The Most Important People

(Dictated by Dru to Art)


The most important people in a hospital get the least attention. The custodial staff mops up our vomit, our shit, and our piss and learns to hold their gag reflex at the worst smells imaginable. This is a cancer blog; now’s the time to be honest. I don’t know how much they’re paid— probably a lot less than they’re worth. Honestly, would you give up the services of the woman who cleans the toilets for the opportunity to do it yourself?

The second most important people in a hospital are the nurses. They go by lots of different titles now, and in some cases I imagine it’s to make up for the lack of cash in their monthly paycheck: Physician’s Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, Registered Nurse, Orthopedic Surgeon’s Assistant, Licensed Vocational Nurse, etc. The titles are many but they all describe the same basic person. She’s the one you look for after you throw up on the floor; the one you want to see when it’s midnight in the hospital and you’re having an anxiety attack and you’re all alone and you’ve just found out you’re going to die.
You don’t reach out your hand for the doctor who, frankly, intimidates you. On the other hand, the nurse reminds you of your brother, the medic you served with, or your father on the good days. Can you recall your school nurse, the one who covered up for you when you didn’t get your period til you were fifteen— and were so embarrassed you could die?
In my perfect community, that little bit of Heaven-on-Earth, I’d have at least one nurse on every block. Sprained ankles would stay just that; bandaged without complicated surgery or triplicated prescription drugs. No one would die of exposure, malnutrition, or neglect because there’d be a nurse on the block.
And, by the way, the nurse gets to be grumpy sometimes. When she ignores you, you get it that she’s rushed and her feet hurt and she’s had a migraine since Tuesday. So you cut her some slack.
Like all good nurses, he would also be a psychologist. He would step in when the drunk across the street was beating his wife and, using skills he’d acquired in Iraq, inform the man that if he didn’t stop abusing her and lay off the sauce he’d be kicked off the block. No one wants to be kicked off this block. People tend to do what’s good for them when there’s a nurse around. 

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6 Responses to “The Most Important People”

  1. Jessica North says:

    Dru, lovely Lady of the good, kind heart, writes so beautifully, The nurses I have known as a child hospitalized for rheumatic fever at Stanford at five, multiple cancer surgeries, a major car accident as a result of DUI, subsequent plastic surgeries.
    The heroic nurses tending napalm victims in Vietnam in the British Pediatric Hospital. Living in hellish hot quarters. How did they face these babies everyday? Nurses in the crack baby ward at UCSD Medical Center. The agony if addiction passed on to infants. I have known battlefield nurses too weary to stand up, yet stand up they do, working somehow to save the boys they love. The boys from their neighborhood. The brothers from home.
    These women, like you have strength from a hidden well known only to women. Drawn from cells honed over centuries. Of heartbreak and victory. The women who cleans toilets to get her kids to college. The women who work the night shift while her kids sleep. The woman throwing up on the floor in the cancer ward as she fights for her life. She has an army of women fighting her fight with her.

  2. Sylvia Levinson says:

    Dru – what a capacity you have for keeping a compassionate perspective of others lives, while going through what would cause any one to be totally self- focused. When my son was in ICU for 2 weeks in a drug-induced coma, with survival iffy, it was the ICU nurses who kept me informed and explained things to me in a way I could understand; also the technicians – respiratory, nephrology, pulmonary, hematology. And…some patients make it easier for staff to tend them – I know you are one. Blessings to you and your caregivers.

  3. Claudette Coates says:

    Dry,I have been hospitalized far more time’s than I would have liked and only once did I file a report on a head nurse and wow she deserved it.All others gave genuine love and kindness that left me in awe being treated that way day in and out how can we show them less.
    A couple of years ago I went to help a friend since my 20’s wonderful animal lover. She made me ashamed to call her friend after the way she treated all workers everyone except her Doctor just horrible and I believe she somehow felt no one else mattered when the water pitcher of watern needed ice.Gosh this wasn’t a cheery note it was ment to agree with you are we not so fortunate for havig genuine humanitarian’s in our lives.

    Dru you deserve nothing less and if you encounter Nurse Ratchet as I did well I will be on my way with a dressage wip and give her or him a attitude adjustment. Much love always

  4. Claudette Coates says:

    Damn spell check. Sorry I didn’t catch it changed your name, so sorry

  5. Kate says:

    Hi Druski,

    And right you are. Those who give it away, have it. Jean’s mother was a nurse and to hear Jean tell it, a pretty good one. After the orphanage, she got to go to nursing school. Jean attends well to those who need it, following in her mother’s way, and Jean on her own, attends even to those who don’t.

    I hope you are getting the best. We are thinking of you a lot.

    Love, Kate

  6. Allison Harnden says:

    My sister, the nurse, tips her cap to you!