Her Name was Maggie and She was my Nurse

Her name was Maggie and I remember her being stout with short, tight curly black hair.  As far as I know, she was my nurse and protector while I was in St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay for 3 months with a burned leg.  The only photo I have of her is on the day of my discharge as she stood watch while I was being wheeled out of the hospital.  I remember her always being there with me, reading to me, patting my head gently, crying soft tears when I was in pain.  As with all thing from the era of the burned leg, I’m not sure if this is my real memory or a created memory, so I’ve made a couple efforts to seek her out.

When I was 18 — 15 years after my accident — I went back to St. Vincent Hospital to visit my friend John.  John was the quarterback of the high school football team senior year.  He took a bad hit and punctured a lung during a game.  We’d been friends since first grade.  After school one day, I walked over to the hospital to visit.  When the elevator opened on the pediatric ward and I walked up to the nurse’s station to double-check the room number, she ran out from behind the desk and gave me a massive bear hug.  I wasn’t sure who she was or why she held me so tightly.  “You’ve come back Annie, you’re back,” she said, shaking me so hard it almost hurt.  “It’s me, it’s Maggie.”    

How she could have recognized me 15 years later has always been a mystery to me, though I was sporting my St. Joseph’s Academy blue shirt and knee highs, so she could have seen my burns peeking out.  But I knew that wasn’t it.  When you spend every day with someone for three intense months, you never forget and she didn’t.

Trying to find her today is a lot more art than science.  I called the hospital and they can’t give out any information on current or former employees due to privacy/confidentiality laws.  I don’t even know her last name.  She may not be alive.  I thought about taking out an ad in the local Green Bay newspaper but am not sure that would bear fruit — what would I say exactly?

My best shot right now is my high school friend Peggy who offered to help.  Her mom worked at St. Vincent’s for many years, though her memory isn’t what it used to be.  Peg’s going to ask her mom if she remembers the nurse named Maggie.

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Lessons on Beauty

When Shanna came to work at the office, she was the tan, cute, blond Southern belle or so we thought at the time. 

Southern Belle

 Like peeling layers of the onion skin, we get to know other people in slivers and slices.  Just the same way we get to know ourselves.  When I found out Shanna and I shared the same birthday, I got to know her better.  When Shanna offered to help out with my books, a little better still and so it went until we formed a bond of shared experiences and ways of thinking.  She was only in her late 20s when she came into the office one day to tell us she had a rare form of cancer.  Diagnosis.  Surgery.  Radiation.  Chemotherapy.  If you’ve ever been through it, you know it’s like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse or simply put, a call for personal transformation.  Shanna lost her hair, that beautiful blond hair that so complimented her tan, that made her feel cute.  “The old Shanna doesn’t exist anymore,” she said.  “I was spending time on upkeep for crap that didn’t matter.  There are gorgeous people out there who are ugly inside.  Inner beauty lasts and that’s what I look for in people these days.”  Shanna’s hair grew back and she left bookkeeping and is just a semester shy of becoming a nurse.  I have no doubt that she will be a great one. 

Years ago when I was in college, a medical student looked at my burned leg and said to me, “You know, you can have plastic surgery to make that look better.” I nodded but didn’t say anything.  Words weren’t needed.  I’d  already had a dozen plus plastic surgeries by then. There was some wry delight in knowing that if that medical student couldn’t make even that assessment after years of medical training, then he wasn’t going to have a very successful career. What you see on the outside often has nothing to do with what’s on the inside.