How I Know My Dying Husband’s Nurses Played Cards

This past week Washington State Senator, Maureen Walsh, proclaimed that nurses in smaller hospitals “probably played cards for a considerable amount of the day, ” (CNN). What she was specifically referring to, is rural hospitals with smaller number of patients/beds to take care of. What she underestimated in her ill-planned statement though is a true caregiver’s perspective.

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True Love

You see, I was seven months pregnant with my first child, when my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. We were blindsided by the diagnosis, let alone the late stage, and even the detrimental words “terminal.” We live very rural, a small lake-town that thrives off of tourism in our service industry businesses. And, I have to tell you, Senator Walsh was right: those chemotherapy infusion nurses, those post-surgery, seventh floor angels, those pain-control, specialty oncology nurses, they did play cards. I watched, observed, cried, thanked, and even begged them to keep playing cards to save my husband. Let me tell you about those cards they played:

When those masked, and scrubbed-in angels pushed my husband out on his hospital bed, down the corridors, and into his new “home” for the next 10 days–they played the card of who they should take care of first–their patient or the patient’s wife. They struggled if they should take care of the man wincing and crying out in pain, or if they should take care of the seven-month swollen expecting momma that was beside herself as she hovered over his body in his bed. They played the cards of wondering what they should convince that desperate wife and expecting mother of first: should she eat and feed that small babe growing inside her, or do we tell her she needs to sleep for the first time since they checked in four days ago?

joeandipresurgery

Eight Months Pregnant, in for another surgery for an infection that developed.

Those blue-scrubbed Mercy Angels played the cards of wondering if they wrap their arms around that depleted wife when she was on her hands and knees begging God to relieve the pain her husband gasped for help with–or do they hold the small nine-month old chunky baby that was in the hospital floor playing with his toys to give that devoted wife a moment to just be her husband’s best friend and saving grace.

Those chemotherapy and infusion nurses–the real heroes in our story–they juggled the most cards of all. They juggled do we take care of the expecting momma, and later the momma of a five-day old, or do we tend to our patient’s every need. Do we take food, baby toys, or any of their needs to their overnight hospital stay, or do we stay home with our own families that we need to spend time with? They juggled whether they got to cry in front of us, or escape to the backroom to relieve emotions, when the oncologist said there was nothing more we could do. When those champion card players saw that frail, bony husband of mine disoriented, unaware of everything going on around him, and a momma carrying him on one arm, and their sweet year old baby in the other out of the chemo clinic–they played the card of what emotion they got to show that day.

joe-chemo

Our “spot” at our doctor’s appointment every other Thursday. All day infusion, meant juggling lesson plan writing, grading papers, and a sweet baby taking a nap in between me and his Daddy’s chair.

Senator Walsh, you are correct. Our rural, country, small-town nurses do play cards all day–in fact, a considerable amount of the day. Wait–no– all day and all night. They play cards when they go home, when they are supposed to be with their families, when they are supposed to take care of themselves. They are master card players, the real poker faces in this game of healthcare. They play the cards of taking care of patients, taking care of patient’s caregivers, families, dying wishes, egos, dignity, and every single basic need in between. And while they are playing those cards, they are card sharks at playing their own cards of emotions, family, vulnerability, and juggling their personal time that they devote to their patients and their families. They attend funerals, they hold that wife and that brand new baby in their arms while they weep because they are standing at the coffin of a patient they loved.

They are card sharks. Poker faces. True Vegas-style card players. Yes, Senator Walsh, my husband’s country, rural-small town nurses play cards. The very best cards there are to play. And I couldn’t be more thankful.

A Champion for Nurses,

Joe Smith’s Widow

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Kristina Smith is a widow, mother, Special Education Administrator, Colorectal Cancer National Advocate, Blogger and Amazon Best-Selling Author of “What I Wasn’t Expecting, When I Was Expecting: A Grieving Widow’s Memoir”

You can purchase your personal copy of Smith’s memoir here.

