Most stories about a great nurse would be set in a hospital, but mine is in my classroom. Marilou Fajardo is a student in my ESL advanced level writing class. She works at the Virginia Beach Rehabilitation Center as a nurse’s aide. My students write a composition on a weekly basis, and often MarIlou writes writes about her experiences at work. I presently teach three writing courses, giving me 60 papers to read and grade in the course of one week. Sometimes, I am jaded. But whenever I get to one of Marilou’s accounts of her on-the-job experiences, I am touched, renewed, and humbled.
I will give you an example. One week Marilou chose to write about medical research, starting her composition with the statement that if she had control of all medical research in the world, “I will choose a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.” She was witness to what these patients’ family members feel when they come to visit their loved ones. Marilou explained that even though she sees these patients everyday, they usually do not remember who she is either from one day to the next. “Working in a nursing home is hard, but in spite of everything, I am still happy to see my patients because sometimes some of them think that I am one of the family members.”
Although this composition gave me an idea of Marilou’s devotion to her work, her next composition was even more revealing of her character. She told the story of a patient, a woman, who could not get to sleep one night, and kept asking to be home in her own bed. Marilou slipped her hand into this woman’s hand, and told her patient that she was in her own bed. Then, she did a lovely thing. She asked this woman if she could tell Marilou all about her life. This elderly woman told Marilou about her education, the jobs she had, the traveling she had done, and how strong and independent she had always been. Marilou sat quietly and listened to every word, for her composition was full of not only the details of this woman’s life, but peppered with Marilou’s admiration for what this woman had accomplished in her life. Marilou’s essay ended with her patient falling gently to sleep.
Surely each of us has had at least one dearly-loved person who has had to spend time in a nursing home for one reason or another. My own mother spent the last year of her life in a nursing home. I can only hope that some one as devoted as my student, Marilou Fajardo, was there to hold her hand on a lonely night.