I have two most memorable patients, a husband and a wife. The woman was an uncontrolled hypertensive with type 2 diabetes, managed with the medication that we had back in the early 1980s. The husband was a 62-year-old man with mild osteoarthritis and no other problems. The two had emigrated from Guyana.
As was the custom in their culture the couple’s parents had arranged their marriage. One day when his wife’s condition was deteriorating and we waited for some reports to come through, the husband told me about how their relationship began. His father had sent him to his bride’s house to meet her for the first time. He looked upon this strange woman and saw his wife-to-be: plain, fat and homely.
He returned home and told his father, “No, I do not want to marry her! She’s not pretty. She is fat.” His father responded, “Son, you must do this. She is promised to you. She will make you a good wife.”
So reluctantly, the man did as his father wished. The couple moved into a small house and began their life together: she doing the cleaning and laundry, he working in the fruit orchard that his father gave him. One day a brush fire swept though the orchard, threatening the crop. He ran back to the house where he found his wife on the wooden steps in front of the house bending over a bucket and scrubbing clothes.
“Help me, come quickly,” he said, “the orchard is going to catch fire!” Upon hearing what was wrong, his wife put down the wash, sat down on the steps and took her shoes off. Then she stood up, picked up her skirt to tuck the hem into her waistband and marched into the orchard with him. All day and into the night they worked side by side, soaking the trees down with water that they had carried from the stream. “And by morning” he said, “I was in love with her.”
After the man told me their story his wife took a turn for the worse, and despite being attended to by multiple specialists at a big city hospital, she had a stroke and slipped into a coma. He prayed by her bedside, but it was no use. She passed away.
The couple’s story taught me that being a nurse isn’t just about medical conditions. As an APRN I am not only treating conditions. I am treating diseases so that people can get well to get on with the real reasons for life: to live, laugh and love. And I learned that the depths of love can appear in the humblest corners of the world.