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. While going through surgery for sepsis and diverticulitis I was so grateful to the kindest nurses of all. They spent a lot of time repeatedly cleaning me, the bed, the floor and everything else. I am now healthy, but I still tear up when I think about them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My wife is an ER nurse for Veterans Affairs. Everyday she gives 100% for twelve hours. …100% for the homeless Vet who has given up on life …turned to drugs and alcohol… with no plans of stopping….100% to the aged that are terminally ill or someone dealing with an illness or mental affliction. It is also her job to give 100% to the family’s of these patients and help with their needs. Every day …from a colds to cardiac arrests.After 12 hours she attempts to get a few hours rest , love on her grandkids, deal with all of the family problems …then return to all of the people she is responsible for at work. God bless the nurses of this world . As for us our job is to understand all they give , be patient, loving and show are appreciation and respect.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your comments, your tribute to the nurses who cared for you and your husband. I wish I could share this on Facebook.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was always a fan of nurses because so many of
    my dearest friends are in the profession. I observed first hand how hard they studied in college to learn their craft. In addition, both my parents passed away as patients in a tremendous research hospital. It was the nursing staff who were the truest advocates for both the patient and their families. I thanked both staffs on each parents passing, and informed all that they made a “very large place small.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nurses are more than nurses. They weep and stress like any other person They love their jobs and are overworked most of the time. They take their patients fears and problems home with them. They miss meals while working to take care of you. It’s not any easy job and I am so thankful for my career as a nurse and the dedication of being able to help others. Nurses deserve more than they are given the for. Those patients become a part of you.Kudos to nurses.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. being a nurse is being strong when you have to be..showing compassion when it is needed..a shoulder to cry on…… an expert at listening…………but maybe a card game is just what the doctor ordered……………………

    Liked by 1 person

  7. OMG. What a touching tribute to your courageous days and to the caring nurses. I have been an RN for 50+ years and my husband is in the final months of lung cancer. His nurses and oncologist have been wonderful in supporting us both, even on our worst days. I vote for sending the cards to the senator.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am very grateful that these special nurses took the time to play cards to uplift their patients. They could have spent this time on computers like the big hospitals do. These nurses look up eBay,amazon, facebook , etc. Shame on Senator Walsh you should hang your head. May God bless these nurses that are trying to make life little better for other people.

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  9. I am a retired LPN.I worked in a nursing home for 17 years ,taking care of other peoples loved ones.I would go all shift without using the bathroom,not get my breaks most days and if I did take a break ,I had to stay over to finish my orders,charting,etc.I worried over my patients and cried for them with the families when they went on to be with God.I would think of and worry about my patients even when I was home.My daughter and grandson are also nurses and the same goes for them.There are times that overtime is mandatory.My daughter works 80 hours a week at times.My grandson works home heath but is PRN at a nursing home and helps there also.Some people think that you are playing games when you are sitting at the nurse’s station,but the charting has to be done and orders written.That takes a lot of time and has to be done right.If the orders aren’t written right ,it could be life or death.I don’t understand that senators ignorance as she has never walked in a nurse’s shoes

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  10. Thank you so very much for supporting the nurses! I am so sorry for your loss! I have been blessed to be a nurse for 41 years, with the privilege to care for many patients and their families. Thank you all for supporting all of the hard working and caring( CNA, LPN, and RN) nursing staff everywhere. Senator Walsh did not speak well of nursing but, all nurses would give her the respect, dignity, and care when in their care. Nursing is not just a career but a calling.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks so much for sharing your story! I am a 38 year Registered nurse who just graduated with my MSN in December & is now recovering from a traumatic brain injury from a car accident (not my fault). The nurses, therapists, nurse practitioners have all been wonderful. Seeing the care from the other side and knowing that each one is truly making a difference in my recovery!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 1700 decks of cards later, an apology and she is going to shadow a nurse? People, wake up to the power we still hold!!! I cried through reading this, so much pain, so much love, so much gratitude. And now, wonderful people of America have shown this Senator that she is not going to get away with this kind of behavior in OUR world. Insert applause here!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Those nurses do not get enough THANK YOUS or YOU DID AN AWESOME JOB WITH MY LOVED ONE. SO HERE IS A GREAT BIG THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Linda.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sounds like Walsh subscribes to the Joy Behar school of riducule. I used to be a chemo nurse and worked 42 years in nursing. I retired 9 years ago but I still carry the memories of some of my sweet patients. Oh yes ..i never played with a physical deck of cards in my life.. But the cards dealt when you are taking care of sick people and hurting people are real enough. Every person should be lucky enough to encounter that kind of card shark when they need one… Maybe we need to ask Walsh how many contributions she has made in her life to truly help another person…leave out the lying and greasing of palms and don’t mention delusions either..just hard facts m’aam. Yes there are some nurses who may not be as dedicated as others..I have seen a few…but as a group most nurses are very dedicated beings who give way more of themselves than most people know. I sure can’t say that about more than a handful of elected officials…what does that say to Mz. Walsh??? She deserves the gong!!-

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so correct ! I am a Cancer survivor 5 years and there isn’t a day that goes by I think of those Powerful , Positive , Fantastic Nurses that willed me to live every day for 23 days I was in Surgical Oncology. I love them like family and visit them every 6 months when I return for my scans. I deem you a hero and Thank You for all you have done and continue to do ! God Bless !

