Last week I had to let one of my nurses, Laura, go. We both saw it coming, just… not this soon. We had a plan that would have had me covered until June and would have allowed her to stay. Needless to say, that plan backfired and now I’m down a nurse. I’m not going to go into details as to why, mainly because it doesn’t really matter now. What matters is that, what I’ve been talking about for months, has finally happened. My nursing have been cut. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, I’d like to talk about what Laura did for me, not only as a nurse, but as a friend.
Laura worked the 3-11pm shift. I remember when I first came back from UCLA and she was working with my brother. At first it didn’t seem like we’d get along well, at least not to me. The agency had sent a different nurse, but the prospect of training another nurse from scratch was not appealing since I had just gotten home from LA where I had gone through a carousel of nurses. So I made a deal with my brother: You take the new quiet, shy nurse and I’ll take the one that doesn’t shut up about politics and Battlestar Galactica.* She had been working with my brother, so she already knew the basics of how to take care of me.
During the course of your life you make a lot of decisions. Sometimes those decisions seem small and sometimes they seem huge. The funny thing is that, every now and then, the decisions that don’t feel like a huge deal at the time turn out to be completely life altering.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before!” Laura said one day, her eyes wide with excitement and hands wildly waving around her head. “There’s so many people! All over the country. It’s amazing. ” That was the first time I’d ever heard about the Occupy movement. I’d never seen her so excited.
I admit, I wasn’t really very political before Occupy. Sure, I had my views and opinions, but I didn’t really care for politics. I didn’t see the point in getting involved. But there was something about the way she talked about it that intrigued me. Maybe it was just the right idea at the right time, maybe it fed into my anti-authoritarian streak. Whatever it was, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
“Are you sure you want to go today?”
“But it’s raining.”
“I can see that.”
“Okay…” She said as she opened the car door.. I’d come to know that ‘Okay…’ quite well. It usually said, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this right now’. This time, though… this time it said, ‘I’m going to walk three blocks, in the rain, to an organizational meeting for an international movement that has yet to start… with a person in an electric wheelchair that depends on an electrical machine to survive’. The ridiculousness of the situation was not lost on me, but a little water never hurt anyone (my equipment is very well protected) and I hadn’t showered that day anyway.
The challenge for me in the rain is not the actual rain itself, but the cold that comes with it. Because my body generates less heat than the average person (due to less movement), I’m extremely sensitive to the cold. It stiffens my muscles and makes it impossible to move my thumb, which I use to control my chair.
No thumb = no chair = no moving = stuck downtown in the rain.
Still, I felt confident in our ability to get down to the meeting. And we did. It took us a little longer than most, but we got there. We were soaking wet, cranky and sat through a meeting where people argued for 3 hours about when to have more meetings and how to decide when to have more meetings. But the point is she got me there.
Looking back, I can’t believe she actually did that. Any other person would have told me to fuck off and, you know what? I would not have blamed them for it. Laura consistently went above and beyond the call. She didn’t do it for for the money, because the money was shit. She did it because she cared. She did it because she wanted to see me happy. That’s a rare fucking quality in this world.
I don’t think we’re going to work together again. Not that I wouldn’t love to have her back, because I would. But even if I do get my hours back, it feels like she’s moving on. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just the way it is. She’ll obviously still be part of my life, a big part, she just won’t be here everyday.
* To be completely fair though, the reason she was talking about Battlestar Galactica was because I was also talking about it.
Raul Carranza is a full-time activist and a college student (when he has the nursing hours). When he is not blogging about the evils of budget cuts and private insurance, he competes in Strongman bouts and is a tactical planner for the A-Team.