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Lady with a Lamp


While discharging our father from the hospital almost 4 months back, we had some sleepless nights and endless discussions on finding good home nursing.   After much looking around and talking we found two male nurses, one for the day and one for the night.  The night before the discharge, both bailed on us.  The reason – our father was not ready for home care.  Apparently the nurses differed from our neurosurgeon on the timing of discharge.

We managed to have a lady come in on the first night at home.  She was slightly disoriented and was tired most of the night.  I sat vigilant watching her more than watching my father, and was constantly guiding her on what to do.  Decided to call it a night with her, the thought of monitoring her each night was unbearable.  Like a breath of fresh air an experienced nurse showed up in the morning.   She fixed everything – arranged the chaotic room, drew up a chart for medicines and feed, and took care of our father single handedly.  We pinched ourselves on our good fortune on finding such a wonder nurse.   

That night a male nurse showed up who had minuscule idea on changing diapers.  He actually put it upside down and snarled at me when I attempted to correct him.   He wasted gloves and saline water, answered my U.S. landline phone and gave my friend on the other end a fright, and was more interested in my educational qualifications than in my father’s discharge summary.  I was hanging on the hope that the wonder nurse would come in the morning and I could catch some sleep.

We get a call that morning that the lady nurse’s daughter committed suicide the previous evening.  No points for guessing, the nurse indefinitely wasn’t coming to work.  I felt sorry for her and myself in equal measure, although at times more for myself.

For the next couple of days it was a range of mediocre to pretty bad nursing.  Our cousin in Bangalore had enough of our stories, he contacted an organization in his city that provides nursing, paid them a deposit and put a live-in nurse on the train the same day.  My sister went to pick her up hoping she would be something close to our wonder nurse.   So my sister asks her if she knows tracheostomy care and she is preoccupied with getting a local telephone number.   Anyway, the young nurse turns out to be pretty good and reliable. 

We started lot of new treatments on our father since she came – robotics physiotherepy, ayurveda medicine, and Accutouch.   She was more than a willing partner in all treatments.   My sister and I took turns in taking care of our father during the nights while our nurse had him for the day.  It was a sleepless arrangement for both us.   Difficult to catch up on sleep during the day and most of the nights were sleepless.  We functioned in a sleep deprived stupor most of the time and constantly talked of getting a night nurse.  But didn’t get around to doing it as we could not figure out the logistics of two nurses in one room during the night.

Abruptly one day our nurse went home after three months with us.   Her mother was sick, but she decided to stay put for reasons other than her mother’s health.  So the scramble began again.  In the last 15 days I trained almost 3 nurses, one of them I later learned was not even a nurse.   Days and nights merged into one, with endless diaper changes, removing urine retention, and physiotherapy.  Finally when I could no longer go on physically another live-in nurse showed up who turned out to be responsible and a fast learner.

Hoping she lasts, we are finally looking out for a night nurse.  We would now have two ‘lady with lamps’ nursing our father.  

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