The idea for Nell and Lady came to me as I stood at the same window on the sixth floor of the medical center in Charleston where Lady waits for Nell in the opening scene of the book. I’ve spent a lot of time at that wall of windows recently, looking out over the boats in Charleston Harbor. In a span of fourteen months, my mother had four abdominal surgeries to treat complications related to diverticulitis scar tissue. By the grace of God and a talented surgeon’s hands, my mother is now in the best health any eighty-six-year-old woman could hope for.
Mom spent a week, on average, in the hospital after each surgery, and I was at her side every single day. The lessons I learned about
My mother handled her recoveries with grace, humility, and a formidable strength admirable for a woman her age. She always had a smile and a witty comment for her caregivers and a kind word for her fellow patients she passed in the hall. She never once lost her sense of humor or her ability to laugh at herself. No matter how horrible she felt, she’d pull out her cosmetics bag and hair curler and made herself presentable. On the day of her last surgery, the five-hour operation that resulted in thirty-three staples in her tummy, she told her surgeon in pre-op, “Let’s do this thing. I just got my passport renewed, and I’m ready to go.” Aside from traveling the world, being able to wear white jeans again was her motivation to get well.
A friend encouraged me to treasure this time with my mother. I thought her advice strange at first. I hated seeing my mother so miserable. Every night, I fell into bed in my hotel room and every morning I woke dreading the day ahead. Minutes on clocks tick slower in hospitals. Encountering the grim faces on patients and family members wears on you after a while. But the one-on-one companionship I shared with Mom was a gift I would not otherwise have had. We had some great heart-to-heart talks during our numerous laps around the sixth floor with Mom shuffling alongside me in her slippers, gripping her IV pole. Of course, she remembers none of it. Who knows why? Probably from the anesthesia. Possibly the pain meds. Maybe selective memory. Although I’m disappointed she doesn’t remember our special time together, she’s better off not remembering how much she suffered.
On one particularly rough day, after surgery number three, the fear of losing my mom gave me pause to reflect on what a positive role model she’s been for me.
Neither Mom nor I would have survived that harrowing day if not for the nurses’ expert skills and compassion. When I commenced work on Nell and Lady, it seemed only fitting for one of my two main characters to be a nurse. I’ve always had great admiration for women and men who’ve chosen
I lost my cool more than once and I’m sure they thought me a PITA at times, but we developed a mutual respect for one another based on our concern for my mother’s care. When I returned home to Richmond after each of Mom’s surgeries, I was both physically exhausted and emotionally spent for days. Aside from the occasional day off, nurses never get to leave. The minute my mother was released from the hospital, a new patient was wheeled into her vacated room from surgery and the process of healing began all over again. It takes a certain breed of person to do what they do day in and day out. But they do it because they love helping others.
Here’s to the angels in blue scrubs on Six West.
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I understand more than you can know from personal experience!I have had Systemic Lupus for over 40 years.I spent 3 months in the hospital when I was diagnosed at 15.The nurses are the heart and soul of the hospital!The talked through some challenging times with kindness,a hug,,cookies or a backrub.Since then I have open heart for a quadruple bypass!The night before the surgery,I realized I could die.I had 2 children under 12!The nurse spent at least a half hour talking to me and being positive!She hugged me and told m e how strong was to live this long and she knew her heart that I would be fine She was right!God Bless these angels!
You really have been through an ordeal. I hope you’re in good health now. They are angels, no doubt about it. We would never have survived without their kindness, understanding, and encouragement.
I am. So glad that your mother is well now. You were a good daughter. Thank you for your kind words about nurses.
Keep on writing.
I csn relate to your hospital experience with your mother. I had a simiar experience with my mother. In January of 1987, my mother was diagnosed with late stage colon cancer, and given only six months to live.. My four older sisters and I were in shock. My .mother was only 74 and I was 31.
Mom waa a strong and determined woman. She went home, and that spring, she planted he last garden. We celebrated her last birthday and Mother`s Day. Then, in June, she started to experience the
trauma of her disease, and was hospital. During her hospital stay, her mother passed away and she was too sick to even go to the funeral. I was a single mother at the rime with two small daughters. Countless days I would work my job aa a floral designer, pick up my girls from daycare, and make the hour long drive to St. Louis to the hospital with my daughters in tow. Less than 6 weeks later she slipped into a coma, from which she never woke up. The day before she was in a coma, I had the fortune to spend the entire day reminiscing over wonderful memories. Four days later, my sisters and I gathered
around her bed for the last time. I was holding her hand when she slipped from this life into her heavenly one. i am so grateful for these experiences.
I`m so glad you still have your mother with you and thar it sparked your book. Thanks for hearing my story, be blessed.
You really went through a lot with your mother and I’m so sorry for your loss. While my mother’s diagnosis was never terminal, she went through a lot with her four surgeries. I thought we were going to lose her after #3, which was an emergency surgery for a blockage. I lost my father in 2001, but the thought of losing my mother is terrifying. Thanks so much for sharing your story.