I didn’t expect to be writing again so soon and I certainly did not expect to be writing about this… But there are some experiences that are life-changing in more ways than one.
On the 12th of this month, World Nurses Day was observed. The question asked, year after year;on this day is – what has happened to the qualities of Florence Nightingale that all nurses should embody; of care, compassion and providing comfort?
I will admit, sadly, that I have heard more negative than positive stories about nurses in my personal conversations and professional interactions as a journalist.
Two weeks ago, it became a whole lot more personal. I had a nurse hold my hand in her hand to keep me positive. I had a nurse gently rub my back to ease my pain and I had a nurse look me straight in the eye and say, “You can do it!” when I was ready to give up.
All this, as I battled with contractions during induced labour. Thankfully, my two-women army of warrior nurses were ready to battle it out with me.
It was a long day. I was in hospital from 7.30am. I gave birth to a baby boy at 3.45pm.
I had induced labour for my first son too. That was 8 years ago and even though I was in labour for a longer period, the pain was not as intense. This time, my body was weak and clearly under strain. I can safely say that the only reason I was able to stay focussed was because the nurses became my voice of reason and my moral support. As vulnerable as I felt, I felt protected too. There was never a moment in those 9 hours and counting where I felt ignored or alone or doubted their expertise. Theirs was not a cold or clinical approach. Every action overflowed with warmth and concern.
I was in awe; as was my husband. After baby was born, I of course, heaved a sigh of relief. It was only when I settled down to rest, that it dawned upon me that these warrior nurses were not resting. They still had 3 more hours on their 7am to 7pm shift. And so I saw them walking up and down, busy with other tasks, presumably for the next day. Their smiles were intact. If the day’s work had taken strain on them, they didn’t show it. I realised then, that they probably did not see being in the nursing profession as just a job – but as a calling and a passion.
Over the next few days, while I immersed myself into the routine of mum for the second time, the nurses were there yet again to guide me and remind me about the dos and do nots with a newborn baby. I was at ease, even with some pain. Oh! And they were very diligent about ensuring that I took pain medication before the post-pregnancy effects became too intense.
Later that week, as my husband and I sat down to chat over coffee in hospital, he expressed the hope that I would write about our experience with these nurses. I replied that there was no way I could not.
Health institutions in both the public and private sector have come under severe criticism in recent years.There have been allegations of medical negligence and unprofessional conduct directed at doctors and nurses. Within this climate of doubt and I dare say fear about the capabilities of doctors and nurses, I am extremely grateful that the nurses attending to me were exemplary.
I had chosen to give birth at Umhlanga Hospital in Durban because my gynecologist Dr C Hartmann and paediatrician Dr B Jasmat are based there. They were amazing, as always. However, I did not anticipate that I would be so overwhelmed by the level of care provided by the entire maternity unit and in particular my two-women army. Here they are… Zakhiti Ngidi and Deepa Bipat. And yes, I’m trying to hold back the tears while saying thank you to them.
In the process of bringing new life into this world, I am glad that I developed a deeper understanding of what it really means to be a nurse. It really does take someone of strong character and dedication to tend to patients. Even with medical treatment evolving with modern technology, it’s the human element; and qualities of care and compassion that should be at the core of South Africa’s hospital system – whether it’s the public or private sector.
These nurses have proven why nursing really is a “work of heart.” And through them, the legacy of Florence Nightingale lives on….