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  • Sarah Raad

Nurses

“A single act of love, made during a period of aridity is worth more than a hundred made with affection and consolation.” (Saint Padre Pio).

Christ Carrying the Cross (Hieronymus Bosch)

A few short weeks ago, I had some very serious – though not life-threatening – surgery.


Though I have had some minor surgery in the past, never before have I had surgery of this nature. This was different! You see, for this surgery, there were many unknowns and there were many increased risks above the standard surgical risks. Also, for this surgery, the time that I spent under anaesthetic was protracted – almost 5 hours. During this operation, several surgeons were involved, and the surgeons had much to do during the time that I slept.


And so it was, that when I woke from that surgery, and I was in recovery – though the surgery had been a miraculous success – I felt truly as weak as a new-born babe. For weeks afterwards, I also felt deep-bone weariness as my body recovered from the procedure. It was an experience that I have never had before in my otherwise healthy life.


This feeling of weariness was a strange sensation – yes there was some discomfort – but mostly there was an overwhelming bone-weariness that seemed to consume my whole being forcing me to stop and rest. It was a calling to sleep that was so strong that I could not help but to obey it. And it was upon this bone-weariness, that I often meditated as I reflected upon the deep weariness of Christ as He carried His Cross to Calvary after a night of torture and pain during His Passion and Death…

My human mind simply cannot fathom the sheer determination of WILL that allowed the Son of Man to walk that path – beaten, flogged, tortured, insulted and spat upon, with the weight of the Cross on His most Holy Shoulder and the weight of our sin on His most Holy Soul with a weariness that had to be denied…

On the day of the surgery, when I was finally returned to my room, I was left in my bed – with very strong pain relief – as I drifted between sleep and waking for twelve hours. During this time, a beautiful young nurse came and tended to me. She literally did everything for me – she offered me water to drink, she straightened my pillows, she tended to all the embarrassing needs of my body because I could not move. And on top of all of that, she spoke gently to me. All I needed to do was press a little green button – which she placed in my hand – and she would come running in to help me.


The day after my surgery things were a little different. That was the day when I had to start to move. Unless I started to move many complications would set in… My pain would increase as I would be unable to aid my body in its recovery and I would have increased risk of pressure-sores and pneumonia – and let’s face it, who wants to have to cough after they have had abdominal surgery? And so, on day two after surgery, a different nurse was looking after me, and though she was kind, she was a bit more forceful as well. It was this nurse who told me how to get my body into a sitting position and how to stand myself up after all that rest. It was this second nurse who supervised me in the bathroom so that I would not collapse. It was this second nurse who reached for my clothes and helped me to dress so that I did not spend the whole day in my nightie. But it was also this same nurse who covered me with a sheet when I got back into bed – because I could not reach for the covers myself…


Then, on the third day after my surgery, I was a little stronger – but a whole lot more sore! You see, the day before I had contorted my body into positions I had not yet tried before as my movement had increased, and for this reason, I had aching muscles that I did not even know existed before that day… And so, on this day, the nurse helped me to increase my efficiency of movement so that I was not causing myself needless pain for the next day.


In the weeks since that surgery and during this period of my recuperation, I have reflected often on the actions of those three nurses during my first days post-surgery.


You see, they remind me of the actions of God in giving us Grace to handle each moment of His Holy Will.


Just as the first nurse did everything for me while I was completely incapacitated after surgery, when we are unable to go on, God does everything for us too. Then – in those times – it is enough simply to love God even if we know not how to express that love to Him. Saint Padre Pio said, “A single act of love, made during a period of aridity is worth more than a hundred made with affection and consolation.” And just as that first frail day was difficult, simply pressing that green button to summon the nurse is like simply calling on God and asking – humbly – for His help…


And then, there was the second nurse, who had to get me moving. Then, I felt the discomfort. Then, things were difficult. Then, I was pushed further than I wished to go. And yet, I was never pushed further than I could endure. During those times, I was pushed to stand myself up on my own two feet so that further complications would not arise, but that same nurse who [pushed me also came in and covered me with a blanket when I was tired because I was too weak and sore to do that for myself. In this way too, God gives us Grace to carry our Cross – heavy though it may be…


And the third nurse – the one who understood my pain – well, that nurse helped me to become stronger by giving me advice about how to manage my movement during the course of the day. In this way, I could minimise the muscular-skeletal pain caused by trying to protect my surgical wounds in much the same way that our priests and religious give advice about how to manage the destruction of sin in our soul so that we can minimise the damage it causes.


And through the work of these nurses, while I was feeling so sick, I learned a little something of the Love of God… For God has never yet given to a soul a Cross that it could not manage. And though there may at times be great pain in carrying that cross, I can rest comfortably in the knowledge that the ETERNAL GOD sends me nurses to help me to manage the pain… all the way along the road to Calvary…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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