Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Charlie, Just Read . . .

. . . Between The Lines

I have a sister who in her past before becoming an Okie, (and I might be treading here on shaky ground) used to e-mail me nearly daily with messages I sometimes needed a (famed) Navajo code speaker to understand.

She was a registered nurse in the era when female nurses wore stiffly starched white uniforms and starched caps, round bonnets, three-cornered headpieces or other ordered uniform types .

She and a dozen other beauties who trained at Union Hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts, not only looked gracious in white and became excellent angels in white, but they also learned a new language - "nursespeak."

If you ever want to confuse someone, learn nursepeak and combine that with contractions, abbreviations, obvious mis-spellings and non-ending sentences and you almost are guaranteed to have that someone check into Taunton State Hospital.

I guess the best definition of nursespeak is . . . well, gobbldegook about what they're doing but don't want the patient to know about. They used figures and letters that didn't make any sense to me, underlines and overlines and slashes and dots and question marks and . . . nursespeak!

With apologies to my BEST sister in the world, I think I will relate one of her e-mails and the follow-up communications as an example of what I had to sometimes fathom.

This was the message in essence that came to me in August, 2008, given from memory:

Trish and Robert are at the hospital. There was an accident. Trish said . . .
Oh, I forgot to say, it was . . .
Well, it happened like this. There was this fellow - - - wait a minute, I'm going to make myself some tea.

OK, this tea tastes good. Anyway, the doctors decided to stitch up the head wound and put in six stitches. Guess everything will be OK.

E-mail to sister: What happened to Trish?

Reply: Thanks for your prayers, all OK now.
They're home now.

E-mail to sister: Who was hurt? What happened?

Reply: Oh, I guess I didn't tell you all about it, I was so excited but this is how .. . . , oh, I'll tell you tomorrow, I fell asleep, I'm tired now going to bed.

E-mail to sister: Hey, you didn't tell me yet what happened to Trish. Car wreck? Robbery? Dog mauling? Purse snatching? Bucked from a horse?Fight with a burglar? Fell from a roof she was shingling? Hit by a car while saving a kid? Interferred in a fight to save someone else? Mayor swatted her at the town meeting? Printer fell off shelf and bashed her in the head? Dragged behind Robert's car after she fell out?

Reply: [ There wasn't any]

E-mail from Trish: Hello Uncle Charlie - As you know, Mother abbreviates everything,does always spell right and doesn't finish her sentences.

Here's the real story - My husband Robert while working at the prison was attacked by an inmate while helping an officer who had been attacked. In the fight he was clonked on the head with a broken mop handle. He had a two inch gap and they had to staple him together with fives staples. He is fine now.

Now I know the story.

About nursespeak:

While my sainted mother was very ill before she passed away, my nurse sister tended to her in the BEST possible way she could. Her messages at that time came along in hand-written letters.

And now , , "Gave Mother 2ccs meds am 6 pm 5 midnight, priest came, fitful sleep today.And now I . . . Oh, it's snowing.

"Mother up few minutes, toast ,tea, now down, gave meds, paid bills, milk and paper came, our neighbor plowed snow in driveway to back yard and he . . .

Her many hand-written letters with nursespeak are still on file here. I'm tempted to send them to Owasso for translations just for fun.

Heck, I'm getting to the point now with all the pills I get that I might need to know that nursespeak stuff.

Even if I didn't always understand her, I still love the BEST nurse in the Hoye family and now I love the BEST nurse in the Cumberland gang and the BEST nurses and doctor in my second family.

- 30 -


  1. she will always be an angel and my bestest GOAM

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  3. It really never mattered too much if we knew what she was talking about. She wrote to us just as Mom did to her and that's all that matters. Just got a letter from her today and I'm tickled pink. And I understood every word!
    They don't make 'em like my Auntie M. anymore!