Cherry Ames 02 Senior Nurse (2 page)

At the threshold Cherry caught her breath and stopped to smile. This ward was certainly different from the usual long, plain, white room! She had seen Children’s Ward before, but she had forgotten how gay it was. It was a square room, with a great many sunny windows barred at the bottom, and its walls were tinted a cheerful pale yellow, with Mother Goose figures chasing one another merrily around the room. All the furniture was small-scale, including the white iron beds, cribs, and the two tables and the chairs at one end of the ward. The tables were set, now, with tiny pink and blue dishes and silver-ware and—obviously the pride of the children—tiny milk pitchers which they could pour themselves.

Cherry loved it.

She went over to the head nurse’s desk to introduce herself and to report on duty. The gray-haired head nurse, Mrs. Crofts, looked up pleasantly. “I’m glad to have you on my ward, Miss Ames,” she said. “I hope you
S E N I O R Y E A R

7

will enjoy working with children. They offer some special problems.”

“I like children,” Cherry said hopefully but uncertainly.

“I’d like to learn about nursing them.”

“Good,” Mrs. Crofts said. “This is Miss George, the nurse on our ward.” Cherry found a plump, comfortable, middle-aged woman smiling at her. “And this is the other student nurse, Miss Evans,” the head nurse said as Ann came down the row of beds.

Cherry looked affectionately at Ann. She was a calm young woman with brown hair and steady dark blue eyes. Her quiet voice had Cherry’s own Middle West twang as she said with a straight face, “How do you do, Miss Ames.”

Cherry grinned. “Miss Evans and I have already met.” Miss George showed Cherry and Ann where the ward’s serving kitchen, laboratory or utility room, and linen closet were located. Ann’s whisper put Cherry’s mind back on her work:

“Miss George and Mrs. Crofts and Lucy too—

they’re all so easy-going and gentle and affectionate and—and reassuring. A child would feel
safe
and loved with them.”

Cherry nodded. She wondered if she herself had enough of those qualities and whether she could learn, in time, to handle a whole roomful of sick and emotionally
8

C H E R R Y A M E S , S E N I O R N U R S E

upset children. She was to find out immediately, for the head nurse leading her down the row of small beds told her:

“These six little boys and girls are to be your patients.” Mrs. Crofts described their ailments briefly, at the same time showing Cherry the charts which hung at each child’s bedside: a cardiac case, a gastric disorder, rheumatic fever, for this was a Medical Ward. There were no contagious diseases here, no surgical cases convalescing from operations, no broken bones or paralysis cases. Cherry knew that these would be, respectively, on Contagious, Surgical, and Orthopedic Wards. She smiled at the six solemn children who were to be her charges for the coming week. Her smile was a bit anxious.

Ann, on the other side of the ward, was going through the same procedure with Miss George. Cherry met Ann in the kitchen a few minutes later, where they prepared breakfast trays with food from Lucy’s wagon. The usual dumbwaiter was missing here. Cherry noted that the rabbit had disappeared from the wagon, but she was too busy with the trays to wonder where it was now. Ann’s voice said aloud exactly what Cherry was thinking:

“Our first senior assignment isn’t going to be easy.”

“Annie, I’m scared,” Cherry said. “I wish I already had a graduate’s black velvet ribbon on my cap to
prove
I’ve got all it takes to be a nurse.”
S E N I O R Y E A R

9

Ann slid another tray over to her. “Cheer up, my little worrier. I’m scared too. But we’ve struggled through this far, maybe we’ll wiggle through senior year too.”

“It’s going to get tougher and tougher,” Cherry groaned. “I just know something terrible is going to happen to me.”

“Have a cracker,” Ann consoled her practically. “At least with your mouth full you can’t say such doleful things.”

Cherry mumbled with her mouth crammed with cracker, “Nurses are forbidden to eat on the ward, Evans. Anyhow, if I just work hard in our Pediatrics lectures—” she swallowed the cracker and caught the tray Ann slid down “—I’ll survive children and babies.

Or should I say they’ll survive me?” Ann picked up two trays, small size, and shook her head at Cherry from the kitchen doorway. “Well, if and when anything terrible happens to you, let me know.

I always like to be in on the fun.” Cherry hurled a towel at her, missed, picked up her own trays and started out, not too blithely, to the ward.

