Nursing Stories
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Nursing Stories: Bedside lessons from the dying ~ The Angel

Back in 1996 my mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It was a turning point in my life and the first time I realized my mom would one day die. I was mamas boy. She told me a story about an Angel who was a Home Care nurse and she didn’t have a name, but she had the memory of someone who guided her through a painful and fearful transition.

Many years later I was working on the Palliative care unit and I was receiving a patient. He was a young 43 year old. He was riding his bike and fell. It was unusual, as there was nothing to fall on, as he never hit anything. He was transferred to a hospital and diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. His name was Page. He was on our unit for over 4 Months and I was his primary nurse. It was normal for me to sit with him at night and hold his hand. He would share his fears and disappointments and cry. He was on high doses of Intravenous Morphine as he had paralysis related to pressure from his tumour. Sitting together at 2 am became routine and he was able to verbalize how he was feeling. One night I came into his room and he asked me if we could have a special conversation, and I said yes. It was around 2 am and he grabbed my hand and started to shake with emotion. He started with “I’m so sorry”. I asked him why he would be sorry and he began to explain he was a born again Christian and when he found out I was Gay Months ago he felt many judgements about me. He asked if I could forgive him as I had been so important to him. I told him, I could only forgive him if he forgave me. He asked me what I meant. I told him I knew he was a “born again Christian”when he came onto our unit during his admission. I told him I didn’t think you would accept me if you knew I was gay. I told him I had my own stories. I decided never to hide that piece of me. We both had one of those moments where we realized that labels were irrelevant when you are dying. Page died a dignified death shortly after and that moment taught me many life lessons.

His Wife Barb watched me over the 4 Months and asked me to join her team as a home care nurse. Barb felt I would make a wonderful home care nurse and felt blessed I had cared for her husband. Shortly after I was hired, I went to a retirement party. I asked my mom to come with me as I didn’t know many people. Shortly after I arrived, my mom grabbed my arm and started to get teary eyed. I asked mom what was wrong and she pointed to the woman named Barb. The Angel that took care of my mom.

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I was born in Prince Rupert, BC and I grew up in Port Coquitlam, BC within metro Vancouver. I was a non-conventional boy winning awards for choreography, dance, and led many school performance numbers before grade 6. I also competed as a figure skater and was notorious for doing cart wheels on the ice. I was bullied all through my school years and ended up going to 3 different High Schools and didn't graduate as a result. This was the era of no Gay Rights in Canada. I struggled with visibility, identity and self-esteem. I am one of the lucky survivors as most of my friends died of AIDS or committed suicide. I graduated as a Registered Nurse in 1993 and it was the proudest achievement in my life. It taught me that despite hardships, I could overcome insurmountable challenges. I am committed to making the world more compassionate and doing my part by celebrating LGBTQ contributions to the world. In 2014 I responded to a call to sponsor two Syrian Gay refugees to come to Canada. This launched the beginning of a national Charity called the Rainbow Foundation of Hope. I was the founding President. n my professional life, I am a Registered Nurse and a Healthcare Executive. I live with my husband and our dog Rocky in Penticton BC


  1. Ken Darch says

    Very touching story Carl, glad you were there with your mom as she re-encountered her angel.


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