Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Trudy, my sister from another mother

I have a friend that I go to school with that is much like a sister. I can say this with all reliability because I have two sisters. I say it confidently because of the sheer amount of time we spend together. Law students and medical students know where I am going on this. Nursing ‘wannabes’ have certain tenaciousness in their drive to do well, because failure is simply not an option when you are competing against the brilliant minds of straight ‘A’ students in subjects such as, microbiology, anatomy & physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology (these are meat and potato subjects, hardly fluff & bluff.) It’s within this context, that I sort of fell into Trudy’s world. She didn’t push me out, so I stayed; much like a stray dog.

I met Trudy in Anatomy and Physiology, and I doubt there’s been a week over the last two years, that I haven’t had a cram session, taken a test, had a conversation, or meal without her. Yeah, we spend a lot of time together. She’s simply part of the ‘day-to-day’ in Tammy world.

Studying with this kind of intensity breeds bonding that isn’t present in other types of work. The bonding is cultivated in a trust shared by common goals. You realize that the scope and sequence of success in a profession like nursing, requires that one sacrifice a little or much to support those who are taking the walk with you, and that support ends up being the paramount training ground as to the kind of nurse one will be when the finish line is crossed. I know the military cultivates bonds like these; I think I know why some people cry when they finish long roads like medical school, law school, seminary, or a marathon for that matter. It’s hard to contemplate the journey you’ve taken, the stumbles, the triumphs, a mini crises. At the end of the nursing journey, there is something called a capping and pinning ceremony, in addition to graduation. But like lawyers, there’s not much time to celebrate, because we’ll be taking licensing boards. In the stress of going through the process of completing pre-requisites, there’s been the agony of waiting…waiting for notification, an end to signal another beginning; usually just a form letter that says “Thanks for applying, you didn’t make the cut this time, but try again next time-Good luck!” We shared a few of those wait periods. They are stressful. But we always seem to pull each other out of the trenches. Frozen yogurt helps with that, so do cosmopolitans (depending on the class we just finished.)

My experience having a relationship with Trudy over these last two years, has taught me a lot about myself, about what I can accomplish if I set my mind to it and also what limitations I have, because like a spouse, a study buddy gets to see the worst and best parts of you.

We’ve applied to programs, taken the same classes and been a resource to each other when needed. I have to say this friendship has been the wisest investment I’ve made in going back to school, and despite any philosophical, or religious differences we may have, I consider our shared experience stronger than anything that separates us. I’ve made a good friend for life and the reason I know this to be true is because she has given more than I could ever reciprocate in being a study partner who cares about the success of others. These seemingly endless hours of study partnering also involve sharing food, news, joys, cares and concerns.

So, in the spirit of Trudy, I want to wish her a happy birthday. I am planning on cooking dinner for her family, because I think we’ve eaten at every restaurant worth going to and a home cooked meal is something we both miss. In short order, it’s the least I can do to thank her for her friendship. Some friends are always like family, so on your birthday Trude, I wish you joy, happiness, success in all things. Mr. Johnson, our hypothetical patient would also like to wish you a very happy day, hence his contribution to this tribute. Most especially, I pray I get into the same program you’re accepted to, because I don’t know anyone else who can put up with me, your sister from another mother.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat.

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