It had been a long day, and evening had finally come. The room was dimly lit from the lights at the nurse’s station in the hallway, and I rested on the cot in the pediatric hospital room, where Elissa slept soundly.
Elissa had seen many doctors and hospital rooms since she was born with a rare birth defect called cystic hygroma —lymph and blood-filled cysts in her tongue, cheek, and throat area. The first doctors to examine her had never seen it, much less treated it.
After many doctor visits and two surgeries, she had grown to a happy 4-year-old but now had nephritis in the kidney and was sent to the Cleveland clinic for a biopsy. On this night I was awakened by “The Nurse.”
She whispered, “Are you Mrs. Sartwell?”
Startled, I said, “Yes, why…is Elissa OK?”
“Oh, I’m not her nurse, but I heard there was a child here that had cystic hygroma—and I knew I just had to come and see you. You see, I was born with cystic hygroma, and I am 38 and a registered nurse. I just wanted to tell you there is life with this condition, and the doctors are learning so much more about it.”
Wow! What you don’t know—and what that nurse did not know—is that many times I would say “If she could just live to be 5; if she could just live to be 8,” and here was a nurse who was 38! Sometimes I wonder if “The Nurse” was an angel, but I know for real she was a nurse in the night who brought this mother hope and encouragement. She could not stay long; but she had delivered her message; she had been an “intentional encourager.”
A few weeks ago, Elissa called and said a strange thing happened to her. She told me she was part of a Facebook group of people all around the world who have cystic hygroma. A mother posted that her young daughter was being called “Fat Face” at school and was very discouraged. The mother did not know how to help her daughter and wondered if there was another who might be able to give them some encouragement or help from their own experience.
Elissa said to me, “Yeah, I know what that’s like.” I had not realized she had been called names. I knew people had asked us if she needed a root canal or if she had the mumps, but I did not know she had been called names. (cont’d)
She continued to tell me, “Yes, there were some on the playground that called her “Fat Face”. But she decided to stay inside during recess and help the teacher or study more or practice her math facts. She decided she would become “smart” and then she would be known as the smart girl and not Fat Face. And it worked. When she won the spelling bee or the math facts, her classmates saw her as smart rather than Fat Face.
So Elissa e-mailed the mother on Facebook and introduced herself as a professor at SBU in Bolivar, telling her she would love to talk with her daughter. She told me she wanted to challenge this girl to find something she really likes to do and become very good at it. She will then be known for that and not by the appearance of her face.
In the coming months, Elissa—who, by the way, just turned 38—is going to be “The Nurse”—an intentional encourager. She is going to provide hope for the mother and share with this precious child how she herself handled the name calling and became known for who she was—not what she looked like.
I’m sure there are people all around us for whom we could be “The Nurse.” Let our ears and eyes be open as we follow God’s nudges in being an intentional encourager to those who need some healing words.
Linda Sartwell and her husband, Dick, are parents of two daughters and grandparents of one sweet granddaughter. Linda oversees the mail operations at George Fox University. She is also a charter member of NFC Bells.