The Kindness of Strangers

Something magical happened during my recent hospital stay that I feel compelled to share. Perhaps what makes it all the more moving, at least for me, is the realization that the people who made such a difference for me spend each and every work day taking care of individuals they’ve never met before – and will probably never see again.

nurse in pink scrubsI’m talking about the nurses and student nurses who tend to the needs of people after they have had surgery. I am such a chatterbox, I’d be surprised if I wasn’t talking throughout my entire procedure! What I do know is the moment I had sufficiently shed the remains of my anesthesia, I was yearning for ways to take my mind off of the fact I’d just spent over six hours undergoing a bilateral mastectomy. And, I was so relieved nothing had gone wrong, I just wanted to reinforce the fact that life is good. Had I been able to do so, I would have jumped out of bed and kissed the ground. Thank goodness I didn’t have the strength, because I’m certain this sort of behavior would have caused them to move me to the psych ward rather than recovery.

Although I was only confined to the hospital for a bit over 24 hours, the kindness I experienced at the hands of others will last a lifetime.

If the time and opportunity presented themselves, I would ask anyone tending to me how they had decided they wanted to be a nurse. I have always been intrigued by this sort of dedication (and the ability not to panic when someone is bleeding or otherwise in distress). As a young girl I had thought I might want to be a nurse. I thought that right up to the moment I realized exactly what a nurse has to do.

There was the young man from Canada who told me he began his career as a paramedic, but quickly decided he wanted the opportunity to do more. He hailed from the prairies of Saskatchewan, so we both got a chuckle when I kiddingly said, “When you say do more, do you mean do more surfing?”

Another caregiver talked about how she decided a nursing career would provide her the ability to do good while allowing the time and financial security to raise her family.

And then there was Yumi. This amazing young woman made sure to check on me frequently, doing everything possible to make me feel as comfortable and normal as she could. When you are in the hospital, normal is a highly sought commodity.

Yumi is from South Korea and told me she had originally pursued a career as an accountant, but quickly discovered her language skills limited her ability to communicate successfully. I might add, she was sharing this information as she helped tend to my drains, freshen my bed, and assist me as I shuffled to the bathroom.

By the time I was ready to be released, Yumi and I were fast friends. She is a student nurse and will graduate in October of this year. I told her I hoped she would invite me to her graduation ceremony. We talked about Korean BBQ (she told me I had to go to Los Angeles if I wanted to find anything authentic). We talked about South Korea (she said she never realized how the rest of the world feels about Korea until she moved to the United States). She also shared that she had never felt threatened or afraid of North Korea while she was still living at home. I shared how foolish I sometimes feel because I know so little about so much of the rest of the world.

When I was finally released, Yumi not only made sure I was well stocked with gauze, adhesive tape and alcohol swabs – she walked with me to the hospital lobby’s exit. We hugged goodbye and I reminded her I wanted an invite in October.

Last night, exactly two weeks since I got home from the hospital, as I was preparing to go to bed, I noticed I had a text message from a number I didn’t recognize. This is what it said: Hi, Dianne! Do you remember me? It’s Yumi, nursing student from SBCC. I assume you are free from those drains by now. I just wanted to see how you are doing.

Dear Yumi – I’m doing much better now! And I can tell you without reservation – in my case, your communication skills rock!

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2 Responses to The Kindness of Strangers

  1. Laura Sheffield says:

    Hi Yumi and Dianne,

    I just wanted to take a minute and say thank you, Yumi and all of the other nurses who go beyond the “have to’s”.
    My best friend just had a double mastectomy, so I know what you went through Dianne. I am sorry that you had to go through it at all, but having the “Yumi’s” of the world really makes a difference.
    So thank you for sharing your story and I sincerely hope Yumi get’s noticed for all of her hard work and extra kindness, I do not think she would call it work to check on a patient at home.
    I am sure you will be invited to Yumi’s graduation and stay friends for many years to come. Congratulations on making it through the operation and for making a friend.

  2. Dianne says:

    Laura, thanks so much for your kind thoughts! I’m still in the midst of healing, so reading what you had to say really brightened my day! I’m getting ready to send Yumi a link to the blog so she’ll know she’s famous!

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