Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vaya Con Dios!

His name was Jim. Vincent James Englehart was his name, to be correct. I was a new nurse. He scared everyone else out of his room. Nurses that had been there for thirty days or thirty years; I was accused of turning him against nurses who had been there far longer than I had. Maybe I was new enough to understand him, or maybe I just didn’t know any better. For better or for worse, Jim and I became fast friends. All I did was listen to what he said.

Jim was blind due to an abdominal aortic aneurysm and the sub sequential blood loss. I quickly learned that the key was letting Jim talk you through everything. He had three ‘ostomies’ , which was any nurse’s nightmare. Worse yet, they always came off, resulting in his ostomy plates and bags having to be changed multiple times throughout the shift. A sheer nightmare when you have twenty five patients to care for! Miraculously, Jim’s bags rarely fell off after I had put them on and while I was on shift!

Jim and I enjoyed watching ‘Hannity and Colmes’ together. Rather, Jim enjoyed listening to the program and I enjoyed spending time with Jim. It didn’t matter if we agreed on political stances; it was merely background noise for us. He told me about his family, his favourite memories, and told me about his wife, Jackie. I told him about my life and family, probably more than what is considered professional. Jim loved to tell dirty jokes, but I soon found that I was not ‘privy’ to them. Jim and I had a special saying: Vaya Con Dios. Jim told me it means 'Go with God'. We reserved it for our use only, like a little secret between friends.

Even as Jim’s nurse, I was not allowed in his room while he was using the urinal, and he didn’t want me to treat his male parts. When he had a particularly bad yeast infection he eventually allowed me to treat it and finally decided that only I had the cure. Still, though, Jim treated me more like a daughter than his nurse.

Somehow I hurt my back right before I was scheduled to go on vacation. I was off for several weeks and went on the vacation. On the return trip, Stacy, one of my nursing assistants, called to tell me that Jim had passed. I was silent for the remaining 6 hour drive home. My then husband didn't understand. At first I felt as though it was wrong of me to not have been there for him at the end, but came to realise it was probably better that way. In nursing they say you should not become emotionally attached to your patients. My personal opinion is that if you do not become emotionally attached on some level, then you are not doing your job right.

I still miss Jim, and think of him often. He taught me more about nursing than fifty text books. He taught me about life, love, and friendship. He taught me the importance of listening and understanding. He has been gone now for almost three years. Vaya Con Dios, my friend.

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