513 Comments

  1. I lost my wife a little over 4 years ago to SCLC. I was so mad at the Drs. who made the final decision to quit treatment. I didn’t know how to pray then. Nurses were Angels. No longer mad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hope Senator Walsh is never aloud to forget this comment she made about nurses, she has already said she was tired when she made this statement. So if she makes this kind of comment when she’s tired, do we really want people like her running our country? I’d say NO!!!
    She needs to apologize to nurses publicly, without any excuses other than ignorance.
    That said :
    I lost my son a year ago, and I prefer to say to chemo over cancer because that’s what actually destroyed his body quicker than cancer.
    The nurses we had At Vanderbilt University Hospital were also so dedicated to my son. I’ve never in my life seen nursing like this before, it was 1 nurse 1 patient for 12 hours a day, and the same nurses would take extra shifts to stay with the same patient. The dedication was not like anything I had ever seen. As I have worked in a hospital for the past 35 years just at the business end.
    These nurses know as much if not mor than some of the doctors that took care of my son. And on the day he passed they told us they would never forget us, stayed with us in the room supported our family in every way they could, broke all the rules letting as much family as we could fit in the room be there, and had food and drinks delivered to the room, not that anyone could eat, but just wanting to do something more. I loved these nurses they became part of our family.
    Khristina, I am so sorry for your loss, and I pray you find peace.
    And I know our experiences would have been so much worse without all those special nurses that do what they do!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sandra Schulte BAN RN
    I was a RN by profession, but had the unfortunate luck of also becoming the wife of a husband with terminal leukemia (AML). Although the doctors would never give me a prognosis for his outcome, my training and my God told me he would not survive this. It was just a matter of time. I kept what I knew deep down inside to myself because I did not want him or his family to lose faith in a possible recovery. The nurses and aides who took care of him also took care of me, thus playing the cards dealt to them. I will never forget the kindness and professionalism of those nurses and aides. I know they cried when he lost his battle, as did I. But, being a professional as well as a wife, I had to keep that poker face on so his family could grieve and cry for his loss. My God kept me strong until I could finally be alone to grieve on my own. Isn’t it funny how our training as a nurse stays with us even during the most difficult time of our life. The only person I could tell my feelings to was a niece, my brother’s daughter, who was there to comfort me. Senator Walsh, I strongly suggest you visit a terminal cancer ward in a hospital and observe the nurses and the aides who care for the patients and their families as they slowly watch the patient die and the family grieve the future loss they are going to experience. These nurses and aides have feelings too, but they have to hide them while at work for the sake of the patient and their family. And the other thing you don’t know is what this staff is going through at home. Maybe, just possibly, they have a loved one who is going through something similar and they themselves are waiting for that dreaded phone call about their loved one’s passing. Senator, you should learn empathy rather that uninformed bias and opinions before you cross that line of criticizing nurses for what you think they are doing. I would vote you out of office if I were in your state just for sheer uninformed stupidity.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I sorry for your loss and I feel your grief. I am a nurse and I went through this experience 5 years ago when I was getting ready to come back to work from baby bonding my husband was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. I was a very hard time because I had to leave my husband in Los Angles CA to get treatment while I had to go back to work in Bakersfield and get my 5 year old ready to go to TK and care for my 2 y/o and 4 month old. I had to take care of patients when the only thing i wanted to do was to take care of my husband and hold his hand through radiation and chemo but i also, had to provide for my family and stay strong for my children. Im sorry Kristina Smith that you lost your husband. I pray that you get through this agony you must feel. Stay strong because now you have a little one to strive for.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well said! I’m not a nurse but have worked alongside some pretty wonderful, dedicated nurses throughout my career. The nurses I worked with would hold their pee and get UTIs, miss meals, stay late, pull doubles, multitask like no other so for that dimwit to suggest nurses have the luxury to sit and play cards at work? I laughed out loud!! That’s ludicrous! They haven’t the time to empty their own bladders and you think they’re playing gin rummy?!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Unfortunately I can totally relate! My husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer (though he NEVER smoked a day in his life) when our first born son was 2 months. From the day that he was diagnosed till the day he passes was only 2 1/2 months. We had a great set of nurses who cried with us and taught us and took care of us when he was admitted to the hospital with complications from the fast growing cancer…which took his life 22 days later in the ICU. My heart goes out to you…from a fellow first time mama and widow!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Unfortunately I can totally relate! My husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer (though he NEVER smoked a day in his life) when our first born son was 2 months. From the day that he was diagnosed till the day he passes was only 2 1/2 months. We had a great set of nurses who cried with us and taught us and took care of us when he was admitted to the hospital with complications from the fast growing cancer…which took his life 22 days later in the ICU. My heart goes out to you…from a fellow first time mama and widow!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. God bless you sweet lady. I am so sorry for your loss. Your words so eloquently written are a tribute to the nursing profession and I thank you. I have been a RN 41 years and yes we are card sharks. I pray that God gives you strength and wisdom as you raise that dear baby.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss. The Nurses I work with are the most loving caring people in the world. Thank you for sharing your story. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Please accept my condolences for your family’s loss. Thank you for sharing the journey you and your husband walk. There are many more stories out there that reflect the same experience you had with supportive, compassionate nurses caring for the entire family. How unfortunate that a great many people have no idea what nurses do or that personal integrity it takes to be a nurse while the nurse closes off their own lives, pains, concerns and desires to be available to someone who is at a very low point in their lives.

