The wild one


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Do you have one of these nurses in your unit? Always running late, making up outrageous stories, always dreaming about her next adventure? You know, the nurse that the entire team (not to mention the patients) loves the most! She lights up the room with her contagious energy and big heart….

The following is an excerpt from the chapter “Sisters of the Air” in A Nurse’s Story: Life, Death and In-Between in an Intensive Care Unit by Tilda Shalof.

We all knew of times when we were working with her and she had to run out to the shopping mall on her lunch hour. If she was a little late getting back, she had a ready explanation for her delay.

“I had to do CPR on someone who had a cardiac arrest in a shoe store,” she’d say. Or “I got stuck in an elevator and all of a sudden, it cut loose and started plummeting downward. I kept jumping up and down, figuring I’d have a 50 percent chance of being in the air when it came to a crash landing, and that’s exactly what happened. What luck!”

Sometimes, if work was slow, I was guilty of prompting her and goading her into recounting stories of her exotic vacations where she always had fantastic adventures and narrow escapes, just like Indiana Jones. There was the time she was walking along a secluded beach in the Galapagos Islands when she was chased and attacked by a pack of wild dogs. She swam far out into the ocean to escape them, but they tore into the water after her. Then one by one, as the dogs plunged in after her and set upon her, snarling and growling, brave Nell had the presence of mind to poke out their eyes and blind them, then drag them under the water, one by one, and drown them.

The funny thing was that when she did show up to work, Nell was a wonderful nurse. She had a wise, calm presence, vast knowledge and expert skills. Patients adored Nell, always asked for her and gave her gifts of money, flowers, bottles of fine wine and job offers for private nursing for astronomical wages.

Excerpted from A Nurse’s Story: Life, Death and In-Between in an Intensive Care Unit. Copyright © 2004 Tilda Shalof. Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

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Tilda Shalof
Tilda Shalof RN, BScN, CNCC (C) has been a staff nurse in the Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Toronto General Hospital of the University Health Network, for the past twenty-four years. She is also the author of the bestseller, A Nurse’s Story and an outspoken patient advocate, passionate nurse leader, public speaker, and media commentator. She lives in Toronto with her husband, Ivan Lewis and their two sons, Harry and Max. Learn more about Tilda and her books at

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