Friday, September 28, 2007

goodbye Esther

goodbyeesther 019
Originally uploaded by megan_petock
Discharged patients need to leave before 1:00 PM. Our hospital is currently filled and we need bed space, so it's important that the patients leave on time. When I received report this morning I was told that Esther's sister would be coming for her after lunch, presumably before 1 Pm.

After two months Esther was going home. Her sister was picking her up after lunch. We would be saying goodbye.

Yesterday Esther told me should would cry when she left. I told her I would cry too. As I listened sat in report my generally dry eyes began to fill with tears.

Esther was going home. Her sister was picking her up after lunch.

I didn’t' want to make Esther sad. This was a big day, an exciting day. Esther can use her hand now. She used it to paint her fingernails and braid hair last night. Two of the many things she could never do before.

No one ever wants to be in the hospital. Esther had said goodbye to many other patients. She longingly watched as they were discharged. Now it was her turn, it was her big day.

But her sister was coming after lunch and that meant I would only have a few more hours to hold her hand and laugh at her insanity. And who knows when I will ever be in Liberia again. Goodbye was really goodbye.

I got myself composed and began my morning nursing care with a little less enthusiasm than normal. I borrowed Esther's flashing princess crown and wore it all morning to cheer myself up.

Several nurses stopped by to say hello and to find out the time of Esther's departure, sometime after lunch.

Around 12:30 I left the ward to take my lunch break. Seeing that I was Esther's nurse, I was not going to miss saying goodbye. If her sister came while I was gone they would have to wait for me,

When I returned to the ward, Esther's sister still hadn't arrived. But the new patient was coming and we needed the bed. It was time for Esther to pack up. I had her assemble her belongings and asked her to change into her clothes.

I was use to seeing Esther in hospital gowns. Boring, drab hospital gowns. She went into the bathroom to get dressed as a patient and came out a lady. A vibrant royal purple dress embraced her thin frame and accentuated her beautiful smile. All day Esther was being referred to as "The Africa Mercy Queen."

Dressed in her royal purple I attire I would have believed the Africa Mercy really had a queen.

Esther grabbed her bags and sat on a stool by the door. I pulled up a chair next to her and gently rubbed her back. Her eyes started to fill with tears and she buried her head on my knees.

Then I lost it.

We sat together in the front of the ward crying for almost ten minutes. No words were said for there was an understood silence. When she finally lifted her head my scrubs contained three large wet spots.

I'm so glad this is the way it was because it's the way it should be.

I'm glad that I wasn't just Esther's nurse, and she just wasn't my patient. We were friends. I really love Esther. I care about her.

Her sister came after lunch and we said goodbye. And Esther left.

But she left with more than just a fixed hand. She left with two months of being loved. Two months of being accepted. Two months of being shown how special she is. Two months of seeing the love of God.

Every time she uses her hand she will be reminded of the time she spent on the Africa Mercy. And I say with confidence that it will be a sweet memory.

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