I was poised with the primed syringe in trembling fingers and ready to shoot. It was my first time. I knew what I must do; where I should aim to minimise the trauma that could be the consequence of a misdirected aim. With a slight nod from Elizabeth I had the confirmation to go ahead.
I hung back buying time, desperate to take control of my shaking guts; a confidant persona was paramount to success.
Sucking in one deep inhalation I stepped behind the screen, and …
AAARRGH! There it was, lying sideways in an untidy heap, in all its’ naked glory!
In training school we’d honed our injection techniques on large Spanish oranges. I’ll never understand why. Now here I was cheek to cheek, figuratively speaking, with a REAL bottom and I was disarmed by the sheer scope of the thing!
“Do you have a problem Nurse?” asked Elizabeth curtly.
“It’s HUGE!” I wailed. “Sister Elizabeth, how can I be sure to get it right with all that surplus?”
The owner of the dodgy derriere hastily grasped her bloomers and indelicately hauled them over the threatening spectacle. My mentor was incredulous.
“NURSE! … HOW DARE YOU?”
“It’s okay Sister Elizabeth,” I bleated. “She’s not wearing her hearing aids. Look!” I pointed in overplayed manner to the bedside locker.
“Oh, how kind of you my dear,” trilled the elderly lady in the next bed. “I was wondering where I’d left them.”
And so began my turbulent Nursing career! It was the late 1960’s and I’d traded my mini skirt, white plastic boots and tank top in favour of a butterfly cap, starched white apron and frilly cuffs.
So VERY not me!
I was quick to learn that conformity and discipline were the principal requirements for a Student Nurse. Respect for senior staff was expected and we first year newbies, who wore only the one ‘stripe’ on our uniform, soon learned wise counsel from our superiors.
No.1- Thou shalt NOT open a sterile theatre pack to use the forceps for communal brow plucking sessions.
No. 2- Soaking overworked and blistered feet in a bedpan down the sluice area is NOT hospital protocol.
No. 3- Disposable razors are issued for the removal of bum fluff and other such delicate areas in the pre-operative patient and NOT to enhance the desirability of the legs and armpits of staff members.
The unwritten rules were exhaustive and not conducive to feisty young ladies emerging from the culture of the sixties. Only the hardy survived!
Time passed. I now wore two stripes and was looking forward to my first shift on the Spinal Injuries Unit, albeit nursing mainly testosterone fuelled young men tragically maimed for life in motorcycle or similar RTA’s.
“Off for a fag break,” confided the Charge Nurse. “Keep an eye on Pete and Tom. They hate each other.”
“Take your time Charge,” I offered graciously, glancing across at the admirable six- packs. Both men were paraplegic and had wheelchairs folded by the bedside. I wondered what threat they posed being at opposite sides of the four bedded bay.
Perhaps they’d hurl abuse, fruit bowls or catheter bags. Or possibly they were long distance spitters. I couldn’t work it out.
“Could you fetch me fresh water gorgeous?” asked Tom with a wicked wink. “And there’s ice in next doors freezer.”
“No problem Tom.” I blushed outrageously as I collected the jug.
But I couldn’t find next doors’ freezer; I couldn’t find next door either. This was an isolated unit - HOW DUMB WAS I?
I heard the hullaballoo long before I saw the upturned wheelchairs and fists and fur flying! Tom suffered two black eyes and Pete lost a front tooth! And I was reprimanded for leaving the patient area unattended!
Gradually I began to feel at home in my black lace up shoes and cardboard collar. I survived through my third stripe, then - Hey presto, I secured my silly, frilly, pork- pie Staff Nurse hat; by which time I’d realised the worth of the discipline and high standards required of me as a learner.
I had metamorphosed into a well ordered and safe to practice qualified nurse … somehow!
It’s a bit like that with God isn’t it? Sometimes we don’t see His plan for us at the beginning of our journey, but with diligence and attentiveness to His leading, we get there.
And He’s promised that one day we’ll wear a crown.
So God has a sense of humour too!
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