For a while her small patients were mercifully busy with their breakfasts. There was some spilling of cereal, and one glass of orange juice was overturned, but otherwise they fended for themselves quite well. Then
10

C H E R R Y A M E S , S E N I O R N U R S E

Cherry took a deep breath and started down her row of beds, to give the small fry their morning baths and to take morning temperature, pulse, and respiration. The night nurse had taken an earlier T.P.R. and had washed faces before breakfast.

“Can I have dinner at the little table?” said six-year-old Jimmy, as he wriggled under the wash cloth which Cherry firmly applied despite his squirming.

“Can I, huh?”

“We-ell, hurry up and get well faster,” Cherry said, consulting his chart. “Then Dr. Hill will say you can get out of bed.”

“I’m hurrying all I can,” Jimmy protested. He tugged at her bib. “Ah, please, Miss Ames.”

“You aren’t hurrying, either. You didn’t eat your prunes just now, and you made an awful fuss about swallowing your medicine.”

Jimmy dropped his eyes and wrapped one small fist in the sheet. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll eat ’em.” He grinned at her suddenly, and Cherry blew out a big sigh of relief. She had said and done the right things—so far.

At the next bed Cherry had to lean far over the crib bars and struggle with her small and lively patient.

Carlotta, aged four, the child of gypsy parents, was not used to conventional clothes and did not approve of them. She had blithely discarded her nightgown and garbed herself in her blanket.

S E N I O R Y E A R

11

“Cigarette,” she welcomed the thermometer and held it in her mouth at a tipsy angle. Then, when Cherry took it away, “No washing. Candy!” she demanded.

“Washing, then a surprise,” Cherry dodged. “Hold still, you little scamp!” For Carlotta was entertaining herself by yanking her own black curls, blacker even than Cherry’s. “And on goes the nightgown—” Carlotta opened her mouth wide to protest. Cherry dived into her apron pocket and hastily held out two bright-colored hair bows, stowed there for emergency.

“Choose!”

Carlotta chose the red one, and Cherry tied it in her hair. That over, Carlotta again opened her mouth. One howl might set the whole ward to howling. Cherry said desperately, “Want to play with this?” and thrust the green hair bow, too, into the small hands. Carlotta settled down, a small rakish figure of pride and satisfaction.

Mary Ruth, in the next bed, obediently submitted to Cherry’s quick ministrations without a word.

“She’s too quiet,” Cherry thought, placing her fingers on the tiny wrist, and watching the little girl’s breathing. That’s not obedience, that’s listlessness.” She wrote down the heightened temperature and pulse on the chart, and signaled the head nurse with her eyes.

“I feel bad,” Mary Ruth whispered in a frightened voice. “I want my mother, Miss Ames.” She nestled her
12

C H E R R Y A M E S , S E N I O R N U R S E

hot head against Cherry’s shoulder. Cherry quickly put her arm about the child, realizing that children need affection as much as they need food and care to get well.

“I’ll try to have your mother come, Mary Ruth, but I can’t promise.” She knew she must be scrupulously honest with children, to keep their trust. “In the mean-time, there’s a teddy bear over in the toy closet who looks lonesome. He spoke to me this morning about finding him a playmate.”

Mary Ruth’s round eyes slowly changed expression.

“Ho, he didn’t say that! A teddy bear can’t talk! But can I play with him?”

“I’ll send him over the moment I finish taking his temperature,” Cherry agreed. Mary Ruth lay back on the pillow contentedly.

Three more small patients—five-year-old Thomas, who insisted that Cherry call him Thomas, not Tom; six-year-old Burton, who would be into mischief the moment he was convalescing, Cherry suspected; and Amy, calm-mannered and roly-poly, who at seven already had a matronly air. Cherry got her small regiment bathed and checked up without mishap.

Cherry stopped for breath and gingerly congratulated herself. She was looking about to see how Ann had fared, when the head nurse called her over.

“Yes, Mrs. Crofts?”

S E N I O R Y E A R

13

Her day’s orders came now. But first the head nurse said, “That was very nicely done, Miss Ames. You’re a competent nurse and you seem to have a special knack with children.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Crofts,” Cherry said quietly. But inside she glowed with pleasure.

“Now, then. You’re getting another little boy this morning. We’ll put him on isolation for several days.

Then if it is all right, we’ll bring him in with the other children, so he won’t be too lonesome.” Cherry nodded and hurried to air and dust one of the small private rooms, and make up the miniature bed with fresh linens.

