I would sure hate to be Lucien Bouchard right about now, especially if it was time for a check-up. “Please cough for me, Mr. Bouchard…” Not a good position to be in.

Even in the best of times being a nurse is not an easy job to go into. The working conditions are very difficult, the hours are long and the clientele are usually not at their best. And now they have to deal with the government, which seems to have forgotten just how important a nurse’s job is. How quickly they forget.

I had a good glimpse in the inner workings of a nurse’s shift once last summer. I wasn’t a patient but a visitor to a good friend who needed the best medical care one could ever have. It was a Thursday morning when Steve was pedaling along the street, on his way to work, when a car driving in the opposite direction unfortunately met my friend in a head-on collision. Though he wasn’t wearing a helmet, they say it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway because of the trauma his brain went through. Helmet or no, the result would’ve been the same. (Please wear a helmet.)

He arrived at the hospital without any identification papers on him. The hospital didn’t know who he was. He was admitted in as Mr. X. When he went in his brain level activity, according to the Glasgow Coma Scale, was 4. The scale is used to gain an Indication of a patient’s neurological condition, with three representing a totally comatose patient and 15 representing a fully alert one.

All through the weekend he was Mr. X. They finally put his picture in a major paper for people to identify him. Throughout all this there was one phone number in his pocket. It was the client’s number he was on his way to see. In the meantime the hospital called the client, then the client called Steve’s partner, who called Steve’s sister. It was Sunday evening.

During all the weekend, he was alone with only the doctors and nurses as his lifeline. I got the call on the Monday and rushed down. He was lying on the bed with his sister and his family, who had made an all-night trip in from Ontario, by his side. I kept my emotions in check as I walked in to his room. I held his hand. I bent down and said, “Hey man, wake up! It’s me. It’s time to wake up!” With that his
leg twitched, then his body tensed up and he squeezed my hand… “It’s ok man, you can relax now… We know you’re there.” Then he relaxed. We knew he was going to be ok.

We took turns watching over him. I took the night shift with his brother. We woke him up hourly to stimulate him and switch his position. I had the privilege to see the nurses at work. Watching them at work put my mind at ease about the time he was alone. I knew he was in good hands. The effects of the funding cuts the government made a couple of years ago were still reverberating. Every department felt it; it’s true they did make do. Maybe now the janitor doesn’t have time to sweep the floor before he mops it. Because if he swept he’d have no time to finish the job. Maybe the nurses have less time per patient when they do the rounds. My friend’s mom there beside him was a lucky thing, because many times it would’ve been unpleasant for my friend. Eventually the nurse would’ve come but sometimes the wait would’ve been too long for my friend. ‘Cause when you gotta go, you gotta go.

There are many other issues that have to be dealt with also because there are different conditions when you look at the regions. The nurses up north also have their own needs that need to be taken care of. The care and attention my friend received may sometimes have been compromised because there simply was no time. I admire the dedication and teamwork that I saw during the time I was in the hospital with my friend. They made the best with what they had.

But the government now has to give back what it took away. I hope that Marge and the crew get what they ask for and double. Because If I have to spend time in a hospital for some reason, I would rather they sweep before they mop.

My friend is making a beautiful recovery and he plans to come back again for school.