SGLY: 38 hooks and 5 pearls

By Tiffany Chartier
Special to the Prosper Press

38. I counted 38 hooks holding the sliding blue and white cloth partition. I was bay number 2. Each bay was occupied, as noted more than once by nurses who already looked like they had served a full day even though the sun had yet to rise. All I could see of my neighbors were the wheels of their hospital beds and occasionally their feet as they changed into issued gowns. The curtains gave visual privacy, but nothing more.

Outpatient surgery has many voices: surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and patients. Due to ramped COVID protocols, I did not hear the voices of family and support persons — they were required to remain in the lobby or their vehicles. As I waited my turn, I learned a lot from the faceless voices.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne

An older gentleman was in the bay directly across from me, sharing his concerns with the anesthesiologist that he is “nearly impossible to knock out.” A college student to my left was concerned that she was having surgery while on break from school and might not feel well enough to make the long drive back to campus. And the man to my right was desperately trying to convince the nurse to no avail that he was “just fine” to go ahead with the scope even though he “totally blanked” this morning and accidentally had a piece of toast and a plate of eggs despite the standing order of nothing to eat or drink after midnight.

One RN caught my attention above all. Her voice was easy to recognize with its slight rasp. When she made her way into my bay, I was surprised by her petite stature. From listening to her previous patient interactions, I had imagined her taller and bigger-boned. Her heavy voice seemed weightier than the frame which carried it, yet upon meeting her face-to-face, I was quick to learn it was experience that kept her rooted and firm. Despite her rough edges, I fell in love with her immediately.

“I’ve worked with just about every type of doctor and patient,” she said. “Just like days, some are better than others, but nothing beats this job. I’ve seen it all, and every day it is something different.”

“What do you enjoy the most?” I asked, trying to distract myself from her inserting the IV.

She laughed with a quick sputter that made me laugh. “The truth? At my age, showing up.” She noticed the confused look on my face. “I don’t have the energy of these young nurses bouncing around here. Not anymore. Showing up is a win for me, and I’m thankful for it every day — doing what I love and loving the people I serve.”

She noticed me laughing when she laughed, which made her laugh all the more. “Yes, I know; I have a funny laugh. I think I inherited it. Laughing helps to keep me young. I try never to leave home without a sense of humor.”

“Good advice,” I said quietly, more to myself.

She peppered me with rounds of medical questions and addressed my concerns. Each time I spoke, she made a point of looking at me, nodding, and allowing me to finish before she responded. Before she left, I thanked her, and I told her, “You are an excellent listener. Truly. Not many people are these days.”

She laughed her funny laugh again and said, “Well, as we already established, I am not from ‘these days.’ I grew up when people knew how to listen — how to communicate with mutual respect. Amazing what you catch when you keep your mouth shut. My mom always told me to ‘Drop the ‘p’ in preach and you’ll understand people a whole lot better.’ She was right.”

As she gently tucked another heated blanket around my body, I could not help but think of five communication principles she relayed to me in such a short time:

1. SHOW UP

2. LISTEN

3. LAUGH

4. LOVE

5. REACH

I never expected I would be arriving for a procedure and leaving blessed with reminders — 5 pearls of wisdom — from a woman who counted victories by the many ways she could help others.

I am going to challenge myself to do a better job acknowledging; (1) the blessing in the ability to show up, (2) the affection we can bestow through listening, (3) the balance we are capable of imparting with laughter, (4) the stress that can be alleviated with love, (5) and the message of kindness and compassion which can be shared by simply reaching out.

38 hooks and 5 pearls of wisdom – thank you, God, for opening my eyes and heart as we embark upon 12 new months of opportunities.

SGLY, dear reader.

(Smile, God Loves You.)

Tiffany Chartier

Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Prosper Press or the Herald Democrat.