Nurses Day, 2020, May 6

Nurses Day, 2020

It has been my honour and privilege to know and love nurses, and to be loved by them in return.

I’ve been a volunteer nurse myself.

And I’ve been in the care of many, many more nurses who cared for me when I had broken bones.

My dear Mum used to say, in a loving way, that she didn’t know if I was 90% clumsy and 10% accident prone, or the other way around. Strangely enough, my rugby coach said pretty much the same thing.

One way and another, pretty often I got upended, and ended up in hospital during my Bang-Your-Head-Against-Things years.

And it was always nurses who got me through the “3 am of the soul” nights, with an agonizingly painful arm or leg in a plaster cast nagging me awake. Always nurses.

And we all know. And we all bless and thank them for their unparalleled service at the most dangerous face of the pandemic.

But on this day of recognition, I’d like to make a personal note to Nurses.

I want to apologize to Nurses everywhere, because I guess it’s too late now to apologize to the ones who tended different injuries during my teenage years: injuries inflicted not in honest sport but in violent street clashes. I’m sorry.

I grew up in what novels call a tough, working class area.

In fact, it was a war zone. This was back in the day when

the bowling alley was called The Colosseum, not euphemistically, because people died there, and the local public bar, called The Blood

House, had sawdust on the floor to soak up the blood spilled by

young, fighting men.

I was one of them.

Fighting was a rite of passage and a key to survival.

Those who had the guts to do it, as we saw it then, were knights of the realm; those who were good at it were lords of the street.

They weren’t, of course, and we weren’t brave to fight.

We were all actors in a movie we didn’t write, and one so small that it disappeared from relevance to anyone but us, just one suburb away from the conflict zone.

We were the poor fighting the poor.

Every journey out of the house meant leaving the Green Zone and entering hostile territory.

Every encounter with another group of teenagers was freighted with threat. Most led to running or fighting, with no dialogue but insults and bravado.

Saturday night often ended in the casualty ward, sometimes with the wounded from both gangs at the same time.

Broken noses, jaws, wrists, fingers, elbows and skulls; cuts and abrasions; blood-clots behind the eyes; organ damage; there was no end to it, and many of us went back again and again, every other Saturday night.

I’m so, so sorry to all the Doctors, Nurses and hospital Staff who attended to me in those foolish, wasted, violent years, for all the unnecessary work and stress that my ignorant selfishness forced on you.

I’m so, so sorry.

Dear Nurses, I look at your Devotion and now I see what “having guts” really means.

I look at the effect that your courage has on all of us and now I see what it means to be elevated in the hearts of others beyond knights and lords to a new, sublime understanding of respect and admiration.

I know now that it didn’t have to be that way.

I know that I can’t blame where I grew up for my own violence and the toll it took in your Emergency Wards.

I know that most of that pain and humiliation was only a beast of my own creation, and I’m so sorry.

I know that instead of learning karate and boxing I could’ve found a dance class somewhere, and that if I did, I might’ve had the time and inspiration to volunteer at my local hospital instead of being a frequent Saturday night casualty.

I’m so sorry, and so grateful to you for all that you did, especially the many stern seed lectures about turning from violence that you planted in my life, and which finally took root.

I hope that in some way my apology will draw attention to the harm that I did to you and your professional environment and that other young men like me in violent situations are still doing, every Saturday night.

 Please forgive me for my disrespect, and know that in all I do I’m committed to the inspirational peace, patience, generosity and empathy you shared in caring for me, and that you exemplifyinestimably in this crisis.

Love and Faith, GDR