As a nurse you meet so many people.
However there are some people you meet,
and for whatever reason you never forget them.
Mary was one such a person for me.
She was a lady in her seventies,
who had the most brilliant chesty laugh.
She had a very strong Dublin accent,
and her speech was full of rich expressions.
She had a lovely kindness about her,
and was, as most Dubs are, very straight talking.
It was her absolute honesty and humor,
which kept us all amused.
She came to our ward,
as a transfer from another.
By the time I got to know her,
she had already had her leg removed below the knee.
Every morning when we would wake her up,
we would say,
“How are ya today Mary?”.
Each day she would answer,
“Very bad nurse, me leg is killin me”.
It was always her bad leg,
and initially I was upset for her,
as phantom pains are just as painful as real pains.
However as time went on,
I learned that the newer the nurse to the ward,
the more she spoke about her missing leg.
When she spoke about it with new nurses,
she acted like she had no idea it was gone.
She would look at you and say,
“Take a look at me leg nurse,
I tink it’s in a very bad way”.
She particularly took advantage of the student nurses.
Each day as they would try to get her out of bed to exercise she would say,
“Sure how can I walk without me other slipper,
can you go find it nurse?”.
The poor students were all too afraid
to tell her her leg was gone,
so they pretended to “search” for her slipper,
whilst in reality Mary got out of having to take any exercise.
If she saw one of us qualified nurses come into the ward,
she would get all flustered and shout,
“What are ye doin nurse?” and smile guiltily at us.
If we then said to her,
“Mary you are so bold, is she looking for your slipper?”,
She would laugh long and hard, and with a twinkle in her eye she’d say,
“Ah sure nurse I’m very old, sometimes I do forget about me leg!”.
The time came eventually when Marys stump had healed.
She now had to go to the Rehab unit,
in order to have a new leg fitted.
Mary had been with us for months,
and did not want to leave.
We were like a family to her.
She loved our company and knew us all so well.
We rang the rehab a few days later to inquire how she was doing,
and they told us she was very lonely.
They had explained to her she would come back to us eventually,
but that she needed to get her new leg and make sure it fitted perfectly.
Seemingly she looked at them and said,
“Ah youse are very good, but sure couldn’t youse let me go,
and then whenever me leg is ready youse could post it to me”.
It took some weeks for Marys limb to be fitted,
but eventually the day came for her triumphant return.
We were so looking forward to it.
That day we were very busy,
and I was mindful of the fact that she could arrive back,
and I would be so busy I would miss the big welcome.
Foolish me for ever thinking Mary could just quietly arrive back.
I had forgotten she had an extreme phobia of lifts.
From the moment the doors of the lift would close,
she would open her mouth and scream very very loudly,
“JESUS,MARY AND JOSEPH,GOD IN HEAVEN SAVE MEEEE”
“GOD IN HEAVEN WE ARE ALL DEAD”
or simply “AGHHHHH, JESUS HELP ME”.
As soon as the doors opened she would smile,
and act like nothing at all had happened.
And so it was that we all heard the familiar screaming in the distance,
We went to the lift doors,
to be met by a smiling Mary and two very traumatized looking ambulance men.
She was met with hugs and kisses and returned to her old spot.
In no time at all it was like she had never left.
Sadly we were an acute hospital so Mary’s days with us were numbered.
She eventually said a very tearful goodbye,
and went to live with a lovely niece of hers.
When she left it was difficult for a time to pass “Marys bed”.
However as with any busy hospital,
we knew it would not be long before we had another “Mary” in our midst.