We drank wine, too much wine, after dinner, laughed too loud, made music with the rims of the glasses and watched the candles splash light on the wall with gold fingers. I vented, just a little, and she listened. Why the hell am I a nurse? This was the general theme. She listened carefully and said nothing. After a while, the music became low and somber, and we switched to coffee and Cointreau. She played with her hair, twisting the bangs, and she asked me, suddenly —
“What was your best moment in nursing?”
I stopped and thought. I could see my reflection in the dining room mirror, dimly, and even I could see bone-tired in my face. But I thought about codes and trauma. I thought about why I was once made Employee of the Month. I thought of smaller moments of giving care— warm blankets, a back rub, a cup of ice chips, repositioning. I thought about missed findings. I thought about the time a patient an ambulance gurney went VSA while I was triaging her, and walked out of hospital ten days later. I thought about innumerable STEMIs caught and thrombolysed (and later sent for rescue cathetherization) within minutes of arrival. I thought about the times when I pushed for some extra intervention which made a real difference in the patient’s life.
I smiled. “There are too many.”
“Really,” she said. “No, really — what’s your best moment as a nurse?”
I thought again. I thought about speaking to the thirty-something husband of a woman dying from ovarian cancer, who didn’t know what to expect. I thought about the unexpected joy of assisting the delivery of a child in the Emergency. I thought about arranging for a patient to spend his last hours at home, and the gratitude of the family as they walked out of the department.
I had a revelation. Not a huge, life-changing one, not comfort really, but still.
“Maybe,” I said, “maybe, I hope, the best moment is yet to come.”
“I think so too,” she said.
And the candles burned and we watched their dancing light and the shadows the made on the wall, and drank coffee and Cointreau.