I wrote this piece several years ago and just rediscovered it when I was looking for another document in my computer. I thought it would be fun to share. Enjoy!
The Purple Kangaroo – A Legacy Story
One of the things I like about being a nurse is the difference I make in lives. Not just in caring for people physically, but in helping them through a tough time, emotionally. Of course, I sometimes end up receiving as much encouragement from my patients as I give. In fact I’m kind of used to that, but if I had known. If I had known what an impact this patient would make!
The shift started like many others. I had received report from one of my close friends, Justine and was reviewing my charts to see what meds I needed to give right away.
“Have a good night, Brenda.” Looking up from the chart I saw Justine, bundled up in coat, hat, and gloves.
“You too. Drive carefully, it’s slippery out there. Hey, why don’t you call when you get home. Then we’ll know you made it.
“Okay. But don’t send out the cavalry too soon. It’ll take me a good forty-five minutes if the roads are bad.”
“Sure,” I agreed.
“Oh!” she said. “I forgot to tell you. The patient in 705, Rose, has a number on the front of her chart. It’s for her nephew, Don.
Turning to the front of the chart I spotted the sticker and quickly read it,
Rosie’s favorite middle South Dakota nephew: Don Johnson
341-2245 Cell phone: 484-5665. Call anytime.
I glanced at Justine, my brow raised. She shrugged, grinning. “You ask. She was still sleepy after the versed they gave her during her pacemaker insertion. I don’t think you will need him, but just in case!” She laughed as she disappeared into the elevator hallway.
Shaking my head I closed the chart and placed it back in the rack.
Ding. I glanced around at the rooms surrounding the nurses station on three sides. The call light was on over the door to room 705. Well, I guess that’s where I’ll start tonight.
Entering Rose’s room I reviewed her diagnosis and the things Justine had told me in report. Rose was an 82 year old lady who was admitted after passing out at home. She had been diagnosed with a rhythm problem and a pacemaker had been inserted this evening. She had no previous history except for arthritis, and lived independently. She had no children, but apparently she did have family.
“Knock, knock.” I entered the room quietly. Switching on the light over the sink, I turned to the bed. “Hi Rose, I’m your nurse, Brenda Jackson. I’ll be here all night. Did you need something?”
Giving me a blank look, the tiny white haired lady shook her head slowly. “No honey, did I push that button again? I was just trying to turn on the light so I could see the clock. I’m left handed and I’m not very good with my right hand. She pointed to the sling holding her left arm still.
“No problem,” I assured her. I needed to check you over anyway. Can I listen to your heart and lungs and check your incision?”
A few minutes later, I had finished my assessment and was ready to move on. “Well, I think that’s all. I’ll let you get back to sleep. You call if you need anything. Don’t try to get up by yourself, you may be a little wobbly. And call me if that incision starts hurting.”
“I surely will,” she responded with a thousand watt smile that reminded me suddenly of my Grandma. I felt a stab in my heart as I thought of Grandma Jackson, who had died six months before. The hole in my life was still huge.
“Good night, then.” I turned to leave the room.
“Did you see my purple kangaroo?”
Startled I turned around. “Pardon me?”
“My purple kangaroo.” She pointed toward the bedside dresser. “Did you see it?”
As my eyes followed her right hand, two thoughts flashed through my mind. First, is it a full moon? And secondly, does she have Sun-downers? Any nurse will tell you that full moons incite confusion and restlessness. And Sun-downers, a term we use for elderly people who are perfectly normal in the daylight, but become confused and/or paranoid at night, can strike terror to the heart of any hardy nurse.
But no, there it was, sitting on the table amongst the flower arrangements. A purple kangaroo, about twelve inches tall.
“Wow,” I said, amazed and relieved. “That is one unusual piece.”
Laughing, she nodded. “It sure is. Open it!”
Reaching the table, I lifted the top and the head slid back on a hinge. It was filled to the brim with chocolate kisses.
I whistled appreciatively. “A secret stash!”
“Take one,” she said. “And unwrap one for me. I feel the need of a little chocolate fix. You know, with chocolate and Jesus, you can get through anything!”
I choked back tears as I unwrapped one for her, then one for me. After regaining my composure I said. “I knew I was going to like you. Where did you get that thing? And,” I hesitated.
“Why?” Her eyes twinkled.
“That’s where I was headed,” I said, surprised she could read me so easily.
“I got that from my favorite middle South Dakota nephew.”
“Oh, Don,” I said.
Now it was her turn to look puzzled. “How did you know?”
“He left his number for us, and that’s how he signed the paper. ‘Rose’s favorite middle South Dakota nephew.’”
Rose’s tinkling laughter filled the room. “That boy sure does spoil me. He said he found that kangaroo in an airport shop on his last trip. He travels all the time for his work, you know. He said he couldn’t pass it up, especially when he realized it would hold a couple of packages of chocolate kisses.”
“But why a Purple Kangaroo?” I asked, baffled.
“Well, when my nieces and nephews were young they would come stay with me. I never married and had children of my own so I enjoyed having them come. I had a book that we would read often. It was about this purple kangaroo who was different from all the rest. Being purple, that is. Anyway, the theme of the story was that being different is okay. The purple kangaroo saved the day somehow, I can’t even remember the story now, but evidently he did. Read the card he attached to it.
I turned back to the unsightly animal and opened the card attached by a ribbon to the neck.
Dear Aunt Rose, Thank you for teaching me the lesson of the purple kangaroo. Whenever I feel like my life isn’t normal, or regret things I don’t have, I remember the life lessons you taught us through your example. You are my hero! Love, Your Favorite Middle South Dakota Nephew.
“You know,” Rose said, I always thought I would regret not having children when I was old. But now that I am getting close to old age, I know that I have been blessed.”
Before I could respond I heard the phone ringing at the desk. “Excuse me, I need to get that,” I said.
“You go ahead, dear. I don’t want to keep you from your work. You sneak in here anytime and get a chocolate.”
“Thanks.” I hurried out the door.
“Hello.” I answered the phone looking around for my two co-workers. I could hear their voices from another room.
“Hey, Brenda. It’s me. It’s really bad out here. I’m not going home. I almost hit a car trying to get out of the parking lot, so I came over here to your house. Do you mind?”
Relief followed the fear that had washed over me as I heard Justine’s voice, knowing it was too soon for her to be home.
“You know it’s okay! Make yourself at home.” Justine often stayed with me when the weather was bad, or she was too tired after a night shift to drive home.
“Thanks. How is it there? Are things settling down?” she asked.
“I think it’s going to be good. I have been getting life lessons from Rose and her purple kangaroo.” I replied. “She almost made me cry. She reminds me of Grandma. She even said the chocolate and Jesus thing.” I rushed on, not wanting to let my emotions take over. I was tired of crying. Tired of the depression I had been experiencing the past few months. “I’ll tell you about it in the morning. But, I’ve been thinking,” I said. “How would you like to take a long weekend and drive to Jenny’s house. I need to see my nephews.”
“Sure, that would be great. Speaking of nephews, did you find out about the favorite nephew thing?”
“No, I didn’t get a chance to ask, she was explaining the purple kangaroo. But I don’t think I need to ask. I think I know why.”