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NURSE STORIES

Lyrics and Laughs Eased My Patient’s Pain

When moments in nursing make us proud we’re nurses

By Carol Ann Bauman, MSN, RN
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I
began my nursing career over two decades ago on a neuroscience unit in a large teaching and research hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. At 41 years old and coming from the impersonal business world of banking, I was looking forward to experiencing the special moments in nursing when a nurse and patient connect.
I realized early in my nursing career that those moments may not happen often, but when they do you never forget them.
One of my patients on the neuro unit was a young man in his late 20s who had intractable back pain. He hoped to find pain relief with an implanted spinal stimulator and was on the unit for a trial procedure.
It was nice to go into his room; he always had music playing on his CD player. He told me the music helped him cope with his constant pain.
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While I attended to him one shift, he asked me where I was from. I told him I was originally from Saginaw, Michigan, but that I had moved away 20 years ago.
“Saginaw! I never met anybody from Saginaw!” he enthusiastically replied.
Before I knew it, he was singing the lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel’s song, “America” from their 1968 album, Bookends. We laughed together as I joined him in singing the line, “It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw.”
He listened closely as I told him the background story on the song. The story goes that a DJ had booked Simon and Garfunkel to play a concert at the YMCA in Saginaw shortly before they released their first number-one hit in 1966, “The Sound of Silence.”
Concerned that he wouldn’t be able to afford the duo due to their recent success, the DJ contacted Paul Simon and asked if they were still charging the original amount on their contract. Simon said that they were charging much more than that, but they would honor the Saginaw show contract.
“As I was leaving his room, my patient looked at me with a surprised expression on his face. ‘Wow, I forgot about my pain for those few minutes! Thank you!’”
When asked why he hadn’t pulled out, Simon was purported to have replied that he had to see what a city named Saginaw looked like.
Another broadcaster claimed he saw the duo at that Saginaw YMCA jotting down notes for a song, and he asked them to include Saginaw in the lyrics.
I don’t know if these accounts are 100% accurate, but they make for an interesting story to tell about my hometown.
As I was leaving his room, my patient looked at me with a surprised expression on his face. “Wow, I forgot about my pain for those few minutes! Thank you!” he said.
I always think of my patient when I hear that song and hope that the spinal stimulator eased his pain. Moments like this one didn’t happen often during my nursing career, but the number of moments doesn’t really matter to me. What matters is that my memories of sitting with this patient, telling stories and listening to music, affirms that I made the right call when I chose nursing over a business career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carol Ann Baumann, MSN, RN, lives in Leland, North Carolina.