Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Giving Thanks for Service

I work Thanksgiving Day. This is normal for many people, especially us medical professionals. I have been a teletriage nurse -- you might call me an advice nurse -- for over nine years. Usually on Thanksgiving our work day starts quietly. Many people don't call because they don't think we are working. As the day progresses we get more calls including lonely people who have no plans for the holiday and all they have to think of is their physical problems. Loneliness makes all illnesses worse. Some call for their real symptoms and some just call to confirm there are still kind voices in their otherwise silent universe.

Then we get the post-dinner calls. These are the I-can't-believe-I-ate-all-that, the heartburn vs heart attack, the gravy-burned hand, the cranberry stuck up the nose, the what-are-the-signs-of-food-poisoning, the goose egg on the forehead from a football improperly passed.

Later they tuck their children in their beds and retire themselves, thinking about leftovers and post-Thankgiving bargains of socks. In the wee hours of the night and morning most people sleep soundly in warm beds. A few call the nurses for children with fevers, spouses with stomachaches, a new cough. The nurses sit awake, waiting for these calls, to calm fears, to soothe anxious parents, to provide advice and gentle words in the night.

This Thanksgiving, if you are one who enjoys a day off with your family and friends, remember to thank the nurses and others like them who wait, listen and care, steadfastly.

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