Dedicated readers of this column know that inside this funny exterior lies a funny interior.
They also know that for the past 30 years, when I wasn’t busy humor columning, book publishing, skydiving, Harley riding, quitting smoking or star-aligning, I made my vocational bones as a nurse. Early in my career as a male nightingale, I had a female hospital patient nervously ask me when I first entered her room: “Uh … are you a male nurse?”
Caught a bit off-guard, I said: “Well … which question should I answer first?”
Her nervousness vanished; we both laughed, and from that moment until her discharge a few weeks later, our time together through a difficult post-operative course was always laced with good humor and high optimism. She went home well-healed, and not just in her skin, but inside her skin: in that special place that makes skin worth having.
Shakespeare said: “With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come.” George Gordon Bryon said: “Always laugh when you can; it is cheap medicine.” And, let’s not leave out Robert A. Heinlein’s “We laugh because it hurts, and it’s the only thing to make it stop hurting.”
There are volumes of “scientific” research out there on the relationship between good humor and good healing: biochemical studies on how laughter and light-heartedness release Be-positive happymones into the bloodstream, counteracting the serum effects of gloompuscles (my column, my science).
Fine, but it doesn’t take brain surgery on a rocket scientist to know how happiness and the willingness to laugh at and for ourselves, and in the company of others, often helps produce and promote more good healing and well-being than any formal prescription. More doctors should add “take two belly-laughs, apply directly to the brain and call me in the morning” to their patients’ plans of care.
If applied correctly, there’d be fewer calls needed in the morning.
My beloved wife Judy passed away recently after many months of struggling with a host of debilitations, and my role, aside from attending her with love and those purely bedside care & comfort measures, was to always try to focus on the brighter and lighter side. This didn’t take a lot of effort on my part, as Judy was the most radiantly happy person I’ve ever known, and, if anything, even through her darkest hours, she was always trying to keep ME smiling.
I remember a bedside conversation with a roomful of young doctors, just prior to Judy’s heart surgery. Anyone who’s ever been hospitalized knows what “NPO” means. Translated from the Latin “nil per os,” meaning “nothing by mouth,” it’s what a patient must endure before surgery the next day. “The patient is NPO after midnight.” No food. No fluids.
This is done to prevent “complications” when a person is later anesthetized, and to give the double-shift night nurses a break.
The doctors milled around discussing Judy’s surgery, and I could see that mischievous gleam in her eyes that doctors sometimes mistake for pre-sedation. Then, right there in front of her back, she interrupted them: “So, I suppose I’ll be UFO after midnight?”
Laughter erupted, and one young doc, who showed great promise as a great healer and stand-up comic, said, straight-faced: “Uh … not unless they install wings on this bed and open the window.”
Perfect. I know in my heart, that if she’d had her blood drawn right then, it would’ve showed corresponding elevations & decreases in her happymone and gloompuscle levels. I could also feel a drop in the collective blood pressure of that gaggle of docs.
Now that my devotion to Judy is done, I find myself in the ranks of not only the nursing-idle, but the unemployed (not the same thing. Ask any hapless boss with an officeful of idle employees).
I’m now looking for a private duty position attending a home care patient. Here’s the short version of my résumé:
Experienced male nurse (so much for those two concerns) seeks private duty home-based client. Has many years of experience in clinical settings where it was only necessary to be in three places at once.
Has also worked in several disciplines in eldercare, hospice and numerous inpatient environments where only having to be in four places at once was a luxury. Now seeks a one-to-one caregiver/client position, where only doing five things at once is required, but all in the same place, with and for the same person (now we’re talking luxury).
Applicant has spent his caducean pursuits always attempting to find that extra time needed to help his charges live the best quality of life possible: patiently feeding, empathetically listening, thoroughly bathing, precisely medicating, dignifyingly bedpanning, and administratively humorizing whenever possible.
Cleans up his messes. Able to leap and often even understand doctor talk in a single rebound. Speaks fluent Nurse (NPO versus UFO). Meets people where they are, not where he wishes they were. Considers it a privilege to care for all people in their homes, regardless of their age, shape, sex or ability to carry a tune.
Can bake a mean loaf of bread and will work overnights & weekends.
Will not give up his “career” as a humor columnist or author. Could not do quality nursing without a sense of humor, and knows that if he hadn’t simultaneously been a male nurse, he might not have found all the inroads for good humor and this writing life.
Inquire within. References, high hopes and laughter available on request.
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Senior Wire News Service syndicated humor columnist, author and male nurse B. Elwin Sherman writes from
. Copyright 2012, all rights reserved. Contact B. Elwin Sherman here. Bethlehem,
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