    I am curious where Ms. Walsh received her facts. Perhaps she could comply with Evidence based practice rules and site her source.

    I am so uplifted that you turned your tragedy and grief into a power house of communication and support for others. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So very sorry for your loss it’s terrible what your husband had to go thru and your family watching it happen with only our prayers to get us by hospice was there and let our loved one’ s go to our lord in peace without pain and suffering! leaving us to morn for them but it wasn’t over hospice was there for us after with phone calls and visits ! it’s just a blessing so we have to thank them all!

    Like

  12. I think she owes ALL NURSES an apology,BIG TIME!!!!! What the H was she thinking???

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Not many laughs as an oncology nurse but I got one out of this. I lost my mother to colon cancer when I was 20, my sister much later, to breast cancer. My sister-in-law is a 40 year survivor of breast cancer. I don’t know how the nurses, whether they are RNs, LPNs, or CNAs can survive 12 hour shifts. I was totally whipped after 9- 1/2 hours . No overtime pay but a dressing out for working late. The last many years I worked at the VA and read frequent articles in the local paper about the poor care given at our VA. Interesting that the vets never complained about the staff.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Send Washington senator Maureen Walsh a deck of cards. Being the husband of a oncology nurse and two daughters who are also nurses , I see first hand the incredible people they are , skipping lunches, waiting to use the bathroom until after their shift is over , working overtime numerous times a week. You should be ashamed of yourself Senator Walsh and hopefully you’ll be voted out by those you represent .

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is soooo moving. Please pass this on and keep it going! God bless this wonderful Widow and her family!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are a true Warrior, mam. I would call those nurses playing cards at midnight, 1am, 2am….to hear “he’s sleeping…get some yourself .” He likely wasn’t sleeping; but disoriented, or soiling the bed, or yelling at people he didn’t recognize because he was lost. They are warriors, too…for trying to give us solace at the end. Playing cards; yes, on how best to prepare the closest loved one that death was close. Sleep now, we have the watch. And God bless each and every one of them. Tonight as they play cards over someone else. Godspeed.

        Liked by 1 person

    • As a nurse educator and now a cancer patient myself, as my clock ticks I can only hope I have excellent nurses like this. God bless them for helping the helpless have a little more comfort and peace before God calls them home. This is my hope and also when it’s my time to see my parents again with Jesus holding my hand. God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I can see how you feel but have you listened to all she had to say? She deserves the chance to be heard. I listened and understand a bit more now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • So beautifully written from your heart. I am a card playing nurse for 49 years….I play with a full deck. I have done all of these things. I can only hope that when Senator Walsh job shadows…it is with a small town card shark! I am teary eyes just reading this…been on the and cried with patients and families many times. It is called human compassion that comes with the job. Thank you

      Liked by 1 person

  15. What a lovely, lovely tribute to both your husband, and to the nurses who helped your family through this terrible time. I’m so sorry for your loss, and hope you and your son find peace. (And that the state senator who made that horribly insensitive comment learns a little about reality.)

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you! As an oncology nurse this was on the mark. This weekend I will be attending a celebration of life service for one of my special families. It is not only the patiently serve, love, and fight for it is their families as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. My husband died 2 years ago in the ICU. I am a nurse yet needed his nurse that day. She tucked his service dog and me in his bed a propped pillows so I could hold him
    . I have done the same type of thing in my 42 years of nursing. Sometimes nursing is changing your cards to support the family.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It is clear this woman, Maureen Walsh, has no idea of what we do and what we deal with on a daily basis.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. OMG…what a beautiful response to an opinion shared from a legislator who knows so very little of the life of nurses. I am a retired nurse of 50 years. Than you Kristina Smith. God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Very well written and a very true statement made. I uphold the nurses and CNAs for the card’s they play. Senator can you play cards as well as the nurses and CNAs. Or would u fold before your shift is over. If the senators and congressmen could play cards as well as the nurses they might be able to do better in the house than they do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe it is time to start recall elections for every politian who has no business representing the hard working people of this country. That remark was totally uncalled for and my only hope is sometime when the senator is in the hospital the nurses remind her of her stupid comment. What a brain trust they elected in Washington, recall is your only salvation.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Such a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to both your husband and the nurses who cared for your family. Nurses take a wholistic approach in that we don’t just take care of a disease ( as is the medical model), we care for the whole person and that includes the needs of the family so that they may learn to either help their loved one or how to care for themselves when everything tells them to just focus on the loved one who is ill.
    While nursing is a job- it comes with many rewards of knowing you impacted someone’s life for the better.
    I will say that thank you are often few and far between ( and not necessary) they certainly are most appreciated. God bless you and your son and thank you for allowing nurses to play their cards!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. God bless you for being strong enough to recognize the help you received at such a tragic time in your lives and for donating your strength to others. You shine in the darkness and honor your husband in a way that shares your love with all of us. Thank you and again, God Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. How can anyone who has had a loved one in a hospital not say wonderful things about the nurses. I saw a lot of overworked nurses. where would the doctors be without these people. And where would we be?

