I’m excited for the theme for the fall Timbrel, “Caring and Listening”. As an ICU nurse, I find that for myself, our increasing paperwork requirements and increased reliance on communicating and recording with our bedside computers can seem to be a greater priority than spending the desired time to care for and listen to those who come in to the hospital with a multitude of needs. At times the intensive physical care and procedures our patients require and our patient’s physical condition make communication more difficult. I embrace Mennonite Women USA’s mission and vision statements, which includes the phrases “…nurture our life in Christ through…hearing each other”, and “…across generations, cultures and places to share and honor our stories, care for each other…” This is such a part of what makes us community, and communication and community are such similar words!
I’m privileged to speak and understand Spanish. As a child of a health care worker at the then Hospital Menonita de Aibonito, I attended Escuela Menonita Betania for grades 1-6. As a nurse at Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center in La Junta, Colorado, I am frequently grateful to be able to communicate with Spanish speaking-only people in my care. One night shift as my partner and I got our report, I was asked to take an elderly female patient as one of my assigned patients. She was described as being in end stage renal failure, and was dying despite fairly aggressive medical intervention. Her family confirmed a DNR/DNI, or Do not resuscitate/ Do not intubate order status, and she was said to be confused and muttering incoherently. As I approached her bed to assess her, I could hear her praying in Spanish as she clutched her rosary. I asked her in Spanish if she was aware of her condition, and how I could best serve her at that time. “Ay mija, me estoy muriendo”, “I am dying” she said. I asked her if she was ready, and fairly sure of her response, did she know Jesus? In spite of deteriorating vital signs, she was fairly alert, and quick to share highlights of her life-long relationship with Jesus and a yearning to be with him. She felt, however, that she had to stay to pray for her children who were fighting and quarreling among themselves even while by her sickbed. I found the waiting room packed with her family, and after asking family members of other patients to give us privacy, I shared my patient’s concerns with them. A few minutes later as I was caring for their mother, several of her sons and daughters approached and asked if a church leader could be called to come pray with them. It took some time to locate a lay leader from their church, but after making sure the family was comfortable with a blessing, prayer and anointing without last rites, he came in. He spoke with the family, and then they all crowded into their mother, mother-in-law and grandmother’s room. They held hands and invited her to “Look mom, we’re holding hands! We’re making peace, mom, and we’re all going to pray with you!” She was anointed, and I slid the room door shut for the family to rather noisily declare their love for her. Visiting hours end at 10:00 pm in ICU, and I anticipated a several hour vigil. As I entered the room to suggest that only two family members stay in the room at a time so their beloved could rest, I noticed her heart rate slowing. I shared with the family that it was time to say goodbye, and she peacefully entered her Lord’s presence with her loved ones at her side.
I felt so humbled and blessed to be allowed to be part of this sister’s life and death, and to have been able to understand and communicate with her; a holy experience.
What are your stories of caring or being cared for? Stories of listening or being heard?
Consider sharing your stories, and encouraging or challenging us!
Peggy N. Martin serves as vice-chair on the MW USA board. She lives in Cheraw, Colorado and is a member of East Holbrook Mennonite church. Peggy serves in Christian education as a worship leader and has been a Bible study fellowship group leader for 23 years. She works as a registered nurse at Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center in La Junta, Colorado, where her fluency in Spanish is very helpful.