Tribute in Verse
While on a medical mission in the mountains of Peru, Michael Gallant, MD, FACS, a pediatric plastic surgeon (cleft lip and palate specialist) at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., was inspired to write a poem about nurses. He explains that although the poem is about all nurses, the inspiration came from one nurse in particular—a nurse who stayed up all night with a small Peruvian child who was having an extremely difficult time recovering from anesthesia.
“It was about nine at night and we were sitting in the recovery room, tired,” Gallant explains. “I heard this singing—the most beautiful, very quiet singing—and I turned around, and it was one of our recovery room nurses. She was singing to the baby she was watching. It took him all night to recover from the anesthesia, and the nurse stayed with him all night, and she basically saved his life. The next morning she was still there, and the little fellow was doing great.”
The next night, in his hotel room, as the streets outside were filled with Peruvians celebrating a festival, Gallant, who was a musician before he became a surgeon, and who has even written a few songs about nurses, penned this poem:
“The Nurses I Know”
I am not a nurse, but my friends are nurses.
I like to see the world through their eyes.
Through their eyes, the world is full of people with bad luck and pain,
Full of people with bad pain and heartaches.
Their first question, always, is: how can I help?
The nurses I know show up for work with their hearts and brains engaged,
They rarely sit down. Their feet rarely give out.
Their brains keep working long after my brain wants to retire.
The nurses I know sometimes sing to their patients while they watch their vital signs,
And they don’t go home to sleep until they’re sure that their patients are safe.
To these nurses it is never true that nothing can be done.
To them there is always something good to do.
The nurses I know are not nuns, though most are religious and they all see the big picture.
Clearly they are not teachers, but from them I have learned much about what is important in life.
They are not comedians, but they make me laugh often (usually at myself).
They are not cops, but they manage to keep my behavior in line—most of the time.
There are days when clarity eludes me.
There are days when I am less of a man than I would like to be.
And then…after a good case…there is a moment of perfect clarity.
At that moment, my postoperative prayer for my nurses and myself is simple:
Oh God, thank you for letting us do this work.
—Michael Gallant, MD
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