Cherry Ames 02 Senior Nurse (7 page)

Cherry started to laugh. She thought of Miss Sprague and her laughter died.

Cherry’s first case started out easily enough. Young Mrs. Reed was admitted to the hospital in the afternoon, just a few hours before Cherry was to go off duty.

Cherry stayed on, because of the possible “rush element.” Mrs. Reed’s baby might put in its appearance quite suddenly, and everybody would spring into instant action.

On the other hand, Mrs. Reed’s baby might dawdle.

Cherry wished the baby would come promptly.

Mrs. Reed was a humorous, pretty young woman.

She strolled in joking and brushing off her hovering mother and her distracted young husband. “Nurse, please tell them to stop fussing and mourning so,” she asked Cherry. “Producing future citizens is a perfectly healthy, normal process.”

“Suppose she has twins,” young Mr. Reed groaned.

“Nurse, I must tell you,” Mrs. Reed’s stout and bossy mother pushed forward importantly. “My daughter Diana has always been very nervous, and this is her first baby, you simply must not let her——”

“I’ll be outside your door all night,” young Mr. Reed said dolefully.

Cherry said reassuring things, got her patient into the little private room, and closed the door on the other two.

In her amusement, Cherry lost a little of her own nervousness.



“They mean so well,” young Mrs. Reed grinned at Cherry, “and they make such nuisances of themselves.

But they do scare me a little,” she admitted.

“Here, here, none of that,” Cherry replied. “Who’s scared?”

She helped Mrs. Reed into bed, gave her a warm relaxing sponge bath, and watched constantly for any signs of complications. Cherry knew all this in theory, but this was her first actual practice, and she wanted to give her patient the best of care. It heartened her to have Miss Sprague come in and check up and say that Cherry had done everything all right. “So far,” the head nurse added ominously.

Later the house doctor and one of the floor nurses came in, too, to check up and to give Cherry a rest period.

Baby Reed was still somewhere in the offing. Cherry gave Mrs. Reed her supper and several times cheered up Mr. Reed in the hall. The evening rather tensely wore on.

“They say first babies are usually awfully slow in coming,” young Mrs. Reed fretted. “My mother warned me—Oh, she’s probably full of old wives’ tales. Just the same, Miss Ames, I’m upset.”

Cherry talked to her and encouraged her.

“Don’t go away, Nurse.”

“I won’t.”

Much later, Mrs. Reed said, “Would you—would you see if my husband is still out there? And if he is, please

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send the poor man home.” Cherry admired her when she added with a laugh, “Poor Dick! He’s taking this much harder than I am. He’s the one to worry about, not me.”

Cherry barely had opened the door into the corridor when Mr. Reed sprang up from a bench. His face was pale and drawn. His tie had come unknotted and his hair was rumpled.

“How is she? How is she? Has the baby come? Isn’t there something I can
” Cherry felt sorry for him, but she had a hard time keeping a straight face. “Your wife is fine and the baby won’t be here for ages. Why don’t you——” But he would not go home. He clung to Cherry’s apron desperately, pleadingly. Cherry’s heart went out to him. He looked so much like a bewildered, frightened little boy. Suddenly Cherry had an inspiration.

“Something to do, that’s it. Make him feel he’s helping.”

“Why don’t you go to that lovely little florist shop on the corner—they stay open quite late—and surprise Mrs. Reed with her favorite flowers. She’d love them, wouldn’t she? And besides, she’d feel that she’s a lucky wife to have such a thoughtful husband.” Satisfied at last that he could do something, the young husband dashed off. Cherry, with a happy smile, closed the door on his retreating figure and went back


to waiting. She turned her patient in the bed to a more comfortable position, bathed her hands and face, and gave her a back massage, and then some light nourishment. It was a long wait. Still, everything seemed to be going all right, to Cherry’s relief. The night deepened.

Mrs. Reed talked, vaguely and emotionally at times, confiding to Cherry things she never would have told except under stress.

“What a lot a nurse learns about people,” Cherry thought, as she held the young woman’s hand there in the half-dark, “and what a lot of secrets she must keep!”