      Liked by 1 person

  15. My wife has been my best friend and love of my life for 19 years now, and with her 2 teenaged boys and mine, put herself thru nursing school. She has been a nurse going on 14 years, and is a team leader at one of our large hospitals where she works 12 to 14 hours a day, usually back to back. 2 and a half years ago, she received a kidney transplant. She continues to work these strenuous hours. She seldom takes a break or have time to eat a lunch. She is my hero. Senator Walsh, you should be ashamed!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’ve been a critical care nurse for more than 40 years. After reading your dedication to those card sharks, this 6’1” frame of husky maleness, the onion vapors in this room are mighty strong. Your words of appreciation makes it all worthwhile. It beats out the gifts, bought in bulk, or the Jason Deli’s box lunches given during Nurses week. Words like yours makes the uniform come back to life. By your smile, I see that God is bringing you through this. Thank you for such a heart wrenching dedication.

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  17. Wow – thank you Kristina for sharing from the other side of the bed. As a hospice nurse and admin I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We cannot remove your sorrow or pain, we cannot prevent the loss of your loved one but we do hope to make a difference , lift any small burden we can to allow you to keep creating and living and loving those who will leave us. We are honored to walk that journey and are very grateful our families let us in. Love and Gods peace to you .

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Kristina Smith, Thank you for your poignant, heartfelt description of the nurses who administered their care and love for your husband…I am truly sorry he is gone and wish you the best that life can give you and your children. Blessings to you and all of those Angels of Mercy!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. A very beautiful, poignant and brilliant tribute for well deserving nurses. I hope and pray God blesses and supports them always. Mrs. Smith, my sincere best wishes to you and your family for lifelong peace and happy memories. You are also a special card player.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. so true i have missed many a lunch or dinner break due to patients suddenly in crisis. i have been late to christmas dinner which was being held up for me to come home from work due to a patient going into cardiac arrest. i have never played actual cards at work but sure have played the cards dealt me by the many patients i cared for. would not expect a politician to understand as most have no empathy for their fellow humans

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts about your nursing encounters, I was truly blessed to read them. I have been a nurse for 35 years. My calling since I was in second grade…I am distraught over these comments of the senator. I have never played any physical cards. But have played the cards you described very well and all too often. I could go on and on. especially in the past 2 months with some very unfortunate things, so again I just want to thank you for sharing. God bless you and your family always.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. People are so quick to criticize what they know nothing about. Nurses who deal with cancer patients are saints. They have to be to deal with so much pain and suffering with such compassion. Only special people can do this. What a wonderful way to live your life by giving dignity and care to someone at the end of their life

    Liked by 1 person

  23. You said it so well! I’m so sorry for your loss and the struggle before and after. Thank you for taking the time to set the record straight. My husband’s nurses held me and cried when the doctor said it’s time to take him home and just love him til he’s called to his next home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here. Our nurses were true angels of mercy in our little country hospital when it was time to bring my husband home to await God’s Call a handful of days later. Our nurses, our Heroes…

      Liked by 1 person

  24. what a beautiful way to describe the nurses who cared for your husband. I am a nurse of 31 years, I have worked Oncology IP, OP and home and IP hospice. The most rewarding years of my life. I am so sorry for your loss. I still think of the patients I loved, and lost, the missed breaks and dinners, the extra late nights holding a family members hand while they passed, I would not trade a single moment of those times.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. May God above bless each and every card player, I have known some and the real truth is this, They all deserve our highest regards and appreciareation for there care and the Love shown to all they play there cards for !

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I recently lost my dad to colon cancer, so this story hit so close to home for me. Thank you so much for sharing! 💙 can I get some information of the advocacy program you work with? I’m looking for a way to get involved!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I am not a nurse but I am an LNA I have a close and personal relationship with my patients but it takes a devoted nurse to care about what I do and the well-being of the people I take care of GOD Bless the Nurses who truly understand and care💖😚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Christine! I’m involved with two–Fight CRC at FightCRC.org and also The Colon Club at colonclub.com

      It’s so healing connecting with others who just get “it!”

