1. Aftonomos, Sylvia B.

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"MABEL IS DEMENTED," said Julie, the team leader, and handed me my assignment. Reading my expression, she added, "She is not a problem, really. She just mutters to herself all the time." Mabel, an eighty-seven-year-old patient, was admitted to the hospital with a stroke.

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As an OB-GYN nurse, I had occasionally been assigned to stroke patients when floated out of my unit, but dementia on this medical-surgical floor was a new experience for me. I was scared. Would Mabel keep me in her room the whole shift? Would I be able to communicate with her? Would I have time for my other patients?


"Please help me, dear Lord," I prayed. "Show me how to handle her."


Swallowing a lump, I complained, "It just seems, dear God, that every time I ask you to give me patients I can handle, you give me the worst."


Blinking back a tear, I entered Mabel's room. She was lying on her back in bed and mumbling, just as the team leader had warned. Her roommate was visiting with friends in the dayroom.


I scanned Mabel's surroundings. No flowers, cards or letters on her nightstand. A brown hospital pitcher, an orange-brown plastic cup and a pair of tattered black socks occupied her overbed table. No children's art decorated the wall across from her bed, and no scribbling on crumpled school paper told grandma to come home soon.


I took a few steps toward her bed and stopped to listen.


"If I only had someone to love me. If I only had someone who cares for me."


Quietly I proceeded to her bedside. When she saw me, she stopped talking, looked at me and said, "I know I'm going to die. If I only had someone to love me. If I only had [horizontal ellipsis]"


"Jesus loves you, Mabel," I said, interrupting her. "Jesus cares for you."


Long pause. I waited, as Mabel's gaze drifted slowly to the ceiling, then back to me.


"Who is this Jesus?" she whispered, as if talking to herself.


"The Son of God, who loves you and died for you to save you," I answered. "Would you like to hear about him?"


"Yes," she nodded.


I sat on her bed, facing her. My beeper was silent, so I was able to stay in Mabel's room for an extended time. When I finished talking with her, I asked, "Would you like to ask Jesus to come into your heart?"


"Yes," she nodded again.


I prayed for her first, then Mabel prayed out loud: "Dear Jesus, Son of God, I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. Please come into my heart and save me." It was a sincere prayer, a sinner's repentant prayer, a few days before she met her Savior face to face.


During the rest of my shift, Mabel never once appeared disoriented. As I went in and out of the room, she would smile at me and follow me with her eyes. When her roommate returned, Mabel said to her, "See this nurse? She is a nice lady. She talked to me about Jesus."


As I left the hospital that day, I thanked the Lord for not answering my prayer the way I wanted.