Posted by: silverstar98121 | May 7, 2008

Nurse’s Day, 2008

Well, I had promised a turdy story for Nurse’s Day, but I am going to reneg. Daisy Fae’s post reminded me of this story, which I wrote some time ago. It is a true story, and I thought it would be good for Nurse’s Day.

I spent a lot of my life fearing people, and isolating myself from them. How I ever came to be a nurse is a mystery to me. I survived many years in nursing by being task-oriented and intellectual. But at some point in my emotional healing I decided I had to learn to love myself and other people. I decided to try to love the most unlovable person in my sphere. Miss Sally was my victim.
Miss Sally was a long-time resident of the nursing home where I worked, and definitely qualified as unlovable. She was misshapen by injuries to her left side that left her with an arm she couldn’t straighten, and a leg that was shorter than the other. Her face was every child’s vision of a witch, with a hooked nose, complete with wart, and piercing, beady blue eyes. Her hair was long and stringy, and often covered her face.
If her appearance wasn’t enough to scare you off, her demeanor was. She was a chronic schizophrenic who screeched when she was approached, and hit, kicked, spit and scratched when you attempted to care for her. She greeted everyone with “You will die and remain dead forever”, yelled over and over at the top of her lungs. Anti-psychotic drugs seem to work well for a lot of schizophrenics, they didn’t seem to touch Miss Sally. When you could get her to take them. The nursing assistants were frightened of her, and were rough with her because she was combative. And I wanted to love this woman.
I started out by saying “good morning” to her, and addressing her courteously as “Miss Sally”. I’d ask how she was, and compliment her if she had on a nice dress, or in one of her rare good mood, had let the
aides fix her hair attractively. At first I did this over her screeching, but eventually she began to listen to what I was saying, and answer quietly and appropriately. When the aides saw that she didn’t always screech at me, they too began to address her as Miss Sally, and speak to her courteously. We stopped walking her, and put her in a wheelchair, when we realized some of her combativeness came from the pain she had from walking with one leg shorter than the other, and she calmed down even more. Her good days became more frequent, and we began to have actual conversations. I told her I loved her, she was one of my favorite people, and like most of us who have been abused, she mistrusted it at first. I began to be able to touch her, and then to hug her. She began asking the nursing assistants for hugs and kisses when they put her to bed. She no longer asks if she will be “safe and secure for all time” very often. I haven’t heard her say “die and remain dead forever” for a long time. We haven’t changed her meds or increased the dose, just added high doses of tender, loving care.
By loving Miss Sally, I began to see that I was lovable too. My attitude toward people was different, and I began to focus more on healing and less on tasks. My life has been greatly enriched. If you want to heal your life and relationships, go find Miss Sally to love.


  1. we had a “Miss Sally” at the gimcrack too. she fitted your description exactly, except for the wart, but she only had ONE yellow tooth and refused to wear dentures.

    at one stage she was so floridly psychotic that the Public Guardian passed an order for her to be physically restrained so we could inject some meds.

    towards the end of her life she became much calmer and she used to let the staff tie her hair up in high braids or little pigtail bunches – she looked so cute, kind of like a crazy little gargoyle.

    she’d had an amazing life and could speak 5 languages though she mostly used her linguistic skills to malign our mothers 🙂

  2. I really think a lot of our Miss Sally’s problem was pain. I know from personal experience that pain can make you grumpy. It was rumored that Miss Sally had been institutionalized for much of her life, and had suffered her injuries at the hands of the staff in the institution.You can hardly blame her for being distrustful.

    Nurse Myra, I sometimes wished we had Public Guardians who could order meds to be injected. I am afraid our laws go in the opposite direction, and it is damned hard to get anything to protect the patient or staff. I could tell you stories.

  3. lovely story – your patience to the task is admirable… and the payoff? gold!

  4. You’re absolutely loveable and how your treated Aunt Sally proves so. Treating the inhuman–caused by either sickness or choice–in a humane way is true compassion.

  5. That was a perfect story for nursing day. I almost never have problems with people and I think its because my mother taught me to look at people as they would like to be seen–as the best they are. People respond to this with such relaxing of defenses–as you showed.

  6. Some of my favorite students were kids that no one else could stand enough to try and teach them. Attitude changes in most people usually start when attitudes towards them change

  7. […] They don’t stick in your mind, however. Unless they didn’t start out that way, like Miss Sally. Then you […]

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