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Sahar Sabati

Sometimes, being a nurse is the most invigorating, inspiring profession ever, and I wonder why everyone doesn’t choose a career in nursing. Some other days, I just want to quit. I want to go home and take out a college catalogue, and look for another profession.

Today wasn’t one of those feel-good days. In fact, it was a I-feel-pretty-bad day. I was walking in the subway, going to work and wondering at the stupidity of my career choice. Why I had chosen to become a nurse? It’s true that I was serving in the purest sense of the word. I had dedicated my life to the health of the community; as a Baha’í, I should feel fulfilled. As a human, I should be satisfied. Everything was supposedly in balance. I was making money out of a life long vocation of serving.

But it was becoming tedious. I was giving out everything I had and getting insults and curses in return. My fellow nurses, who supposedly had been trained at my sides to care, were backstabbing women and men who didn’t care whose life, professional or personal, they were destroying. Consequently, the environment I was working in was stifling, personally and professionally. It was really starting to get to me.

I sat down and smiled at the children running in the subway. I suddenly gasped as a little boy slipped and almost fell on the tracks. I looked up and met the eyes of the mother, whose eyes crinkled at the sides.

“Kids, they give you quite the white hairs,” she mused, pulling playfully on her son’s coat to make him step away from the side of the tracks.

          “I know. But we love them anyhow,” I replied before lowering my head and carefully placing my gloves in my bag.

          I felt a tingle down my spine and looked back up. The woman’s eyes were glued on my face.

          “Are you OK, madam?”

“I can’t believe this,” she said, her voice wobbling.

The tingling intensified. I usually only had this at work. Last time, a patient had crashed mere moments after. Was this woman sick?

My heart started pounding. “Are you feeling OK?”

“Yes. Yes, I am fine.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe this.”

I kept quiet. It would come out when it was time. That was one thing I had learned from nursing school.

“Oh, my God,” she finally whispered. She took a couple of deep breaths. “Remember me?” she said. Her voice was steady again.

My eyebrows raised. “I’m sorry, no.”

She smiled. “I am not surprised. I did change a lot.” She sat beside me at arm’s length away. “At the time, I was pale, sickly, and not very attractive.” She laughed a little unsteadily. “But you… You still look amazing!”

I smiled. After all, compliments always were welcome. “I’m very sorry, but I still don’t remember you.”

She rolled her eyes playfully. “Why would you? You must see a countless number of patients. No wonder you wouldn’t remember me.”

I felt terrible. “Maybe if you tell me how we met and under what circumstances…”

She took another deep breath, her eyes not leaving my face. “Five years ago, at the Children’s hospital, on the maternity ward, you helped a young woman and her newborn child.”

I frowned slightly. It was reminding me of someone…

“The baby wasn’t doing well at all. The prognosis wasn’t good. As I watched, all the staff gave up hope on the young mother and her baby. Everyone gave up, except for a young nursing student, fresh off the boat, who still hadn’t been poisoned by the evils of bitterness and cynicism. She took care of that young woman with such care and devotion. She fed her, helped her clean up, read her stories, tucked her in. She also took care of the dying baby, encouraging the young mother to spend as much time as possible with it. And she taught both of them how to pray. The young mother with words, the little baby with love.”

My eyes were now filled with tears. “Mrs. Sakina,” I whispered.

She nodded. “Yes.”

I shook my head. I now remembered the patient the woman was referring too. “I had to leave them. My stage was over. I couldn’t be there at the end.”

The woman smiled. “Maybe because the end hasn’t some yet.”

My heart skipped a beat. “Are you…”

She nodded. “I am Mrs. Sakina.” She called out to the little boy, who trotted obediently at her side and shyly smiled at me. “And this is the little boy whose life you saved.”

          Mrs. Sakina and I let three subways roll by us. We were talking about her harrowing stay in the hospital.

          “What happened after I left?”

          Mrs. Sakina told me the story of a miracle. She told me that after I had left, she had been more or less left alone in the room. Upon her insistence, the staff had let her keep the infant with her, and she had rocked it day in day out, singing prayers to her son from the prayer book I had left for her.

          Her eyes crinkled as she smiled. “I think I shocked the faith of many a staff member,” she confided. “They were so certain my son wouldn’t live to be a month old. He is now five, smart as a whip, handsome, and with such a heart of gold.”

          I smiled at the little boy, gazing pensively at the tracks from a safe distance. He turned around. “How does the electricity go from the cables outside to the subway car?” he asked his mother in a modulated, controlled voice, mature and wise beyond his years, a real contrast to his round cheeks and short stature.

          Mrs. Sakina laughed. “See what I mean? He drives me nuts with his questions!”

          The little boy smiled excitedly. “Does it mean we are going to the library to find the answer?”

          Mrs Sakina shook her head. “Yes, you little imp.”

          The boy grinned, then returned his gaze to the tracks as his mother and I continued our talk.

          We finally made up our minds to get onto a subway car, and kept talking until I had to leave. We exchanged phone numbers, promising to keep in touch.

As the subway car rolled away, taking with it a waving Mrs. Sakina and her beautiful son, a thought came to me. I suddenly remembered why I was a nurse. And I also remembered why it just rocked to be a Baha’í nurse. I smiled as I walked out into the sunshine. I couldn’t wait to go back into that hellhole that was the ER. Maybe I could touch someone’s heart again with God’s Healing Words.

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