“Mama Nurse” : 2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife
Guest Post By Lee
Lee is the mother of a son, she is a devoted wife, and after a great life in New York, is now happily retired in Texas.
There I was in my early 20’s, a young mother and a husband who cheated on me more than I cared to comprehend. Something in his personality changed after our son was born. That something frightened me; I did not feel safe. So, when my roguing husband asked me to leave, I did not feel obligated to his status as “head of the house”, and I left.
I had the example of my mother who was a single mother for a time. She had a tremendous work ethic and seemingly endless energy. She would say “we are not lazy people; we work.” Employed or not, my mother worked as volunteer in the Air Force with family services, supporting families who had domestic difficulties, and she worked as Brownie and Girl Scout leader, among other things. She also taught me to put everyone else first. As the eldest daughter of six children, I had done that in caring for my younger siblings. Thus, when I finally went away to college, I felt free. But date rape, the devastating trauma, and resulting poor self-esteem, plus ongoing financial hardships resulted in a poor marriage choice.
When I left him, I moved home with my mother and the father I had been sealed to, and worked to gain sole custody of my son. It was not hard. My ex had no interest in my darling baby boy, and I had no interest in his child support. I wanted my son for myself and not have that example for a father. At that time, I had no income, and my liberal arts degree wasn’t employable enough to put food on the table, or even pay for my share within the household.
The Nurse Training Act that had passed in 1971 provided government funding to become an LPN (Licenses Practical Nurse). A tuition-free program was within my budget, so that is how I decided to become a nurse. When I communicated my decision with my beloved great-grandmother, she shared that she too, had been a nurse. In this, she expressed concern over my having been the oldest in a family of six children and the work I had shouldered in the family, and now devoting my life to a profession that would also require selfless serving. But knowing that she had been a nurse inspired and motivated me. I knew I could do this. I knew it.
Money was still tight. I used to give blood, but sometimes, because I had eaten so little, my blood pressure was so low that they wouldn’t take my blood. I would also go to the salad bar that was paid for by weight, select mostly leaves and pay before saying, “Oh! I forgot salad dressing; do you mind if I add it?” And would add it to my plate without paying extra. I always hoped that Heavenly Father would understand about that.
I started work as an Aide. I was so excited to be there. I finally had a paycheck! And everything fascinated me. I had such high energy that the doctors often invited me to help them, or watch them, and they would teach me. I really had fun!
It is the most sacred feeling of taking care of fellow spirits. One time, we brought a client back, and he was so angry with us! After seeing the other side of the veil, he cried out, “Why did you do that?” There was another client I recall. After rigor set in, his arms reached out to someone as if he were being embraced.
For the next thirty years, I spent my life involved in the most satisfying interaction in healing hearts and minds, and helping individuals requiring a variety of assistance. I witnessed in the emergency room and in bedside home care clients who had not only crossed beyond the veil and returned, but some who were finally returning home to our Heavenly Parents for good. I worked in medical surgical floors, the emergency department, with clients on ventilators or in cardiac arrest. And finally, hospice or end of life care.
The creative portion of my personality found solutions to provide client specific needs. I’d ask and formulate menus of favorite foods, sometimes favorite soothing music, warmed blankets, dress them while bedridden and provide every comfort measure as tailored to their needs. One client constantly asked me about my life. I was tickled by this, and a little confused. He told me, “I’ve never met someone with the same level of compassion as you.” I was humbled by his words. I never wanted to leave my job.
I eventually remarried, but like Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis I developed as a nurse prevented me from having more children. That is where the church came in.
I was often called to Girls Camp and even Boys Camp. They called me “Mama Nurse.” Besides “Mama Nurse,” I was
also called “Ward Mother” and at Institute, YSAs called me “New York Mama.” I cherished it. I felt like most of my calling was in listening to the kids. They would co
me to my cabin at night and just needed to talk. And I would listen. I think some of the other leaders were jealous, but I think people understand that as a nurse, you can be trusted. And you’ll listen to them and believe them. One night, a girl who had been sexually abused came and spoke to me and asked me the questions she didn’t know who else to ask. I listened, and answered. She told me how much it physically hurt to be violated, and why would anyone ever want to do that? I taught her from my own experience, that one day, when she chooses, she will be able to relax, and it won’t hurt. It will be okay.
Sacred experiences like this and others reminded me of the sacred calling of nurses. Though most of the camp “injuries” were in regard to rashes, dehydration and allergies, the real nursing was in listening. I found that some people feel the spirit in the outdoors. Other people, not so much. Both kinds of people appreciated having a nurse. And I loved being there for them.
The only bit of advice I would offer to those who are considering being a nurse, is to follow the advice they offer at the start of airline flights. “Place the oxygen mask on yourself before serving others.” It is such a giving position that I neglected my health, and now deal with chronic fatigue. I still loved my life as a nurturer/ Nurse. Being a nurse was sacred to me and I am grateful every day that I was able to serve in that way.