the room, the youngest of all was an infant girl being gently rocked in her mother’s arms. Little children who would usually be running around the room sat patiently and quietly next to their parents. Mr. Dunlan stood and walked over to Dr. Colinth, fear and hope mingled on his face.
Mr. Dunlan was shorter than Dr. Colinth by at least five inches. His face was creased with lines and dotted with freckles that stood out against his dark skin. He glanced from Dr. Colinth to me before speaking.
“How is she?” His voice cracked slightly, and he tried to cover it by clearing his throat.
“Mrs. Dunlan is resting comfortably. She is stable, and we are expecting her to make a full recovery. The next 48 hours are the most crucial.” With that Dr. Colinth walked back through the double doors. That was what I didn’t like about Dr. Colinth. While he was a good doctor, he lacked the ability to be gentle and often times forgot to be sympathetic.
I smiled, what I hoped was a reassuring smile, at Mr. Dunlan and his family before turning to follow Dr. Colinth back into the hospital. Before I reached the doors, Mr. Dunlan reached out and brushed my arm, causing me to pause and turn back.
“Is she doing alright? Really?” He gazed at me, his eyes pleading.
“I’m just a nurse, sir. The doctors believe she will make a full recovery. Right now, rest is what she needs.” He nodded as if my words had given him hope.
“Miss?” One of the older children, a boy with dark hair and eyes, probably nearing ten years old, was standing behind Mr. Dunlan, a picture frame clutched tightly in his hands.
“Would it be alright if you put this in her room? So she can see it when she wakes up?” He handed me the picture frame. Inside was a picture of Mr. And Mrs. Dunlan surrounded by kids. Behind them stood the kids’ parents, the Dunlan’s children. I smiled at the boy and nodded.
“This should be just fine. I’ll put it on the table next to her bed.”
“Thank you.” He wrapped his arms around my waist in a hug before his mother told him that he shouldn’t. I took the picture back through the double doors and leaned against the wall.
My shift was over. I took a deep breath and headed down the hall towards Mrs. Dunlan’s room. The noise from the various machines around the room were the only noise. Mrs. Dunlan lay sleeping in her bed. I placed the picture on the table by her bed, just like I told the boy that I would, the picture facing her so that she would see it when she woke up.
“You better hang in there, ma’am. You have a lot of people out there waiting for you.” With that I left.
After a very long day of angry patients and emotional family members, I was ready to head home for a much need shower and rest. As I climbed into my old beat up car, I sent out my own silent prayer that Mrs. Dunlan would pull through alright. Then I was on my way home.
I had two days off. Two days of rest. If nothing happened, I would see Mrs. Dunlan during my next shift.
Pulling into my driveway, it occurred to me why I cared so much about Mrs. Dunlan making a full recovery. She reminded me of my own grandmother. When she had been submitted to the hospital after a heart attack, there had been little the doctors could do. I was a child myself at the time, and I loved my grandmother very much. I remember sitting in the waiting room, my mom right by my side, waiting for her to come out and tell me that everything was alright.
My grandmother never walked out of that hospital. It was just my mother and I after that. It impacted my decision to become a nurse in the first place.
A memory of the young mother rocking her baby in the waiting room crept into my mind while I was getting ready for bed, and I sent up one final prayer for Mrs. Dunlan, her family, and all of my other patients. I fell asleep that night thinking of my grandmother and all of the fun times we had had when I was a child.
Every great story means something to someone.
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