When this man had a work accident injuring his leg, he was rushed to the ER. When his nurse told him who came to visit, he was stunned.
Several of us were standing around the nurse’s station in the surgical intensive care unit (ICU) where we worked when I asked the question. “Working in ICU, have you ever felt like someone else was in the room when there was no one else there you could see?”
Another smiled and added, “Or smelled perfume in the room of the patient who was dying when no one else had been in there?”
And another, “Or have you passed by someone in the hallway, turned around and there was no one there?”
We all looked at each other and laughed.”I thought I was the only one,” I said.
Explanations were offered. Maybe it was because we had to spend so much time around people who were straddling the threshold between life and death– or maybe it was just stress.
“I think it’s real,” one of the nurses said soberly, “and has something to do with the kind of love that doesn’t end when life does.” She went on to tell this story:
A man in his early twenties was admitted to the ICU after a large piece of machinery at work had crushed his foot. He needed immediate surgery, and she quickly began to prepare him for the operating room. She had just started to go through her preoperative procedures when an anxious woman entered the ICU, asking about the young man.
“Is he all right?” the woman asked.
“He’s stable and sleeping quietly,” time nurse replied.
“Is he pain?” the woman cried.
“No,” the nurse reassured her.” They gave him some very strong medication in the emergency room when he first arrived.
“Is he going to be okay?’ the woman asked, her face still creased with worry.
“He’s young and healthy, and he should recover wonderfully after the surgery,” the muse assured her.
The woman looked somewhat relived but asked to see him.”I’m his mother,” she explained.
The nurse gave the woman a sympathetic look.”I understand your anxiety, but I have to prepare him for surgery. If you give me five minutes, I promise to let you see him before he is taken to the operating room.”
“But he’s all right?” mother repeated.”He’s going to be all right?”
“He’s going to require a lot of physical therapy, but he looks like a hard worker, and I’m sure he will do great.”
Relief filled the woman’s face.”Thank you so much for talking such good care of my son,” she said.”III wait outside.”
When the nurse had finished her duties, she walked down to the waiting room as promised to get the mother. No one was there. She checked the ballrooms and the vending machines, but still, there was no sign of the woman who had been so anxious to see her so. The nurse was about to have the woman paged when a group of a man’s coworkers walked up to ask about their friend.
“You can go in and see him for just a few minutes,” the nurse replied.”I have to find his mother.”
“Ma’am, he doesn’t have a mother,” one of the men said, looking at her strangely.
“But a woman was here who said she was the mother. I just talked to her,” the nurse insisted.
“You don’t understand; another coworker said.
“His mother died a few years ago. All he has is a cousin. We called him and told him what happened, hut we didn’t call anyone else.”
The nurse was baffled hut went back to her work.
A little while latter, while the young man was in surgery, his cousin arrived and asked about him.
The nurse updated him, and then, as he turned to leave, she called:
“By the way, a woman came by an asked about him. She said she was his mother.”
The cousin stood motionless for a moment.
“What did this woman look like?” he finally asked, and as the nurse describe the lady, he slowly shook head and smiled in disbelief and wonder.
“Thank you,” was all he said, and left.
When the nurse asked her coworkers later about the woman who had come into the ICU, no one remembered seeing her at all. She never showed up again.
For a minute, we were all silent, reflecting on the nurse’s story.
Was it possible? Who can really say? All I know is that from my experience as a nurse; I no longer doubt that love goes beyond death Or that mother looks out for her children for as long as she lives–and longer.
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