Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kneeling In Blood: Who Is Kate Cumming? Part 5

This series on Kate Cumming is dedicated to all those nurses who give of themselves to heal others. Your kindness, your touch, your wisdom and your unselfish dedication can never be appreciated enough.

To all my sister and brother nurses,
Thank You.

Excerpts from Kate's journal:

"April 13th: We eat in the kitchen, surgeons and all. It is not the cleanest place in the world, and I think, to use a Scotch phrase, would make even Mrs. McClarty 'think shame.' Hunger is a good antidote for even dirt. I am aware that few will think so except those who have tried it.

As I was passing one of the rooms, a man called me, and begged me to do something for him and others who were with him. No one had been to see them that morning, and they had had no breakfast.

About eight were in the room, among them Mr. Regan of Alabama and Mr. Eli Wasson of Texas, both of whom had lost a leg. I paid these special attention, as they were worse than the others. They were very grateful and thanked me all the time. Mr. Wasson said that he knew that he would get well now. They are both unmarried, and talk much of their mothers and sisters, as all men do now. 'Home, sweet home,' is the dearest spot on earth to them, since they are deprived of its comforts. Mother, wife, and sister seem to be sweeter to them than any words in the English language.

April 16th: Mrs. Ogden was completely worn out; and it is not much to be wondered at, as she, with the rest of us, has had to sleep in any and every place; and as to making our toilet, that was out of the question. I have not undressed since I came here.

April 17th: I was going round as usual this morning, washing the faces of the men, and had got half through with one before I found out that he was dead.

Mr. Wasson felt better, and knew that he would soon go home. I asked the surgeon who was attending him about his condition, and was much shocked when I learned that neither he nor Mr. Regan would live to see another day. This was a sad trial for me. I had seen many died, but none whom I had attended so closely as these two.

April 18th: I remained with Mr. Wasson all night. A child could not have been more composed. he told me how good the Lord was in giving him such peace and strength at the last hour. About 4 o'clock a.m. he insisted that I should leave him, as I required rest. He begged so hard that I left him for a little while. When I returned he had breathed his last.

Mr. Regan died this morning.

It does seem strange that, amid all the terrible scenes of destruction that we are daily witnessing, we think as little of death as ever, and act as if it was something that might happen to others, but never to ourselves. . .

Mrs. Lyons left this morning for home. She is very sick; and one of the doctors informed her, if she did not leave immediately, she would certainly die. I know the men whom she has been nursing will miss her very much, as she has been so attentive to them."


Death. It is inevitable that every nurse will have to face the death of a patient at some point. Even in the happiest of units, like mine, death sometimes comes and when it does, it is very, very sad.

Like Kate, sometimes as nurses we are so intent upon healing and helping, we forget that death can touch us as well. When a co-worker dies or has a serious illness, it seems all the more shocking for some reason, as if we never thought death could enter into our world of medication and treatments and health.

Some nurses choose to deal with death as a career, and for those special hospice nurses, I give a special tribute. I remember the hospice nurse, Debra, who guided us through my mother's death and even fourteen years later her expertise --but more so her caring--has left a tremendous impression upon my heart.

From a nurse who helps babies into the world, I give a special thank you to those of you who help guide patients out of this world.

No comments: