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Tilda Shalof has been a caregiver all her life - at six years of age, she took care of her ailing mother - so it was not surprising that she gravitated to the profession of nursing. After graduation from nurses' college, Shalof travelled to Tel Aviv, Israel, where she found adventure, young love, and a career that was exciting, demanding, and inspiring. After a year abroad, she returned to a life that had lost lustre. Her mother was hospitalized, she had nowhere to live, and she was not ready to take on the ...
Tilda Shalof has been a caregiver all her life - at six years of age, she took care of her ailing mother - so it was not surprising that she gravitated to the profession of nursing. After graduation from nurses' college, Shalof travelled to Tel Aviv, Israel, where she found adventure, young love, and a career that was exciting, demanding, and inspiring. After a year abroad, she returned to a life that had lost lustre. Her mother was hospitalized, she had nowhere to live, and she was not ready to take on the responsibilities and burdens she had escaped so recently. Living on the streets, travelling the subway at night, Tilda realized that she needed to find her way back, and it was through her work as a nurse that she regained her balance.
With her trademark humour, unflinching honesty, and skilled storytelling, Tilda describes her experiences inside and outside the hospital walls - including summers on the job at a kids' camp and the challenges and rewards of nursing her friends and family. These stories and many more reveal one woman's roller-coaster ride to becoming the proficient nurse she is today.
About the Author:
Tilda Shalof is an Intensive Care Unit nurse with twenty-five years of experience in Israel, the United States, and Canada
My patient’s name is Joe, or so he says, and I am his nurse. His chart states his name as Zbigniew Zwiezynskow and under place of residence, there is merely a sad trio of letters: NFA — “no fixed address.” He’s in his mid-forties, admitted last night to the Intensive Care Unit, the ICU, with pneumonia. He’s feverish, delirious, and so violent that he may try to kill me if I decide to release him from the restraints we’ve placed on his arms and legs. Medically, his condition is improving — no small thing here in the ICU, where all of the patients have life-threatening, catastrophic illnesses. We’re full; each of our twenty-two beds is occupied. Attached to every patient are monitors, machines, and equipment and in every room there are sickening odours and horrific sights, but I hardly notice these things any more. I have learned how to go beyond it all, to see through it, push it gently aside and go straight to the person lying there in the bed.
Today, all day, Joe is my patient. His heartbeats, urine output, breaths, cough, skin, dirty fingernails, and wild, greasy hair are all my concern. I will enter his world and for the next twelve hours, minute by minute, I will dwell with him there.
It’s taken me such a long time to get here.
The sheer math astounds me. Since becoming a nurse in 1983, I have put in thousands of twelve-hour shifts at many different hospitals. I have worked with thousands of nurses and hundreds of doctors and other professionals. I have taken care of tens of thousands of patients ranging in age from eight to 104 who have had a multitude of diseases, illnesses, and injuries, and have administered to them a sea of intravenous fluids, rivers of syrups, suspensions, injectable medications, and at least a million pills, capsules, and tablets. Researchers study large populations, searching for patterns and trends, but the only way I know how to practise as a nurse is one patient at a time, seeing each individual in my care through illness, loss, pain, grief, or the prospect of death. For me, each time, the numbers all come down to one. As a nurse, there is the patient I am caring for and together, we proceed, one on one, side by side.
It wasn’t always like this. Even though I was practically born a nurse, with strong instincts to help others, I was raw and unskilled; I had to be made into one. But long before it became my livelihood, taking care of others was my way of life. You could say I practised as an amateur for many years before going professional. My mother was my first patient and I cannot recall a time when I did not know it was my job to be her nurse. I was six years old when she first became ill, but as my father always said, I was very mature for my age.
Posted October 1, 2013
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