Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the hospital has witnessed the varying levels of compassion and incompetence inherent in all hospital staff. Because I have several good friends who work in the nursing and medical fields, I make it a point to treat my caregivers with utmost respect and cordiality. I mean, my life is literally in their hands. Every once in a while, however, some one in this group takes my lax attitude for granted, and returns my kindness with craziness. That’s precisely what Nima, the night nurse did a few evenings ago during my “vacation” in the hospital.
When she introduced herself as ‘Nima’, I should have known I was in trouble. Nima is the name of a slum in Accra, and the parallels between that slum and her lack of professionalism were much too stark for my liking. Nima (the nurse) was a bronze skinned woman with a high forehead and a thick sew in weave. Her features suggested she was from Kenya, but her accent said otherwise. It was like she had been living in America for too long and her speech had become an abhorition of its former self. I first came to dislike Nima when she came sauntering into my room at 8:30 pm, thirty minutes after I had requested my dose of percocet. (If anyone has had any sort of major surgery, you know very well that not receiving your meds in time can do horrors for your attitude.) She was semi-apologetic, saying that I should have called to get the medicine, and not just relied on the fact that the nurse she had relieved an hour before said she would tell her to bring me my pain killers. I just looked at her.
“But not to worry!” she said reassuringly. “We will make it right this evening.”
I tried very hard to be cheery. I forced a half smile.
“So your next dose of percocet will be at 1 am. You’re scheduled for Motrin at the same time. Do you want me to bring them together?”
I was relieved. Maybe she would indeed make it right. Maybe I was too hasty in judging her as an incompetent human being. She had recognized the problem, apologized (sort of), and was looking for a way to redeem herself. I greedily swallowed my pain pills and settled in to watch TV. Soon, I fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.
At 2 am, I was awoken by a sharp pain in my abdomen. Shuffling into the bathroom, I got looked at the clock and realized it was TWO in the morning…and I had received no pain medicine. I called the front desk.
“Could you send Nima in with my percocept please,” I croaked.
20 minutes later, she came into the room, smiling sheepishly. I immediately went on the attack.
“I thought you said I was scheduled for Mortin at 1?!?”
“Yes…I came to the door, and you were sleeping. So I let you sleep, because I didn’t want you to frown on me.”
And do you think by NOT bringing me my medicine, I would be inclined NOT to frown at you?
She handed me my medication, and then dropped one of the pills on the floor. We stared at each other.
“I can get you another pill if you like, unless you don’t mind taking this one from the floor…”
Lets see. I could wait another 20 minutes for you to reappear with my medicine, or I could just brush the track marks from everyone else’s feet that are clinging to my pill and have some immediate relief.
“I’ll just take the pill,” I sighed.
I looked at her badge at noticed her last name wasn’t Kenyan at all.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
That explained her crazy accent.
“I see. So we’re neighbors…sort of. I’m from Ghana.”
She lit up.
“Oh! So you are carrying us for the World Cup, aren’t you?”
“Yep. It’s all on us. The Cup has to stay in Africa this round.”
We smiled at one another. The tension in the room lifted between us.
“Thank you for bringing my medicine,” I said.
“Ooo, you’re welcome,” she replied.
She packed up her nurse belongings and headed for the door.
“I’ll see you later in the morning before my shift ends,” she said.
“Great! See you then!”
Seven hours later, a woman with curly, mousy brown hair walked in and wrote her name on the board. Nima had not come to say good-bye…but then I hadn’t really expected her to. Gotta love my fellow Africans.