    Liked by 1 person

    • God bless you and your child. May God give you the grace and strength to face every day.

      May God bless all the nurses who sacrifice so much to take care of their patients.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. May God bless you and keep you and your family safe loved and supported ….. I am so very saddened for your loss ….thank you for standing strong for the angels that have stood and continue to stand sting for you and your family ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I am so sorry for your loss. I looked at the photo of your husband with the bandage on his abdomen and recall a few years ago I was in the smae position. I was lucky they caught it before it bacame a problem. That said, all the time I was in the hospital I was cared for by some of the greatest people, the nurses.
    Thank you for sharing this story.
    Bart

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Somehow your incredible words made this poker playing ICU nurse show my hand. Strange liquid even fell from my eyes. May you find comfort and peace in your journey. And, thank you. Sincerely. Thank you .

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I’ve always thought Maureen Walsh was a hateful person by the way she’s acted and by the comments she’s made in speeches and different outbursts. In my opinion, she needs to be replaced. I’m sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I know a number of great nurses they were so good when my wife was being treated for cancer, they were always with both my wife and I as I was being treated for Crohn’s disease, they were there when my wife was drawing her last breath, a retired nurse has been giving me my shots for my Crohn’s disease ( I was too much of a chicken to do it myself) nurses as far as I am concerned should receive medals for the love and caring they give.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. So sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to the nurses who cared for your husband. As a retired RN I cannot believe Senator Walsh could even begin to think any nurse( RN,LPN, or CNA) ever has the time to sit and pay cards!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Yes those nurses are amazing and it doesn’t matter which field they are in.My daughter is a Dialysis Nurse and my daughter in law is in neonatal the compassion and kindness and love is a very important element to being a good or great nurse.Thank-you for acknowledging them,they are to often forgotten these Angels who give so much.May God Bless you and keep you safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Thank you for your beautiful words! You see I AM one of those card playing RN’s who worked in a rural small hospital for Many years! I have also been on both sides of that spectrum not only have I done all of the above you mention and loved my career choice but I also watched as those cards were played with both my father and father n law, my mother, my brother n law as well. Thank God for all of them and every card they played. Thank you for recognizing and standing up for all of us. May you find comfort and peace in your journey especially knowing because of your beautiful words your husbands legacy lives on especially through the love and compassion you have shown for those who give of themselves to care for others.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I’m so sorry for your loss but I am grateful for sharing your side of those “card-playing” nurses. Nurses like me who rarely had time for a dinner/lunch break or even a bathroom break. Thank you for putting your trust in those “card-playing” nurses to care for your sick husband. I only wish that more could’ve been done to save him. Thank you for your support. Keeping you and yours in thought and prayer.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. First let me say, I am so very sorry for your loss. My husband died from kidney failure 10 yeas ago. All of the nurses that cared for him in the hospital and nursing home were caring and loving and couldn’t do enough. I would not have gotten through that without them. I have some wonderful family members and friends that are nurses and they can’t be more caring on the job or off.

    Secondly I would like to say, SHAME ON YOU Senator Walsh. You must be like the tin man without a heart. Your crude and c ruel statement was uncalled for.

