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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

An Evening That Changed My Life

By Jackie Harrison

Some might say I was a prankster as a young girl but I prefer the word mischievous or maybe creative. This characteristic remained with me as a nursing student at a Baptist hospital school of nursing. (I must point out, however, that I was an A student and most of my antics never caused a serious problem.)

Required weekly, Wednesday night, prayer meetings, if we were not on duty, were the first to evoke this mischievous trait in me. They seemed a bit too much with prayer meetings every morning before work followed by Sundays of morning Sunday School classes, midday church services and evening BTU (Baptist Training Union) sessions at a local Baptist church.

Our house mother had a bad leg forcing her to walk with a limp and use a cane that thumped loudly on the floor with each step. This thumping announced her approach down the hallways. Each night she walked the halls to check for lights out.

When we heard her coming, we quickly doused the lights and pretended to be sleeping, although some remained studying in the bathtubs with flashlights. Once she discovered that a few students were skipping the weekly prayer meeting services, she occasionally made impromptu rounds at these times.

One Wednesday night, I pretended to be the house mother, walking slowly down the hallway with a broom and striking it on the floor as she did with her cane. I enjoyed seeing room by room of wayward students quickly fade into darkness and become silent.

We were required to keep and submit weekly records, with recommended hours, of the number of hours we "spent on our books." I did not need to study that much. Since I could not lie, I sat on my books reading or doing other things and turned in these hours.

Another time, as the student charge nurse on my floor, I used my emergency voice to summon a nervous freshman student and ask her to run quickly to Central Supply and pick up some sterile fallopian tubes. She hurried off without a question or hesitation.

These types of acts led me to the evening that changed my life.

The shift I disliked was the 3PM to 11PM shift. Days were fine and on night duty, I could stay up most of the day having fun and still work at night. But 3PM to 11PM was a drag. Somehow I seemed to get more than my share of it.

Just as I finished my last of these shifts, my roommate approached me and asked if I could replace her on her 3PM to 11PM shift on a particular night. She gave me a sob story about it being her fiance's last night of furlough before he returned for six months of active duty.

After I said yes, I tried to rationalize my consent by telling myself that this was a small floor filled mainly with VIPs and after visiting hours I could study for the next week's exams.

Around 8:30PM, bedtime for most patients, I remembered that I was also in charge of the nurse's infirmary around the corner and a few of my classmates were there with mononucleosis. I turned on the intercom and said,"This is the devil and I am under your bed."

To my chagrin, I realized immediately that I had pressed a patient's button instead of the button for the nurse's infirmary. Before I had a chance to recover, this patient's room light lit up on the intercom board and I had to answer it. He said, "Will you send the devil back to my room?"

I assumed my most professional appearance and walked into his room where I explained and apologized profusely. He said, "Honey, don't worry about it. Just to show you that my heart is in the right place, I am ordering a tray of food for you girls from the deli across the street."

A huge tray of food arrived. My classmate asked if I minded if she asked the guy from the laboratory to share the food with us. I was on my very good behavior at this point and I said it was fine and I would attend to the patients while they ate and visited.

When the lab technician arrived, he made innumerable attempts to get my attention. I was in my professional mode and took no notice of him.

He finally sat beside me at the desk and saw what I was studying. He told me he could help me learn the nerves and other anatomical terms. He recited a poem, something about Mount Olympus, that named the nerves, making it easy to remember them.

I was impressed. He asked if he could come and study with me the next week in the living room of our nurses' home. I thought it would be safe, so I said yes.

I learned later that he was a medical student needing extra money who moonlighted as a lab technician at my hospital only every fourth night on the 3Pm to 11PM shift.

I married him during his senior year of medical school.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


A great story with a happy ending!

What a fantastic story! Thanks!

That is a wonderful story, and since I know you personally, it really sounds just like you. Congratulations, keep writing.

Weren't you happy that your thoughtfulness in helping a fellow nurse led to you meeting your future husband?

Now there's a good deed that worked out perfectly!

A true example of "meant to be". Love it!

First time I have ever read you - great story..nice to hear other folk's idea of walking on the wild side in our youth...great descriptions, and pacing...I was prepared for getting the "begeebers" scared out of me...keep writing..

Fun story. Reminded me of a multiple choice question on a University of Wisconsin exam written years ago by a playful professor:

The Fallopian Tubes are:

a. Subways in Rome.

(don't remember the other choices)

I practiced medicine in the same community where Jackie and her husband (a cardio-vascular surgeon) settled back in 1959. I assisted him one time during my training at the community hospital in 1965, and he impressed me with his precision and his speed, 15 minutes altogether, in amputating a leg below the knee affected by gangrene. He practiced his craft for close to 40 years till his death about three years ago, leaving a legacy of selfless service.

Jackie, on the other hand, went on to broader horizons, becoming the president of the Florida Medical Association Auxiliary and, later, becoming the CEO of the Mental Health Association for Volusia and Flagler counties. She also founded the local museum and, along with others, organized the first arts festival which has become an annual rite of spring in our community. It's no wonder she was named Woman lof the Year in our city back in the 80s. Now in her mid-70s, she remains active, playing golf, writing commentaries for the local paper, and remaining involved in local politics.

To this lovey Southern belle, hats off to you for all you have done for the community. That medical student you met and subsequently married surely must have been one of the luckiest men in the world.

Great story and even greater "rest of the story" comments. Kudos.


Why has it taken you so long to follow your daughter's advice and write? You have so much to tell. Keep on keeping on -- can't wait to read the next one!


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