Inspirational Stories

Parables, Poems, and People

Sometimes there's Time!

The hospital was unusually quiet that bleak January evening, quiet and still like the air before a storm. I stood in the nurses' station on the seventh floor and glanced at the clock. It was 9 o'clock. I threw a stethoscope around my neck and headed for room 712, last room on the hall. Room 712 had a new patient. Mr. Williams. A man all alone. A man strangely silent about his family.

As I entered the room, Mr. Williams looked up eagerly, but dropped his eyes when he saw it was only me, his nurse. I pressed the stethoscope over his chest and listened. Strong, slow, even beating. Just what I wanted to hear. There seemed little indication he had suffered a slight heart attack a few hours earlier. He looked up from his starched white bed. "Nurse, would you..."  He hesitated, tears filled his eyes. Once before he had started to ask me a question, but had changed his mind. I touched his hand. He brushed away a tear. "Would you call my daughter? Tell her I've had a heart attack. A slight one. You see, I live alone and she is the only family I have."  His respiration suddenly speeded up. I turned on his nasal oxygen up to eight liters a minute.

"Of course I'll call her,"  I said, studying his face. He gripped the sheets and pulled himself forward, his face tense with urgency. "Will you call her right away -- as soon as you can?"  He was breathing fast -- too fast. "I'll call her the very first thing,"  I said, patting his shoulder. I flipped off the light. He closed his eyes, such young blue eyes in his 50-year-old face. Room 712 was dark except for a faint night light under the sink. Oxygen gurgled in the green tubes above his bed. Reluctant to leave, I moved through the shadowy silence to the window. The panes were cold. Below a foggy mist curled through the hospital parking lot. "Nurse,"  he called, "could you get me a pencil and paper?"  I dug a scrap of yellow paper and a pen from my pocket and set it on the bedside table.

 I walked back to the nurses' station and sat in a squeaky swivel chair by the phone. Mr. Williams' daughter was listed on his chart as the next of kin. I got her number from information and dialed. Her soft voice answered. "Janie, this is Sue Kidd, a registered nurse at the hospital. I'm calling about your father. He was admitted tonight with a slight heart attack and..."

"No!"  she screamed into the phone, startling me. "He's not dying is he?"

"His condition is stable at the moment,"  I said, trying hard to sound convincing. Silence. I bit my lip.

"You must not let him die!"  she said. Her voice was so utterly compelling that my hand trembled on the phone.

"He's getting the very best care."

"But you don't understand,"  she pleaded. "My daddy and I haven't spoken in almost a year. We had a terrible argument on my 21st birthday, over my boyfriend. I ran out of the house. I haven't been back. All these months I've wanted to go to him for forgiveness. The last thing I said to him was, 'I hate you.'"  Her voice cracked and I heard her heave great agonizing sobs.

I sat, listening, tears burning my eyes. A father and a daughter, so lost to each other. Then I was thinking of my own father, many miles away. It has been so long since I had said, "I love you."  As Janie struggled to control her tears, I breathed a prayer. "Please God, let this daughter find forgiveness."

"I'm coming. Now! I'll be there in 30 minutes,"  she said. Click.

She had hung up. I tried to busy myself with a stack of charts on the desk. I couldn't concentrate. Room 712; I knew I had to get back to 712. I hurried down the hall nearly in a run. I opened the door. Mr. Williams lay unmoving. I reached for his pulse. There was none. "Code 99, Room 712. Code 99. Stat."  The alert was shooting through the hospital within seconds after I called the switchboard through the intercom by the bed. Mr. Williams had had a cardiac arrest. With lightning speed I leveled the bed and bent over his mouth, breathing air into his lungs. I positioned my hands over his chest and compressed. One, two, three. I tried to count. At fifteen I moved back to his mouth and breathed as deeply as I could. Where was help? Again I compressed and breathed. Compressed and breathed. He could not die! "O God,"  I prayed. "His daughter is coming. Don't let it end this way."

The door burst open. Doctors and nurses poured into the room pushing emergency equipment. A doctor took over the manual compression of the heart. A tube was inserted through his mouth as an airway. Nurses plunged syringes of medicine into the intravenous tubing. I connected the heart monitor. Nothing. Not a beat. My own heart pounded. "God, don't let it end like this. Not in bitterness and hatred. His daughter is coming. Let her find peace."

"Stand back,"  cried a doctor. I handed him the paddles for the electrical shock to the heart. He placed them on Mr. Williams' chest. Over and over we tried. But nothing. No response. Mr. Williams was dead. A nurse unplugged the oxygen. The gurgling stopped. One by one they left, grim and silent. How could this happen? How? I stood by his bed, stunned. A cold wind rattled the window, pelting the panes with snow. Outside -- everywhere -- it seemed a bed of blackness, cold and dark. How could I face his daughter?