To the nurse with no name… | Rebecca Jane column

This column follows me through some major life events, and this week is no exception.

By Rebecca Jane
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 3:45 pm

My grandmother, Peggy, at the grand age of 92 has passed. Her death was traumatic, unexpected and heartbreaking.

When this column publishes, it will be exactly one week to the day, and even the hour that I stood by my grandmother’s bed heartbroken and overwhelmed with grief.

Just 10 minutes after she had departed the life we know, my mother, feet from me, collapsed to the floor, entirely overcome with emotion, and a wonderful lady in shining armour, Eveline, was comforting her. In my dazed and confused state, when I looked up, I saw a young nurse and her face has not left me since. I don’t know who she was, but I see her vividly. Her face was bright red and she was in a flood of tears. She didn’t know my grandmother, and had never met her before.

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Rebecca's grandma and grandad

This letter is for her…’the nurse, with no name’ I wrote it a couple of days ago, for reasons you’ll understand in a second. The ‘nurse with no name’ is obviously the lady who entered my life a week ago today… but it’s also to every nurse who has ever been heartbroken at the passing of their patient.

‘Good Morning,

My name is Rebecca, my grandmother Peggy died with you on June 15th, around 3pm.

Nana was only supposed to be going for an endoscopy, we didn’t think she was going to die with you. At least, not at that point.

When my mother, Maria, and I got into the resuscitation room and we saw Gran, we were hysterical. The last thing Gran told me to do was ‘get her a bit of chocolate’. I ran into the room with chocolate buttons in hand, because I still believed she was going to be ok. I think that may explain the level of shock you saw from us.

Those 10 minutes we spent with you are rather blurry, but I remember you very clearly. Every morning since Gran has passed, my first thought and thing I see when I wake up is your face. That may sound strange, heck, it sounds strange to me too! You have never met us before, but I saw you stream with tears. I don’t know if your tears were because you had lost your patient, or the devastation you saw in my Mother and I, for someone we loved so incredibly dearly. Your reaction has meant a lot to me, and I want to tell you why.

My mother and I started that fateful day complaining to the hospital matron about the treatment Gran had received over the last month. In our opinion, we felt like she had been failed by her previous ward. That person we loved so dearly had been left to bleed to her death for 30 hours, and what we saw, just wasn’t right.

We then experienced the best care my Gran has ever had in her whole life, and you were part of that team. When it really mattered, in her final moments, Matron Lesley, Eveline, yourself and a wonderful blonde haired lady took precious care of my Gran. At the time of her passing, the amount of love and support she had in the room, from people who never knew her is one of the biggest blessings we have ever received.

Your tears showed me how human you are, your heart was breaking with ours, and I hope that is a gift that stays with you forever. You didn’t say a word to us, you couldn’t, I saw how many tears you had. You didn’t have to say anything, the care you demonstrated spoke volumes. I believe I’ve seen your face every morning, because I have to say thank you.

Nana never liked to see anyone upset, I know she’d want me to tell you she is ok. She was 92, and had a truly wonderful life. She was married to my grandad for 73 years, until he passed away 3 years ago. They had three daughters, My mother Maria, the one you met is the eldest. Then there’s Christine, and youngest Margaret - who touched down at Manchester Airport just as Gran left us. They literally crossed in the sky!

Nana was one of the most loving people you could meet, but she was fiery as hell. I call her ‘my electric thunderstorm of a grandmother’. She caused drama and chaos, but it always resulted in a beautiful rainbow. She was most certainly ‘a character’, and life will be much duller without her. It is no surprise she ordered me to ‘go get her chocolate’, just so she could have a peaceful passing!

I wanted to tell you a little about her, because as someone who works in mental health, I know these scenes can often stay with people. The scene that day was traumatic, but we need to find some positives somewhere. The day was tragic, but that can’t be her defining day after 92 wonderful years of life. I refuse to let that be her final memory.

Thank you for being there for my Gran, we went back to see Matron Lesley yesterday. She told us now no one ever goes back to see them, but we just had to, because we’re so grateful. That’s why I need to tell you how much you meant to us too. Thank you for making her final moments precious, loved and supported. It has brought us a lot of comfort this week knowing she had such wonderful nurses.

I’m sure your thoughts are with us, but our thoughts are certainly with you.

You’ve given us all a gift we can never repay.

Thank you for everything you do, you’re truly appreciated.

With love,

Rebecca

To Martron Lesley, Eveline and ‘the blonde haired lady’, we will certainly never forget you, you’ll always have a place in our hearts and we will never stop being grateful. Thank you for being with our loved ones, supporting them in those vital final moments when we can’t.