Thursday, 26 April 2018

On Sabs and the Florence Ideal.

After yesterday’s debacle at the hospital over what they were supposed to be doing with me, I was eventually taken to the Elective Procedures Unit, Ward 202, where a number of nurses were sitting at the nurses’ station near the door. The closest seat was occupied by a young woman of around twenty who was clearly a student as evidenced by her uniform of white tunic and black trousers. She was also wearing a black hijab.

As soon as I walked in she turned and greeted me with a smile as warm as the Pakistani sun from which she had derived her genesis either in this generation or an earlier one. Her eyes radiated that warmth as she came towards me with the air of an old and trusted friend.

'Have you had any lunch?' she asked, as earnestly concerned as a diligent mother hen.

'No,' I answered. It was around 4pm and I would have eaten an elephant's toenail in the absence of anything softer.

'There won't be any hot food around now, but I can make you some toast if you like.'

'Toast will do nicely. Thanks.'

'And a cup of hot chocolate?'


Fresh toast, butter, marmalade and hot chocolate duly appeared in a little over a flash, and a mellow breeze of near-contentment drifted into a day which had hitherto known only anxiety, discomfort and frustration.

First impressions are not only important to me, they’re also usually accurate; and so they proved to be in the case of the student nurse known as Sabs (which I learned upon enquiry to be a familiar contraction of a Pakistani name which I don’t recall.)

From that moment on, young Sabs was the very model of the highest order of nurse. She was extraordinarily attentive, precociously skilled for one so relatively inexperienced in the matter of treatments and procedures, given to that type of positive attitude which is infectious rather than patronising, possessed of eyes which glowed not only with warmth but also the thirst for learning, sumptuously laden with a caring and friendly disposition, and blessed with an endearing personality which could hardly fail to soften the hardest heart or dissipate the most entrenched anxiety. For the next eighteen hours dear Sabs became my temporary best friend, and I admit to giving thanks to whatever power placed her on the stony path which I was walking. And best of all, she treated all the other patients the same way.

When she was going off shift at 7.30, she turned to the assembled collection of motley and malfunctioning old and middle aged men and said ‘Night, boys.’

‘Boys.’ That was the word she used. These men – two, three and four times her age – were her ‘boys.’ Isn’t there something of the Florence Nightingale ethos in that perception? Isn’t it heartening to think that the traditional values of the nursing profession are far from dead? And doesn’t it suggest that Sabs will soon be a rare star of that profession? I would say that she already is.

So thank you, Sabs. You will always be remembered with rare fondness by at least one of your grateful charges.

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