A FLOOD HADN'T HIT our area in 50 years-at least that's what the old-timers said. I'd moved here only 5 years ago, thinking 10 acres of tree-filled land on a scenic river was the perfect place to live. And it was too-until the flood.
I was a home healthcare nurse back then, and I loved traveling through the Louisiana bayou to visit my patients. A heat wave here and a thunderstorm there were occasional inconveniences. But a flood? That was a different story.
Wading to work
It had rained and rained, then rained some more. When the sun came out, we all thought it was over. Being the tough home healthcare nurses that we were, we set out to see our patients as usual. I called ahead to my first patient's home to say I was on my way. I got my first inkling that this wasn't going to be a normal day when her husband said, "Hope you got your boots!!"
At first, I thought he was kidding, but when I arrived I found a shallow lake in his front yard where the driveway should have been. I dug behind the backseat of my husband's truck and found his old rubber boots-two sizes too big but better than the tennis shoes I was wearing. Properly attired, I waded through the nearly knee-deep water to the house.
My patient and her family usually welcomed me warmly, but today they greeted me with open arms.
"Never thought we'd see you today, but sure glad you decided to come."
I didn't say that had I known how bad conditions were, I might have decided against it.
My patient Tess had breast cancer. After undergoing a bilateral radical mastectomy, she'd developed a wound infection. She required daily wound care and dressing changes.
Her husband Sid tried his best to help, but he had to leave the room when I performed this care. He adored Tess, no doubt about it, and the way he looked at her told me she was still beautiful to him. I could see the worry in his eyes when I finished my visit and was preparing to leave.
"You know, the worst is yet to come-the flood, I mean," Sid remarked. "They're predicting the rivers won't crest until tomorrow. Will we see you then?"
I could sense his desperation. We both knew one day without care could be painful and distressing for Tess. I wasn't sure how to answer him, not knowing what I'd have to face on the roads and bridges tomorrow. I tried to reassure him by saying, "I'll give you a call in the morning."
That night, I parked the truck up on the highway near my house. My husband picked me up on his tractor and brought me home down our flooded gravel road. The next morning, I struggled to decide whether to venture out for the one home visit I knew I had to make.
Finally I called Sid to let him know I was on my way.
I'll never forget his response: "I'll meet you at the end of my road with my boat. You're a good nurse!!"
Caring and commitment
I realized then that being "a good nurse" to my patients and their families means more than giving expert clinical care. It means being committed enough to overcome obstacles, sometimes unusual ones, to meet their needs.
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