Florence Nightingale and Walmart

By James E. Mattson | 03/26/2015

You never know whom you will encounter in the produce aisle.

Since 2008, Joy Shiller, pre-op nurse at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, USA, has written seven articles for Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), approximately one a year. Last year, she was instrumental in bringing about “Someone who cares,” a Nurses Week video tribute collaboratively produced by RNL and Houston Methodist. (See cameo shot of her at time stamp 1:02 of video.)
Recently, Shiller submitted a story to Houston Methodist’s monthly Patient Story Submission Contest, won the February award, and passed the story along to me for my amusement. With permission, I share it below:
JEM_45_lighter-purple_SFWEvery night during the workweek, I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m. Although I do not set it on the weekends, every Saturday and Sunday at exactly 3:30 a.m., my cat, Florence Nightingale, decides it’s time for me to wake up. If I don’t respond to her sandpaper tongue licking my face, she has a routine. She begins by howling, slamming drawers and doors, then walking through mini-blinds, climbing the floor plant, and, finally, knocking over everything left on any surface. In order to avoid the destruction, I am forced to get out of bed. Miss Nightingale’s antics are the reason I usually find myself at Walmart by 5 a.m. every Saturday.
A few months ago, I had almost finished my shopping and was in the process of selecting seven bananas for the week (two ripe and five green). Out of nowhere a short, chubby, rosy-cheeked man wearing overalls approached me and gave me a huge hug and kiss. I had no idea who he was but, in a very loud, escalating voice, he said, "I remember you! You took such good care of me. I am thrilled with my new life! No more pads, no more rashes, no more creams! I am a new man and have my manhood back for the first time in years!" He thanked me, kissed me again, and happily walked away.
I became acutely embarrassed when I realized there were three other Walmart customers near the bananas who were staring at me. I immediately took my cart to the checkout line where a man who witnessed the interaction walked in line behind me. He chuckled as he asked, “What was all THAT about? What did YOU DO to give that man his manhood?” I could not answer his questions. How could I? I acted as if I did not hear him, although, I’m sure, everyone around us did.

I quickly gathered my purchases and walked to my car with my cart at full speed, fearful that this mystery man would find me in the parking lot and kiss me again. As I drove home, I racked my brain trying to remember who he could be. I work in the Main OR Urology pre-op [at Houston Methodist] and figured out that I most likely had been his pre-op nurse and that he must have had an artificial urinary sphincter inserted for incontinence.

Nightingale_the_cat_embed_SFWBy the time I approached my house, I had calmed down and felt a sense of personal satisfaction that I had been remembered for my care. As I entered my house through the kitchen door, I found Florence Nightingale sound asleep on top of the refrigerator and my favorite coffee mug shattered all over the tile floor. Despite her latest mishap, I was grateful that she had played a role in my early Walmart visit. My embarrassment would have been far greater had the incident occurred during the store’s Saturday peak hours.

As I swept up the pieces of my mug, I continued to think about my patient. Even though I never did remember who he was, I felt privileged for having played a small part in changing his life. It wasn’t until I began unpacking my groceries that I realized I had forgotten to purchase my bananas!
Although that episode happened several months ago, I still think about my happy patient every time I go to Walmart—especially when I am in produce.
Do you have an amusing or inspiring—maybe amusing and inspiring—story that happened to you as a nurse? I’d like to read about it, maybe share it—with permission, of course—in an article titled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Intensive Care,” or something like that. No guarantees it will be published, but I look forward to hearing from you.
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