N is for Nancy
Nancy Polenski was on duty at the nurse’s station. So far it had been a quiet night, and she was glad. For eight straight nights she’d worked the eleven-to-seven shift, and she was weary of it. Although there was less work to do—no bathing, few medications, and only an occasional doctor passing through—the boredom made the hours seem twice as long. Tonight she’d come prepared. Nancy was on page 76 of Peyton Place when she heard Paul’s monitor start beeping fast and loud.
“Holy Toledo!” she gasped and went running into his room. Paul’s eyes were wild with fear, blinking, blinking, blinking. His head swiveled right, left, right. Beads of perspiration rose up and rolled from his forehead onto his cheeks. He blinked again and again; each time the blinking seemed more frantic.
Nancy took his hand and tried to calm him. “It’s okay,” she said, sounding like the mother of a frightened child. “It’s okay. You’re in the hospital. There was an accident. But you’re going to be fine.” She switched on the room light. “See, nothing here to hurt you.” Nancy put her fingers to his forehead and soothed his brow.
Paul grappled for the tube in his throat.
“No, no,” Nancy said. “You’ve got to leave that in. It’s a tracheostomy tube. It’s there to help you breathe.”
Paul’s arm fell back onto the bed as he looked up with a thousand questions in his eyes. His lips mouthed a single word. “Why?”
“Why” wasn’t a question Nancy could answer. There was never an explanation of why—why one man lived, another died. Only God knew why.
“Doctor Brewster is on duty tonight. He’ll be here in a few minutes,” she said. Her voice was soft and even. Paul heard the sound of his mother speaking. Everything will be all right, she was saying. Everything will be all right.