trout [ 8 ] September 2000
Kerry Challinor Wilke


Going South
Kerry Challinor Wilke

'You little swine,' my mother said. 'I knew this would happen. Is it that Maori bastard's?' Without leaving me time to answer, she forged on. 'You'll have to go away ... it'll have to be adopted. You can never, ever go back to nursing, because everyone would guess why you left.'

I just nodded. What else was she going to say? All that mattered to her was that nobody should know. Never mind that I'd be condemned to a typing pool for the rest of my life. Not that nursing had been my first choice ... I really wanted to be a veterinarian. But there was no way we could afford that sort of education, so I never told anyone, and I began nursing as soon as I was old enough.

At first it was prelim school at Middlemore Hospital with girls from the Auckland area. I made lifelong friends with the wildest group, Turt, Abbie, Trisha, and Drack. Even in prelim school we would go to parties and sneak in long after the ten p.m. curfew.

In those days, nursing was quasi-military operation. One-stripers did not fraternize with two-stripers, and three-stripers certainly didn't pal up with registered nurses, no sir. Conversation with patients was actively discouraged. Cut out the chit-chat and get those bedpans collected.

A couple of candy stripers, a three-striper, with perhaps a ward sister and one staff nurse, would be responsible for an entire ward of 40 or more patients, many dangerously ill or recovering from major surgery. We would suction tracheotomies, dress major wounds, give enemas, administer drugs, monitor drips, make beds, wash down furniture, do oral hygeines, sterilize bedpans and instruments, make up dressing trays, clean up vomit, get people up, walk them, get them back to bed, accompany doctors on their rounds, write up records, give blanket baths, and distribute meals.


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© 2000 Trout &
Kerry Wilke

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