- photo: JParadisi 2009
This fall, I’m reading the first four books of the Cherry Ames series, by Helen Wells, for the first time. Cherry Ames, if you don’t know, is an 18-year-old student nurse, whose intuitive style of patient care and indomitable spunk lead her through a spree of madcap adventures in the halls of fictional Spencer Hospital, eventually “winning” her cap and the coveted black stripe of a graduate nurse, during World War II.
Unlike Cherry, I did not want to be nurse as a young person, and I was not particularly interested in books about nursing. From junior high on, I felt heroes like Cherry Ames were kid stuff. In high school, I read Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein and James Thurber. Characters such as Michael Valentine and Garp held more intrigue for me.
I felt pretty much the same way as an adult reading Cherry Ames. In a world of Nurse Jackies, Cherry’s declarations that,
“The patient always comes first. Save the patient at any cost to yourself. That was the nurse’s creed.”
“Nursing had always been Cherry’s dream. She knew it was the finest way a girl could serve people, and Cherry loved people and wanted to help them. Nursing was the way to put her idealism into practice.”
come across as cheesy cliques. At least, that’s what I thought until last Thursday, November 5, 2009, when the Fort Hood shootings occurred, and the stories of heroism during the crisis became publicly known.
The first story of heroism I heard was that of civilian officer Sgt. Kimberly Munley, the first responder on the scene, who simultaneously shot the assailant as he fired upon her. She put herself (as the clique goes) in danger’s way to save the lives of others.
On Tuesday morning, I watched The Today Show. Meredith Vieira’s guests were 19 year-old Pfc. Amber Baher, and her mother. Amber is a soldier, credited with applying a tourniquet on the bleeding wound of one of her “battle buddies,” then carrying him to safety, while she herself was shot in the back. “I don’t know if it was adrenaline, but my own personal safety wasn’t really what mattered to me,” Bahr told Meredith. “Making sure that my battle buddies were safe was my No.1 priority.”
Another soldier, US Army Reservist Dorothy “Dorrie” Carskadon (who has family here in Portland) was injured during the shooting, reportedly while assisting one of her comrades.
I am deeply moved by each of these stories of individuals choosing to save the lives of others, at any cost to themselves. By their actions, they put their idealism into practice. These women, these soldiers, exemplified, on American soil, the values and commitment of our past and present veterans overseas. This type of courage happens every day, on battlefields far from home. “Their lives’ work is our security, and the freedom we all too often take for granted.”
In healthcare, we borrow military language. We wage a war on cancer. We battle disease. Severely broken bodies in trauma units are FUBAR. Today, I went to work, hoping I would also borrow a small amount of the courage and idealism displayed by our soldiers.
I need to reconsider my opinion of Cherry Ames.