Illustration by Pat Kinsella. All rights reserved.

Illustration by Pat Kinsella. All rights reserved.

A little bit of levity when writing of serious topics can be good medicine. This month’s Reflections essay, “A New Antibiotic,” reminds us of how important it can be for hospitalized patients to be kept in touch with their lives and loves beyond hospital walls. In this story, author Judith Reishtein, a retired critical care nurse and nursing professor, finds herself willing to bend the rules a little for one patient. Here’s how it starts:

Sally had been a patient on the step-down unit all winter. After her open heart surgery, she developed an infection in her chest. The infection required another surgery and four more weeks of ventilator support as her open chest healed. Because she was not moving enough, she developed clots in her legs. Because of the DVTs, she had activity restrictions, which led to another bout of pneumonia. One complication led to another, with more medications that had to be carefully balanced. We tried not to do anything that would create a new problem while curing an existing one.

Now she was finally getting better, but her energy lagged behind. Did she still have the will to heal? I worried about that; I had seen too many patients slide from lassitude into the grave. I wasn’t sure if she could recoup her energy and will to live; but her daughter Trudy knew exactly what would strengthen her spirit…..

We hope you’ll read the rest of this short, free access essay, and see how it turns out. There’s a deeper truth hidden here, whatever your take on this nurse’s compassionate decision to allow a certain type of visitor on the unit.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor