The ministering angel

The ministering angel

Rachna Singh

Rachna Singh

ON my 10th birthday, my father gifted me a book — a collection of stories of men and women who had left an indelible footprint on the sands of time. Of all the stories, the one that fascinated me the most was the one about Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. With rapt attention, I would read the inspiring story of the dedicated nurse who, with her trusty band of followers, ministered to British soldiers wounded in the Crimean war. Her nightly walks down the darkened hallways of the hospital with a lamp, caring for the wounded and ailing soldiers, earned her the sobriquet, ‘The lady with the lamp’. But as I grew up, my image of a nurse as a ministering angel became tainted. I often read about cases where the cavalier attitude of a nursing professional cost a patient his life. I wondered if Florence Nightingale’s legacy was lost forever.

And then one damp, cold winter, my daughter came down with pneumonia. The insidious tentacles of the disease stealthily entrapped her lungs. One night, her health took a turn for the worse and we rushed her to a private hospital. She was admitted immediately and her treatment began. When the nurse arrived to insert an intravenous cannula, I regarded her with some misgiving and prayed she was a ministering angel and not an indifferent new-age professional. My prayers were answered and how! The nurses exuded an aura of competence and compassion. They would arrive at the scheduled time to administer an injection or a dose of medicine or simply coax my daughter into drinking soup or eating a slightly larger portion or talk her into a more positive state of mind. They would appear like Aladdin’s genie every time I rang the bell for assistance, be it in the middle of the night when my daughter was having trouble breathing or in the wee hours when her pulse rate shot up. Even while dealing with such emergencies, they had a kind and reassuring word for me as I stood anxious but helpless on the sidelines.

My hospital vigil made me realise that the nursing profession had been unnecessarily tarnished. The nurses were diligent and selfless. One of them was attending to my daughter in the night shift, even while her young daughter was ailing at home. Another had only recently recovered from a major surgery. My attempts to profusely thank the nurses on my daughter’s discharge were shrugged off with a smiling, ‘It’s our job’, response.

My hospital sojourn restored my faith in the nursing profession. Hats off to the modern avatars of Florence Nightingale who selflessly provide succour to the sick.

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