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We were stuck on A1 that cold, Connecticut night. The cable stopped working during second shift, leaving us with one working radio. It was a relic from the 70’s that somehow remained operational. Perhaps it was preserved by the staff of ’78.
Truth be told, I enjoyed my time on A1. My favorite patients were transferred directly across the hall from one another. Brother and sister – the Dynamic Dabrovski’s. After my last med pass, I’d head back down to the end of the hall to tuck them in. They held the same pose every night; wheelchairs carefully parked side by side, holding hands and whispering in a way only siblings can understand.
We already had three deaths that day, during the morning shift. According to nursing lore, we’d met our quota. Third shift during a blizzard was no time to be working in a nursing home. I could hear the CNA’s in the rec room, praying for an uneventful evening. I would too, if cleaning dead bodies was part of my job description.
I was on my thirteenth cup of coffee when the lights started. A chorus of groans arose from the rec room. The CNA’s were awake. “I’ll take 32A” I called over to them. “It’s Mr. Dabrovski”. I popped a chocolate Ensure and a plastic spoon from the fridge into my coat and started down the hall.
I found him slumped across the safety bars of his bed. His face was firmly planted between the upper corner of the bed and his one, precious pillow. At once I was shouting for help, flicking on more lights and checking for vitals. No pulse, no breath – just a tight grip on the call button that wouldn’t shut off.
Across the hall, the other half of my dynamic duo was shouting “Poczekaj, poczekaj! PROSZCE!”
“Don’t worry, Dabrovski! I’m coming!” I shouted back. Ten minutes passed before we gave up trying to resuscitate her brother. Another nurse informed me of her death back at our station, completely devoid of emotion, as if he were telling me we had run out of hand sanitizer.
“What was she saying … y’know … before she died?” he asked me.
“She was speaking Polish” was my heartbroken reply. “She said, "Wait, wait. Please”.