Cristi Rabaza


Does this kind of not make sense to you? Let me explain. Below is a string of moments that inspired me to take the plunge into medicine.

I’ll never forget the day I learned what it meant to treat people with dignity. Aramis was once a tall, strong military man and now a nurse with little tolerance for poorly made beds. Upon arriving to the ER, he’d scan all the rooms in search of any that had been hastily thrown together, stripping the sheets and starting all over again. Many of the nurses would tease him for the meticulous method he had borrowed from the army of tying a knot with the sheet’s corners underneath the mattress to keep it from slipping when the patient moved around. He eventually noticed me studying his technique from the corner of my eye, trying to copy him. “It seems like just a bed to a lot of people,” he said, scooping a set of sheets from my hands to teach me, “but it’s not about the bed. It’s about the patient.” And he applied this attitude toward everything. It was the way he stopped at nothing to treat every patient like his own grandmother that was simply inspiring to me. It was the way his enormous stature moved intently from bed to bed, at odds with the way he’d gently stretch the sheets into a smooth surface, fluff the pillows and fold the hospital gowns. He took such care in making it just right that it was as if he was setting a table for a royal dinner.

Hours later, paramedics barged into the room where I was remaking another sloppy bed. The disheveled slip-and-fall patient seemed flustered and panicked; dirt still streaked her silver hair and caked her shins from falling into her plants. I thought of Aramis and of my own grandmother, I and tried understanding how she must have felt at that moment, horrified that she hadn’t even brushed her teeth and was still wearing pajamas amid strangers. “¿Por favor, me puedes peinar el pelo? Please, can you comb my hair?” she asked me desperately. I gently untangled her matted knots as she continued to whimper, overwhelmed with a combination of physical pain and embarrassment. I grabbed the fresh gown Aramis had taught me to fold and calmed her down after she changed, taking her frail, freckled hand in mine and sitting with her as we waited for the nurse. I listened to her talk about whatever she wanted, as she drifted from describing her garden to lauding her children, and eventually to reminiscing about Cuba before the revolution. She ended up needing just a few bandages that day, but somehow I knew holding my hand mattered to her as much as those bandages.