    Gods blessings to all nurses working and retired for taking care of the sick people of this country, because the politicians are doing nothing to help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just read your heart wrenching story. I am a Registered nurse. I have been on both side. My heart is so swollen with joy because of all these glowing praise of all nurses no matter what field they are in. My patients and their families where all that mattered to me. Missed breaks ,lunch dinner did not matter they came first. I too have had to be on the receiving end as my husband was in hospital and we had a new born son to look after. When he finally passedmany of these angels stood with me crying holding my hands and the hugs were so welcomed. Many times I have been the huggeretc.Fimnally a thank-you for this recognition . Let us celebrate Nurses Week in May.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I just read your heart wrenching story. I am a Registered nurse. I have been on both side. My heart is so swollen with joy because of all these glowing praise of all nurses no matter what field they are in. My patients and their families where all that mattered to me. Missed breaks ,lunch dinner did not matter they came first. I too have had to be on the receiving end as my husband was in hospital and we had a new born son to look after. When he finally passedmany of these angels stood with me crying holding my hands and the hugs were so welcomed. Many times I have been the huggeretc.Fimnally a thank-you for this recognition . Let us celebrate Nurses Week in May.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. A cold hearted comment from a cold hearted woman. I’m not a nurse but do work in the medical field. I’ve needed several nurses in my lifetime. Whether for myself children spouse mother father family or friends. Without nurses the medical field would be a mess!! Nurses keep the peace they make the protocals take place they keep the doctors in line and updated on status of patients on an real emotional level not just as a number. Nurses are a blessing given to those who are in need from God. I can only hope that when the day comes that SHE is in need that she has her eyes wide open to see what they will do for her and her family. All done without ill will or biased to her insensitive comments. Nurses hear and are told the worst things. But ALL nurses see patients at their worst and have been given hearts of gold by God to recognize this part of their jobs and to have an unbelievable amount of compassion for YOU no matter what!! I personally thank each and every nurse for your choice to be who and what you are 👩‍⚕️👨‍⚕️♥️♠️♦️♣️🎲🏪🏆🏅

    Liked by 1 person

  35. So sorry for your loss. I also know the cards nurses play as my 14 year old daughter was in the hospital 2 months dying from cancer (brain tumor) I was there 24/7 with her and ALL the nurses were wonderful making sure our daughter was pain free and comfortable, and taking care of me making sure I was doing ok. Til you walk in nurses shoes nobody has any idea how hard they work, no matter what is going on in their personnel life they have to put all that aside when they walk into that hospital..That Senator had no business saying such a horrible thing . I could not say thank you enough for all those nurses that cared for our daughter and myself in our time of grief and pain they were there every day and night for us..

    Liked by 1 person

  36. What a clever way to tell your story about your husband and his nurses. Thank you for sharing!! I am very sorry for your loss. Thank you for supporting us.
    Andrea RN

    Liked by 1 person

  37. I watched Ms. Walsh’s feeble attempt and very poor excuses to smooth things over. Her voice inflection and body language spoke much louder that what she was saying. She should resign her position in the State of Washington senate and spend the rest of her life fallowing nurses doing their jobs.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. I just lost my wife Sophia on February 20th, 2019 after spending her final six weeks in a hospital in Dunedin Florida. The radiation treatments she had received a year before slowly killed her lung tissue creating an incubator for a fungus to grow. It killed the cancer as well. Her doctors prescribed heavy intravenous antibiotics in attempts to get the fungus under control to no avail. The antibiotics caused an uncontrollable bowl release that without around the clock nursing care would have been intolerable for anyone to bear. These nurses were hero’s in providing my wife dignity in her final days. There was no time with their patient load for any kind of breaks in their 12 hour shifts. Ms Walsh’s poor judgement with her comment concerns me with what else she might say representing our nations people. She probably has a kind heart but that is not what people hear.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Nurses deserve so much more than they receive , Thank you for sharing . God bless you and your family !

    Liked by 1 person

  40. I SINCERELY WISH OUR CONGRESS WORKED ONE DAY AT THEIR JOB AS EVERY DEDICATED RNS LPNS CNA ORDERLIES DID ALL THEIR WORKING LIVES AS CAREGIVERS MAYBE OUR COUNTRY WOULD BE IN BETTER SHAPE ,MORE CARING I KNOW BOTH SIDES ALSO WITH THE LOSS OF FAMILY FRIENDS AND BEING ON THR RN SIDE TRYING TO GIVE MY ALL TO MY PTS

    Liked by 1 person

  41. I am a nurse and I was brought to tears reading this. We do love our patients and their families. You become part of our life. We try to heal and grieve when we can not. I am so sorry for your loss! I am grateful to you for speaking up and defending our profession!
    Cheryl, RN

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Please thank a nurse today, what would we do without them! Nurses are the true health givers, they do the doctoring, compassion, caring for you as a patient! Say thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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