She had a difficult half-hour when the new little boy was admitted. He was frightened of the new surround-ings, terrified of being sick, and heartbroken when he saw his mother leave. He wept. Cherry finally soothed him with a battered old tin train brought from home, which he apparently cherished. She made him completely happy by
not
insisting that he eat the special diet she brought in—with the result that, when she returned half an hour later, he had eaten every mouthful.

“Senior, you got over that hurdle too,” Cherry marveled to herself. She stole one more moment to notice that neither Lucy nor the rabbit was in sight. She suspected that Lucy was shifting the rabbit around a good deal.

14

C H E R R Y A M E S , S E N I O R N U R S E

Then Cherry rushed—rushed through the dozens of chores there are to do on a ward: treatments, reports, and errands, then noon dinner for her patients and a mad dash for her own dinner, then afternoon care and back rubbing. The day flew along. Suddenly to her surprise it was mid-afternoon, time for the resident doctor’s visit. And here was Dr. Hill, a pleasant-looking man, walking into the ward.

But it was the young doctor bursting in with Dr. Hill who seized Cherry’s attention. He came hurtling around the corner and all but knocked her down.

“Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” he demanded as he collected the soiled towels she had been carrying.

Cherry’s eyes and cheeks blazed. “Watch out yourself!”

“Pretty quick-tempered, aren’t you?” He had a striking face, beak-nosed and jaggedly hewn, full of character and humor. His eyes, under decided black brows, were golden brown. His hair was much lighter, almost sandy color, and unmanageably straight. His jaw was uncom-promisingly square.

Cherry counted to ten under her breath lest Mrs. Crofts and Dr. Hill, examining charts at the desk, overhear her. Then she looked straight back at him. He was not a great deal taller than she was, but he was as solid and strong as an oak tree. “I think you have the
S E N I O R Y E A R

15

quick temper in question,” she said and righted her nurse’s cap.

“I’m sorry,” the young man said, not sounding overly contrite. “At least I can carry your towels to the laundry chute for you.”

Before she could say anything, he took them out of her hands. He strode off as if he had conquered the earth and now owned it, leaving Cherry to hurry after him down the aisle of beds. That bold male walk of his infuriated Cherry. He had the darnedest air of being someone special, she thought.

Cherry opened her mouth to demand her towels back. But he dumped them down the chute, grinned at her, and disappeared after Dr. Hill and the head nurse into the new little boy’s room. The door closed.

Cherry promptly returned to the ward and busied herself remaking an empty bed. It was too bad Ann had gone to the apothecary to get a prescription filled—Cherry needed to explode to somebody.

A few minutes later the young visiting doctor came surging in.

Nurse!” he called. “Dr. Hill would like a dressing cart!”

Cherry thought in exasperation. “Just as if he had never seen me before.” Aloud she said, as cool and impersonal as he, “I’ll get it immediately, Doctor.”

“He’s in a hurry, Nurse!”

16

C H E R R Y A M E S , S E N I O R N U R S E

Cherry whirled. “I said
immediately,
Doctor!” She marched off. There were no dressings to change on Medical Ward; she would have to borrow a dressing cart from the general supply closet which Surgical also used.

Cherry wondered why Dr. Hill wanted it. The new little boy was on Medical to be built up for an operation. But Dr. Hill must have found on the child a cut or scratch which needed sterile cleansing and medication and bandaging.

“Can’t you hurry, Nurse?” The young doctor was right behind her. Cherry bit her tongue to keep from replying.

She sharply turned the corner; he came right on her heels. He looked at the wheeled cart, with its solutions, gauze, sterile forceps, and big basins for soiled dressings, and sniffed. “It doesn’t look very well kept!”

“It’s in apple-pie order and you know it!” Cherry burst out indignantly.

He leaned against the wall and a smile spread over his forceful intelligent face. “That’s better,” he grinned at her.

“At least you’re paying some attention to me. It seems I have to get you furious to make you even look at me.” Cherry could not help smiling. He was maddening, this extraordinary, thoroughly masculine, young doctor, and she liked him.

Other books

Nella Larsen by Passing
Costa 08 - City of Fear by Hewson, David
Ephemeral (The Countenance) by Moore, Addison
Protector by Cyndi Goodgame
Blood on the Line by Edward Marston
Akhenaten by Naguib Mahfouz
Scholar's Plot by Hilari Bell