A long time later, Mrs. Reed’s voice came softly:

“Nurse. I’m glad you’re here with me.”

“I’m not really doing much for you,” Cherry replied honestly.

That’s everything.” Cherry thought of something she had learned early in her first year and had never forgotten: a nurse has to care for people’s minds and hearts, as well as their physical ills. Her worries, her fatigue dropped away.

She felt refreshed and rewarded. Let Miss Sprague flunk her if she wanted to! Miss Sprague could not take away this moment, or her patient’s gratitude, from her, ever.

Presently Cherry realized it was time to call the supervisor—or was it time? She sprang to her feet,

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jerked on the lights and excitedly tried to decide whether this was the moment to notify Miss Sprague to summon the obstetrician. She dare not delay. Yet in her inexperience she must not take the obstetrician away from other urgent cases any sooner than he was needed here. Cherry tried desperately to remember the textbook page which danced mockingly before her eyes.

Oh, why hadn’t she studied this until it was second nature? Better not take any chances! She rang for the first-year nurse and sent the girl to notify the head nurse. Meanwhile, with the aid of an orderly, Cherry hastily got Mrs. Reed onto a stretcher. They hurried into the small shining white room and, even in her excitement, Cherry stopped short in surprise.

The obstetrician, Dr. Walker, that immaculate figure in white, was a woman.

Somehow it seemed to Cherry an appropriate and sympathetic arrangement. Cherry scrubbed up as fast as she could, feeling pleased. She was pleased when Dr. Walker held out slim capable hands for Cherry to slip on sterile rubber gloves, and bent an attractive sleek head for Cherry to tie on the gauze cap and face mask.

From then on, Dr. Walker was very businesslike and very busy. Cherry was alert and quick to anticipate the doctor’s every move. She wondered anxiously whether Dr. Walker was satisfied with the way she assisted. But she was too thrilled to think of anything but the baby.



The sun and the baby arrived at the same moment.

He was brick red, wrinkled and wiry—he looked like nothing human. Dr. Walker was laughing and holding him high by his heels.

“You have a fine boy!” she told Mrs. Reed. And she spanked him hard to start him breathing. Cherry winced when the doctor walloped him, but she knew it was necessary. The baby let out a yell.

Mrs. Reed woke for a moment. “Is it—you said it’s a boy?” she whispered.

“Yes, a boy,” Cherry told her. “You have a son.” Dr. Walker held the squirming baby up for Mrs. Reed to see. The young woman’s eyes were fastened wonderingly on him. And the expression on her face moved Cherry very much. “My baby,” she breathed.

“Tell Dick,” she murmured to Cherry and was asleep.

“He’s a nice baby,” the obstetrician said with satisfaction, handing the baby to Cherry.

“Yes, he’s a nice baby,” Cherry thought happily as she wrapped him in a warm blanket and weighed him. “And my patient’s all right and I got through my first taste of this without mishap. Thank heavens!” She began to feel tired, now that the night’s excitement which had buoyed her up was over.

But Cherry was not quite finished. At the doctor’s crisp direction, Cherry treated the baby’s eyes with one per cent silver nitrate, to prevent infection which might

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lead to blindness. Then she sealed his bead name bracelet on his tiny wrist. Finally she put him, on his right side, in a special, warmed bed. A nursery nurse came for the baby. Cherry wished Dr. Walker would give her a word of approbation, even make a comment of any kind. But the obstetrician was already dashing out of the door.

Out in the corridor, Cherry told two orderlies to which room to take Mrs. Reed, and started to think of a warm drink, and her nice soft bed. Suddenly, out of nowhere, young Mr. Reed sprang at her again. This time his hair was standing straight on end, the buttons on his coat were dangling by their threads, and he was hanging on for dear life to a big basket of flowers. He made such a comical figure that Cherry’s fatigue and misgivings evaporated in an overwhelming desire to laugh.

“Nurse! Is she all right?”

“Oh, you poor man!” Cherry thought, choking back her laughter. She said as convincingly as she could,

“Your wife is fine, just fine.”

“I mean Mrs. Reed! The little one with the dark hair!


