Nurse Cat Lady, RN: A (Long) True Story
Two years ago, I became deathly ill and ended up having emergency surgery. I had had cancer seven years earlier, and, while the treatments cured that illness, they also caused some pretty awful problems later on. Specifically, the radiation "cooked" my insides, and I wound up having abdominal surgery. To make matters (even) worse, I developed pancreatitis four or five days later. I wound up turning mustard-yellow, being in excruciating pain, and spending over five weeks in the hospital.
Enter Nurse Cat Lady, RN. Four nights each week, she took care of me. I always looked forward to her shifts, as she was so nice and we could "talk cat." She had three, including an 19-year-old tortie in faltering health. Nurse Cat Lady was administering fluids to this kitty through a shunt every day; when the time came that the kitty no longer benefited from this treatment and did not feel well, NCL planned to help her cross the Rainbow Bridge. My mom had set several photos of my cats at my bedside, and NCL brought in photos of her own for me to see.
I spent both Christmas and New Year's in the hospital and grew more and more "catsick" as the weeks dragged on. Eventually my dad (also a cat lover) decided to sneak Clementine up for a short visit, thinking that it would help my morale. Clem's older "brother," OK is terrified of car rides and wails loud enough to be heard by other drivers when we're on the road so he stayed at home. The visit was planned for 2:00 AM, when the hospital was relatively quiet and NCL would be on duty.
The visit went off without a hitch. Thankfully, the hospital is less than five minutes away from my house, insuring a short ride for Clementine. My dad said that he and Clem rode the elevator with two other people, neither of whom made any comment about the cat carrier. (It's a soft-sided Samsonite and kind of looks like a duffel bag--maybe that helped.) Clem never missed a beat and let out only a few mews--quite a feat for a talkative Siamese. Thank goodness I had a private room! Clem lay with me in my hospital bed, purring all the while, and wasn't fazed by the IV lines or beeping IV pump. She carefully avoided the stitched and stapled parts of my stomach (her usual lap spot) and didn't knead those spots, either. Cats are definitely good medicine--I swear that I felt a lot better after this visit.
NCL didn't feel the need to mention Clem's visit to other hospital personnel. She only came in my room once during the visit, to adjust a beeping IV pump. At that time she briefly rubbed Clem's head and left as quickly as she had come. After the visit Dad and Clem left the hospital without incident.
I went home two and a half weeks after Clementine's visit and was (actually) tearfully reunited with her and OK. I wound up having to have another surgery five months later, and Nurse Cat Lady ended up caring for me again. This time, as I was only in the hospital for eight days and not deathly ill, my family didn't sneak the cats in for a visit. I will always be grateful to NCL, who obviously understands that, while some may believe cats in a "person" hospital constitutes a biohazard, it is powerful medicine for one's spirit.
Mother of OK (Tuxedo boy) and Clementine (Blue Point Siamese girl)
"Time spent with cats is never wasted"--Colette
"NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP!"--Winston Churchill