I have a great story about my mother.
Now, most of you know, I am full of stories and love to share them, and you also might know I didn’t get it from nothing. My mother is also full of stories. And if you ever met my mother, you would not be surprised at this one!
Right after high school, my mother went to nursing school at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This was from about 1959 to 1961 or so, by the time she was nineteen or twenty, she was an RN, and worked in the hospital.
Now, nursing school was rigorous, as it is today, but nurses were expected to know certain protocol and procedures that don’t apply today (such as the technique of assembling a syringe with one hand). They were also expected to adhere to an especially strict standard of dress and decorum, both in and out of the hospital. Everything had to get past the head nurse.
At some point in her nursing career, my mother found herself working the “men’s ward”. Hospital wards weren’t like they are today, with double rooms and private bathrooms and your own TV. They were long open wards with beds along the walls, and the nurses counter/console in the center. I think the nurses station was at the far end. They were called “Florence Nightingale Wards”. The nurses wore classic nurse outfit, complete with nurses hat and white dress.
This setup didn’t give very much privacy to the patients, but it also made the ward a very social place, assuming the patients were in a condition to converse. And patients weren’t discharged until they were ready, so…..
So. 1962 or so. My mother at age nineteen or twenty. Taking care of an open ward full of men. These were old-school men, some of them old enough to be my mother’s father. Or even her grandfather. Their behavior was gracious and gentlemanly. They were grateful for the care they received, were affable and unfailingly polite.
Most of them were. Until they wheeled this one old geezer in. This guy got off on the wrong foot right away with his leering and thinly veiled sexual innuendo. He further proceeded to piss my mother off by smoking in the ward without permission and blaming it on her when the head nurse took away his cigarettes (because you could smoke in the ward, but only at certain hours. 1962 and all that). He attempted to bribe himself into preferential care and favors by trying to slip her cash. And when a procedure required the bearing of a little skin, he would strip down to his birthday suit, leering and making innuendo the whole time. The other men in the ward were aware of his behavior and took a dim view of it, too.
But this old bastard knew not with whom he was messing: My mother. And there came a point where my mother had had enough. After putting up with this guy’s blatant harassment for a few days, she was sick of it. And the time had come. You do not mess with my mother and expect to come out of it unscathed.
Every day, at some point this guy needed an injection. Just a little shot of whatever. The nurses had access to whatever grade of syringe was correct for the task at hand: everything from tiny syringes for administering medication (which is what this guy needed) to huge eighteen inch syringes for drawing out spinal fluid under general anesthetic.
In the nurses station my mother prepared his injection. She assembled the small syringe with his correct dose of medication. But on the tray, she put one of the eighteen-inch spinal tap syringes. She then brought the tray, covered with a sterile cloth to his bed.
“Good morning, I have a wee injection for you, dear. Will you roll over and lift your gown, please?”
She then made sure the tray was in his line of sight, uncovered it, and made sure he got a good look at the (empty) spinal tap syringe. And when my mother took the correct size syringe (which she had kept hidden), and jabbed it into his buttock, he let out a scream.
All the other guys, many of whom had fought in World War II (or maybe even World War I) were disgusted.
“What’s that big noise for? Sure, it’s only a wee injection!”
He never messed with my nineteen-year old mother again.
My mother has white hair now. She knits, does Irish set dancing and tells stories. She is a grandmother of five. And I wish you could hear her tell this one, because you could still hear the relish in her voice as she tells it complete with the “voices” and the accompanying theatrics. I laughed for days after she told me this one. I really can’t do it justice.
But my mother is not to be messed with. I figured that out pretty much the day I was born!