Doubling Up

“Happy Monday, Mr. Evans!”

“Hi Nurse Becky! Did you have a good weekend?”

“It was OK. Got some shopping done, did the laundry… exciting stuff.” She rolled her eyes. “Got some bad news for ya, though.”

“What?” He seemed genuinely upset despite her teasing half smile, as reflected in his pulse rate skyrocketing. “You’re not going to be my nurse this week?”

“Worse: you’re stuck with me all week long for two shifts! We’re down to only 5 patients now. You’re my only patient all day every day from 8 AM ’til midnight. I’ll probably be with you almost the entire time, other than data entry and the occasional staff meeting.”

His explosive tears at first confused her, until she mentally processed his huge smile. “Hug please!” he cried, reaching out his arms.

She gladly obliged, a few tears of joy of her own escaping her eyes without warning.

Other than the sheet changing, bedpan and urine bottle wrangling, and similar nursing duties, it felt a lot more like a platonic honeymoon than nursing work. With no other patients to mind, she could focus her undivided attention on her charge and he enjoyed the pleasure of her nearly-continuous company. They fell into discussing current events, operation of the county hospital system, life in his previous electronics technician career, and more.

One particular conversation grew a little intense.

“Seriously… why is it that I’m lucky enough for you to be covering me exclusively? Denish and Melissa are both covering two patients during the day, aren’t they? Unless Mandy has one or more.”

“Mandy’s doing overnight now, with Paulette.”

“What about Bertha?”

“She received a transfer to Harbor. That’s actually better for her, because she lives nearby there.”

“Are Taylor and Hannah still here?”

“For now, yes, though once our next patient leaves and we’re down to 4, Hannah will leave.”

“Why aren’t there new patients coming in?”

Becky let out a deep sigh. “They’re closing this facility. It’s no longer needed nor cost-effective, especially given the new General building which is nearing completion. You’re the last new admission to Angel 20, Mr. Evans.”

“But what does this mean? What if I don’t die before they close this place? Where do I go?! And what about you?!

“Shhh… shhh… deep, slow breaths, Mr. Evans… the way you do so well.” She rubbed his arm lovingly. “Don’t you worry about it. I’m taking care of you and looking out for your interests. Your job is to keep healing the way you’ve been, so we can continue spending time together having fun. It’ll work out.”

“But my disease!

She brought her face into his, almost nose-to-nose. “It’ll work out, okay? We’ll figure things out as we go along.” She rubbed noses with him and giggled momentarily. “Keep doing whatever you’ve been doing which has allowed us to take you off the antibiotics. Keep doing your exercises and building up your strength.”

“Does that include continuing to stare at your figure, so that I continue to have something to believe in?”

She didn’t think she’d heard him correctly, but decided not to double-check. “If staring at my figure is somehow helping you heal, then by all means yes, stare away! It will be kind of you to reel me back in if you notice that my swelling ego is going to my head and causing me to float away like a big balloon.”

Both of them laughed.

“You still didn’t answer my question about why I get to enjoy you exclusively when the other nurses have to handle more than one patient.”

“Not everybody likes what you apparently like. Most patients want to stare at anything other than me and my figure. They want Denish or Mandy or Taylor or Hannah: young, slender, pretty things. You’ve probably heard what the others call me behind my back.”

“Behind your back? No!… What?”

“The Closer. I close the deal. Which is to say, terminally ill patients apparently dislike my presence so much that they curl up and die—literally.”

“No way! You’re the pretty one!”

She smiled as her eyes started to water. “That’s not the general opinion. That’s also why they wouldn’t assign me to you after you requested it, until I showed them the pattern that you got better when I was your nurse. They thought my presence would kill you, too!”

No no no! You give me a reason to live!

“Settle….” She rubbed noses with him again. “We—you and me—knew that from almost the beginning. They eventually figured it out, so now we’re together. But the answer to your question is that there’s no one else in here who feels as you do towards me, therefore you get me… and everybody’s happy and hopefully no one’s dying.”

“Isn’t the point of Angel 20 to be a low-end hospice place for people like me to die?”

No.” She had to think of a plausible answer fast. “It is a place where some of the most seriously ill patients are—were—sent, to receive a higher level of care in a quieter, smaller setting… a more intimate setting, if you will. Our goal is to heal everyone, but since those who come here tend to have some of the most difficult and confounding illnesses our system confronts, oftentimes it takes longer. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. And yes, occasionally we get patients for whom nothing more can be done, so partially you’re correct that some of what we do is hospice, but not all of it! You’re not in that category.”

“You don’t think the inability to eat food is a problem?”

“Oh, it’s a problem all right. But maybe not the insurmountable, permanent problem you seem to think it is. So let’s talk about happier things and get you back to healing. Keep dreaming and believing that you’ll be able to eat again so your body can heal that way. In the meantime you’re here with me with the IV food which is keeping you alive and helping make you stronger nutritionally.”