A Nurse’s Instinct

I couldn’t help myself. The nurse in me took over the other day. On my day off.

 Nurses often invade other people’s personal space. From stripping a patient to get them into a Johnny shirt to performing procedures on them, it happens all the time. The encounter that day was just a minor invasion, mind you, but still a boundary was crossed.

I waited in my car in the parking lot while my daughter had blood work drawn at Life Labs . It was taking an awfully long time. I learned later only one lab tech was working. The other one left to fetch lunch. Priorities. Giselle waited until everyone requiring lab work had been taken care of before the lab tech could perform an EKG on her. She didn’t mind waiting. She’s good that way.

I wondered why Giselle hadn’t returned. To pass the time, I read and deleted countless e-mails on my phone. I wasn’t bored yet. There were plenty more to review.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an older man, shuffling by. I figured he was parked in the handicapped parking space, up ahead between my car and the lab. He wasn’t. I had no idea where he was walking to as the lot was huge and not many vehicles were in it.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped out of my car, and approached this complete stranger. I firmly grabbed his arm with my hand, and insisted, “Let me help you.”

Not a polite, “May I help?” or “Do you need help?” Nope, more a firm, nurse-knows-best, “I’m helping you whether you like it or not” take-command situation.

The man, maybe in his 70’s, was stooped over, walking with a cane that looked too short. He painfully took two baby steps at a time and paused. As if gathering the strength to continue.

He didn’t refuse my help. I asked if the pain was from his back, hips, knees, arthritis or an accident. Nosy, eh? Again, the nurse in me, obtaining a “history on a patient”.  He answered he had arthritis throughout his body plus a back injury from a motor vehicle accident.

“Wow, double whammy! Where are you going? You should really get a walker. It’d give you more support than this cane. Whaddya think?”

“That’s my SUV over there. The beige one.”

The beige SUV wasn’t close by at all.  How ‘d he ever get from his SUV to the lab in the first place?

“I have a walker at home. I thought I’d manage okay with my cane. That’s my SUV there!”

Okay, I can be slow at times. Now, I understood what he was telling me. He was in far too much pain to walk to his vehicle!

“Do you want me to drive your car to you?”

His lined face lit up with hope.

“Will you?”

And, just like that, a complete stranger handed over his car keys to me.

Many surveys indicate nursing to be one of the most trusted professions. He didn’t even know I was a nurse but, there you have it, he trusted me not to drive away with his vehicle.

I got behind the wheel of his SUV. It was an older model where you have to put the key in the ignition instead of touching a “start” button. I moved the driver’s seat all the way forward in order to reach the gas and brake pedals. I started the vehicle and drove to him. Before I got out, I remembered to put the driver’s seat back in the proper position for him.

He looked quite relieved I managed to pull his SUV right alongside where he stood. I wondered what Giselle would think if she didn’t find me in my own car.

“I think I’ll be able to drive home. Thanks.”

“Not a problem at all. Have a great day!”

He painstakingly entered his SUV and then, with extreme effort, climbed back out again. I worried he wasn’t going to be able to drive after all.

“You’re a great gal!” he called out.

“Ahh! And you’re a sweet man!

I thought about him often through the day, thinking how much pain he was in. I didn’t feel special for helping him. It’s what any nurse would spontaneously do. I was more relieved following my nurse instinct didn’t offend him, but actually helped him in the end.

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