I have been a registered nurse for 27 years, with 15 of them spent in an ICU (intensive care unit) environment. As you may imagine, I have encountered hundreds of patients all needing my assistance at varying levels. As a nurse I had always believed in the power of the human spirit to lift others. However, after taking care of so many desperately ill patients, most of which did not recover, this belief had become a little “frayed” until I met Sister Veronica.
Sister Veronica was a frail nun in her late eighties. She had a serious heart condition and was admitted to the ICU where I worked. The ICU was incredibly busy that evening. I was taking care of three critically ill patients. Sister Veronica was the only one not on life support. For the entire 12 hours of that night shift (from 7PM to 7AM) I ran from bed to bed completing my nursing tasks. Sister Veronica was wakeful and lay watching me from her bed. There was no wall between us, just a curtain that she wanted open. Every time I went to check on her or just passed by, she gave me a word of encouragement and blessing. This went on the entire shift. While the patients remained just as critically ill, and I was just as busy, the work somehow become easier. When I got home, instead of being physically exhausted and emotionally drained, I was refreshed and rejuvenated. It was clear that she had been the nurse and I the patient that night.
I never saw Sister Veronica again. One week later when I returned to work, I found out that she had died the night before. The entire unit, from the secretaries to the physicians, was in mourning. As I talked with my colleagues, I discovered that Sister Veronica had spent the last week of her life encouraging and blessing an overworked ICU staff.
This event happened more than 15 years ago. I will never forget Sister Veronica’s effect on my life and marvel that a penniless, old, and dying nun could use what little strength she had to help so many around her. She has inspired me to be a more effective, compassionate nurse and better person. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of the human spirit to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Thank you Sister Veronica.
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