      Like

  28. What a bonehead Senator Walsh is!!! She has probably never been in need of a nurse. She or someone she loves will eventually need one. Then maybe she get how wrong she was. God bless all nurses and their co-workers.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I am 71, and I always thought that when I grew old, I would know just the right thing to say at times like this. I was wrong. I’ve had Polio(1950), a quadruple bypass(2004), and I remember the care and understanding I, and my family, received during those times from nurses. God bless them ALL.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. What would you do in their position. I’m just lucky that anyone is there. So easy to criticize when you have no idea what they are going though.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I would take all of you card sharks 1 million times over, instead of one tiny little shark that tries to screw America over. You all made my moms lasts days beautiful, and thank you so much! Even if it wasn’t you directly, as you continue to do your work, it inspires others, and every one of you is our savior!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Senato Walsh, like all state legislators , is elected to protect and defend the rights of her constituents and to improve their lives by the decisions she makes as well as the standards she sets. I hope the people of Washington remember her insensitive comments and the character of the person they represent the next time she’s up for re-election. Perhaps a dedicated nurse will run against her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, that might be the very best thing — an experienced nurse would know how to put their constituents’ needs ahead of their own, juggle an insane amount of responsibilities, and do so on a tight budget that can change on someone else’s whim.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. I am sooo sorry for loss . I have been a nurse for 25 years and we do not get thank you . It is mostly treats , insults, degrading and demands from love ones but we continue to be passionate and give the best care to our patients.

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  34. THANK YOU FOR YOUR WONDERFUL GRATITUDE FOR WE NURSES. WE WORK TO KEEP OUR PATIENTS PAIN FREE, COMFORTABLE, IF THEY ARE DYING, WE DO OUR BEST TO MAKE THEIR JOURNEY TO THEIR GOD AS EASY AS POSSIBLE. WE STAND BY THE FAMILIES. WE COMFORT THEM AND HELP THEM TO EASE THEIR SORROW. WE DO A GREAT JOB, AND LOVE HELPING OTHERS. GOD BLESS ALL NURSES AND THEIR PATIENTS AND FAMILIES.

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  35. My Mom had colon cancer and passed away at age 60. That was 13 yrs ago and to date was the most scary, heart wrenching event of my life. Being told to take your dying, suffering loved one home when you have no medical experience to help them…indescribable! The hospice nurses were our saving Grace through this time. They guided us in every way..they were always a phone call away…comfort, love and wisdom were abundant. God bless nurses everywhere who give a piece of their heart everyday to the suffering. You are truly Angels❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  36. As real as it gets. Thank you so very much for explaining the true deck that we are playing with. I am so very sorry for your loss and Pray that God gives you strength, hope and love. —37 years of playing cards and loving my purpose in life.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. First, I am so sorry for your loss. That must have been such a trying time for you and your family. Thank you so much for this amazing post about the nurses in your experience! As a nurse, you really did hit the nail on the head. I also appreciate you advocating! You are an amazing person.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. As a RN for 35 years now as well as a Multiple Myeloma fighter, I am well aware of the cards I have been dealt and how to deal. I am an operating room nurse where I stay on my feet for hours at a time at the beck and call of the physicians in the room. No food for hours, you learned quickly how to hold it, and when the end of the shift came and there was not one to take your place as the dealer, you suck it up while your own family waits for you. As as cancer patient now for 5 years, I am clearly aware of those card sharks who do the same things for me now. Kudos for all nurses everywhere. Why stand strong and proud.
    Kristina, I am so sorry for the loss of your husband and father of your baby. Thank you so much for your tribute. Blessings for your family and your life going forward.

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    • My sister and my sister-in-law have both been nurses for more than 40 years. They have worked as labor and delivery nurses, home health and hospice nurses. They have worked in the small, rural hospitals to which the Senator referred, as well as larger ones. I also worked in a small hospital and delivered my daughter there. I spent MANY hours with nurses while my dad spent 3 months on a respirator (my 8 year old daughter and i were there every day) and they all came to pay their respects the night I lost him. Why Senator Walsh would diminish their service to their patients with her thoughtless comment is beyond me. Just because nurses may choose to work in critical-access hospitals does not mean they have no work to do. In fact, they have to be extremely flexible because they have to switch gears quickly. The nurses in CAHs may be the only source of healthcare for MILES OR HOURS from the nearest large hospital and are often facing their friends, family and co-workers as their patients. Senator Walsh should be celebrating and acknowledging the efforts of nurses, not minimizing them. To me, it seems she herself is not playing with a full deck and as a registered voter in Washington, I have a few cards up my sleeve to ensure she won’t see another term in office.

      Liked by 1 person

  39. I am so very sorry for you loss. I hope those ‘angels’ keep playing cards!
    Prayers to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

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