At the center of Sister Thecla’s demonstrations was an old manikin that lived all its days on the hospital bed at the front of the classroom. I can still see its chipped, painted face—the trust in the eyes, the unreadable thin lips. I can see Sister Thecla turning that manikin on its side, taking care so the blanket wouldn’t slip and expose any imagined privates. And Sister Thecla’s hands—how they were all tenderness, and how somehow, right before our eyes, they transubstantiated the cotton backside of that manikin into the feverish, aching flesh of a real sick person.
Every month, as you may know, we publish a personal essay inside our back cover. This month, our Reflections essay is by Madeleine Mysko, the coordinator of that monthly column. Madeleine, a novelist and poet who teaches writing in the Johns Hopkins Advanced Academic Programs, is also a nurse. She helps us find potential writers and reviews most Reflections submissions. I edit all accepted submissions before publication, but I sometimes call on Madeleine for another point of view, especially if I’m stuck or if I sense I’m missing something crucial. She invariably has suggestions that make the essay flow more elegantly and cleanly—and strike home more powerfully.
The excerpt above is from her piece in the May edition of AJN. “The Sacraments of Sister Thecla” (for best reading, click through to the PDF version) describes a kind of mystical visitation from a teacher Madeleine had back in nursing school in the 1960s. Clearly, teachers do make a difference.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor/blog editor