It’s Nurses’ Week here in Canada. There’s a saying:
“Save one life, you’re a hero. Save 100 lives, you’re a nurse!”
Nursing isn’t easy a lot of the time. In fact, it’s tough. But, nurses are tougher. If you weren’t tough when you entered nursing school, you were molded into a nurse with stamina by the end of it. Tough times and tough shifts don’t last but tough people do!
Let me tell you about two sisters who chose the field of nursing long ago: Eleanore and her younger sister, Marjorie. Oh, the many lives they have touched!
Eleanore left her small hometown of Wallaceburg to train as a nurse in the larger city of Chatham. Back then, nursing students needed to be extremely dedicated to enter nursing training. Living in close quarters with other students and working, for free, at the hospital meant little time was spent with family or friends. At St. Joseph’s Hospital, under the watchful eyes of the Sisters of St. Joseph, was where Eleanore honed her nursing skills with a close-knit group of women.
Upon graduation, Eleanore worked in a variety of settings. She was a nurse for a busy family doctor and an industrial nurse at The Glass Factory in Wallaceburg. Marriage led to the birth of six children, five girls and a boy. Her nursing career was set aside until the youngest was one year old.
Her sister, Marjorie looked after the baby to enable Eleanore to work the afternoon shift. On her first day back to work after the hiatus to bear children, her second youngest was hit by a car walking home from school. A minor injury only. But, no one said it would be easy combining work and family life.
Steady afternoons were worked for years. This led to independent children who learned how to cook and clean as well as a life partner, her husband, who did likewise. Being a nurse means knowing how to delegate, right?
Later years were spent working on different units at the small-town Sydenham hospital. Her children grew up strong, like most children of nurses. There was never a fuss made over stitches or cuts or bruises. After all, when you see broken bones and children with leukemia, you don’t sweat the small stuff.
When Eleanore turned 50, she took a great leap at a time when most people are winding down. Her family relocated to the city of Windsor, twenty times the size of Wallaceburg. She accepted a position on the Oncology Ward at a large hospital, Metropolitan. Working with cancer patients is never easy but there’s a lot to be said to be for providing a patient a dignified death.
Eleanore experienced one death per day on that unit. It became familiar for her children, when accompanying their mother for shopping, to have a patient’s family member approach saying, “Your mother is an angel!”
Eleanore closed her career on the opposite spectrum, the Obstetrics Ward. Welcoming new life and helping new Moms with their babies was a great way to round out her career. A happier, joyful time.
Not surprisingly, three of Eleanore’s daughters entered the nursing profession. After all, when you hear talk of placentas over dinner, you become familiar with medical terms and procedures. One daughter studied nursing after studying psychology. She worked Cardiac Intensive Care in Halifax and Toronto. Another daughter studied nursing after taking engineering courses. She ended up in Obstetrics in Windsor, on the same floor her mother worked. And, the youngest daughter studied nursing right off the bat. She became a hospital supervisor after years of handling Emergency Room crises.
Eleanore’s legacy of caring for others lives on. No grandchildren have entered nursing yet but one granddaughter’s in med school currently.
Eleanore’s sister, Marjorie had her sights on nursing for a long time. But, she had more pressing matters ….like raising 11 children! Marjorie hit the books around the age of 50, starting with taking high school biology. With that under her belt, she was accepted into the nursing program at St. Clair College in Chatham. It was a heavy condensed program with merely a few weeks off between the first and second year.
The courses were plenty difficult even for those younger classmates accustomed to studying. But, you don’t manage to raise 11 children without possessing superior organizational skills. Marjorie brought her wealth of “knowing how to get ‘er done” to nursing and soared.
The picture is faded. You see, Marjorie’s husband has proudly carried it in his wallet for over 30 years.
Marjorie worked at Bluewater Health, a hospital in Sarnia. She managed 12-hour shifts along with a 45-minute drive to work each way. That requires stamina but Marjorie accomplished this feat until just a few weeks shy of her 80th birthday. She enjoyed a career of over 25 years of nursing; time was spent on a Medical unit and later on Continuing Care. While others her age were in retirement and nursing homes, Marjorie continued to live out her dream to be a nurse.
Marjorie’s legacy of caring continues. One daughter’s an RN on the Acute Medical Unit at Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA), while two grand-children worked at the same hospital as their grandmother. How cool is that? I’m certain Marjorie ran circles around staff half her age. She’s been running for years!
A grand-daughter is a Charge Nurse for Day Surgery/Recovery at Bluewater Health. Another left that hospital to work Obstetrics in Michigan. Yet, another granddaughter works as an RPN in ER at Sydenham and in hospice in CKHA. She’s almost completed her degree in nursing. And, still another granddaughter is an RPN on In-Patient Surgical Unit at CKHA.
As in Eleanore’s family, there’s one grand-child in med school.
Eleanore and Marjorie leave big shoes to be filled…and we do our best to keep the tradition of caring despite tough shifts and circumstances. All I can say is that I’m proud to call Eleanore my Mom, and her sister, my Aunt Marjorie. Two women who worked hard and were successful in their careers. Thousands of lives were touched by them.
Florence Nightingale spoke truthfully,“I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.”
Job well done, Eleanore and Marjorie!