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Front Porch: Miss Chicken aids speedy recovery

Thu., March 7, 2013, midnight

This is about good nurses and poultry.

Let me explain. I had surgery recently and was hospitalized for a few days. I found in this most recent experience, and in any hospital adventure I’ve ever had, that a timely and healthy recovery is largely about the nursing staff.

Sure, we need the surgeons to fix what’s wrong, but it’s the nurses who get us on our feet again, who do the laying on of hands – and who make all the difference. I found this time, not unexpectedly, that I was cared for by a wonderful group of nurses, mostly women (but not all), who did that thing that they do so well to help heal body and mind.

I’m one of those people who hates narcotic pain medication and tries to get off it as quickly as possible, sometimes to my own pain-management detriment. In the wee hours of the morning just two nights after surgery – as I was off IV-meds and taking low-dose pain meds orally – I was having a particularly uncomfortable time. I was moving around in bed so much that I kept popping the sheets off the corners of the mattress only to find myself on lumpy bedding. I’d get up and try to fix the sheets, doing a rather lousy job of it, when one time a nurse walked in and assessed the situation.

I’d be delighted to share her name here but I still had enough narcotic in me at the time that the names of the nurses who cared for me – and I do remember the names – swirl in my head and I can’t recall which name goes with which face. Plus there’s that post-anesthesia memory loss thing at work here. I don’t do drugs well.

Anyhow, my angel nurse got me up, fixed the sheets, got additional sheets that she tucked in crosswise and anchored everything down tightly – all the while talking to me very soothingly, about her long career, how much she enjoys caring for patients and a variety of things that distracted me from my pain. Then she helped prop me up on my side and wrapped a fresh-from-the-warmer blanket around my abdomen to lessen my discomfort. I was perfectly swaddled and at ease.

As she was preparing to leave the room, she said, “Do you mind if I ask you something rather peculiar?” At that point, I would have granted her anything. “Sure,” I said.

“Are you Miss Chicken’s mother?”

I laughed out loud. That didn’t do my very fresh incision any good (actually it hurt a lot), but it made my spirits soar. We then chatted briefly about Miss Chicken, and I was warmed to find that she has a fan on 5-South at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

For those who don’t know, Miss Chicken is the feral young chicken who appeared at our house one cold December day a few years ago, who hung around in her own free-range way for a year and who we later trapped and relocated to a wonderful home in Spokane Valley. I’ve been writing about her exploits (she’s quite a character) a couple of times a year ever since, and I promise an update soon.

I run into people I haven’t seen for some time, who don’t greet me with “Hello, how are you?” but rather inquire right off the top, “So how’s Miss Chicken?” Someone wrote me a critical email about some topic I’d written about and put in the P.S. at the bottom a query about our feathered friend. Who knew chickens held such magic?

So when I was asked that snowy night about Miss Chicken, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was – not at the asking, but at what therapy it was for me. All along, I’d been hearing from people how reading about Miss Chicken brought them a smile or perhaps a happy remembrance from childhood. But at 3 a.m. on my own painful night, she was just what the doctor – no, make that the nurse – ordered.

I marvel at the work that nurses do, at what they have to handle, what with cranky or difficult or just pain-driven behavior in patients. I’m not sure they’re thanked or paid enough. And they do it day after day, night after night. Not only are they medical professionals, it has been my experience that they are kind and good people who know just what to do and just what to say to be sure that your spirit heals right along with your body.

And it doesn’t hurt if they like chickens, too.

Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at upwindsailor@comcast. net.

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