Cherry nodded. “Mrs. Reed, the little one with the dark hair, is just fine. You can see her soon.” The disheveled young man sank down onto a bench in the hall. “Whew!”



“Incidentally,” Cherry reminded him, and her dark eyes danced, “you have a son.” She felt a little proud, as if she were partly responsible for Baby Reed.

“A—a what?”

“A son.”

“Oh, is that so?” he responded politely. It had not registered.

“A son. A boy,” Cherry tried again.

He looked completely dazed. Cherry brought him some coffee, and started to go off duty at long last. But Mr. Reed darted after her and thrust the great basket of flowers at Cherry.

“You were wonderful to my wife. She would want you to have these flowers,” he babbled. “We want to show our appreciation!”

At precisely that moment Miss Sprague passed by.

She sized up the situation with cold eyes that told nothing. Cherry could just imagine the head nurse snorting, “It’s a pity you aren’t as good as those flustered patients think you are!”

Mr. Reed was urging the flowers on her. “You
like flowers! Didn’t I hear you say so?” he asked in full earshot of Miss Sprague. “I know we owe you a lot,” he gulped.

Cherry trembled in embarrassment and exasperation.

Mr. Reed meant well, but he was downright dangerous.

“You don’t owe me anything. I only did my job,” Cherry said loudly and prayed that Miss Sprague had heard.


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“I can’t accept anything, though it’s very kind of you.” She fled.

It was not easy, after that incident, to go directly into the head nurse’s office to report off duty.

“Well!” The dour head nurse’s eyes traveled over Cherry’s tired face and figure. “Straighten up, Miss Ames. You needn’t sag as though you’d been through anything difficult last night. The case you had was perfectly simple. Luckily for you.”

“Yes, Miss Sprague,” Cherry murmured. She was too weary to protest, and she could not afford to antagonize her head nurse, anyway.

Miss Sprague bent stiffly forward. “Did I hear that man say you had hinted for a gift?”

“But what he said wasn’t——”

“Miss Ames, I will not tolerate my nurses ‘working’

the patients for gifts or tips! It is downright dishonest!

A nurse’s first concern is her patient, not herself!”

“But I didn’t—” Cherry gasped out in dismay.

“That will do, Miss Ames. I heard what he said! You will give your patients decent care without expecting any gratuities. Do you understand me?” Cherry sighed. “Yes, Miss Sprague.” She understood. She understood only too well that the head nurse had gotten a false and vicious idea about her into her stubborn head. Cherry signed out and walked away wretchedly.



Cherry worked on Delivery Room for a month without ever having any further inkling of what the head nurse thought of her or of her work. Gwen, too, on the rare occasions and crazy hours when Cherry saw her, was equally puzzled and anxious. Dr. Walker dropped a kind word occasionally, but doctors did not report on student nurses. Cases came and cases went. With the new mothers came frantic husbands and assorted rela-tives. Cherry learned a great deal about people, as well as about nursing, in that month. But she never learned what the terrible Miss Sprague thought of her total performance.

Only one thing was clear. Since that little flower scene with Mr. Reed, the head nurse seemed to dislike Cherry.

“It’s discouraging,” she murmured to Gwen in the supply closet, the day before Thanksgiving. “I’m in wrong with Miss Sprague, anyhow, so no matter what else I do now, good or bad, it can’t make any difference.

And I’m just about ready to burst.” That was why, when Midge stuck her merry face in the door of an empty private room that afternoon, Cherry broke loose.

“Midge!” Cherry felt a rush of warmth at seeing someone she really cared about on this friendless ward. She dropped the linens of the bed she was remaking and hugged Midge. “Of all the gorgeous surprises! How come?”


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“Thanksgiving week end, high school’s closed!” Midge hugged her back.

“Look at the girl!” Cherry declared. “She’s going to be a beauty!”

Midge stood up proudly for Cherry’s inspection.

She was a healthy, glowing girl, quick and light in her movements. Her face, with its shining eyes, tilted nose, and wide shapely mouth, seemed always to be laughing.

Her thick light-brown hair cascaded over the shoulders of her boyish gray woolen coat.

“Let’s see what color your eyes are today,” Cherry laughed and swung Midge toward the window.

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