Grandma by Stefani

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My Grandma ...

A Veterans Administration Nurse during WWII
by Stefani Sanford

"I remember hitch-hiking to Army bases during the war so I could see my husband ..."

These are the first words out of my grandmother's mouth when answering my question of what things were like during world War II. She continues by saying that she had to get jobs in cafes for little pay since she was a woman. While Granddad was in the army, two children were born-my Uncle Ed and Aunt Judi. Grandma was left to raise them alone for the first two years of their lives. They were without the normal things most children had back then, namely a father. He was not there to help raise and discipline the children. Living in Tampa, Florida at the time, right next to an air base, many soldiers came by the house and looked directly into the windows of my grandparent's house. This probably occurred because they knew that many women lived alone at the time. Since her husband was not there to protect her, she called the police immediately. Later on, my grandparents moved to California because of my Granddad's job transfer.
My Grandma took a nursing job in the V. A. Hospital in Palo Alto. She trained for this at Washington Missionary College in Washington D.C. She received offers either working with patients in a physical aspect or a psychological aspect. She choose the psychological aspect. I asked her why. She answered, "it was something I was always interested in. I wanted to help with things other than physical ailment. I felt it was my main interest. I thought I could do the most good there."

"Nursing was something I was always interested in. Yet, I wanted to help with problems that went beyond physical ailments. I thought I could do the most good that way."

Her duties included: Co-leader of family groups, administering medication, and working in the lab testing blood.
Many of the patients she treated were I the hospital for drug abuse, depression, stress, and hepatitis. So I asked her if it was hard for her to detach herself from her emotions. She told me that it really wasn't. She said she always was sure to take her break. She never became involved with the patients when she was not on duty, not even to eat lunch with them.

Grandma told me two of her success stories:

She helped with a vet who was very sick from the stress of fighting in the Vietnam war. He was very nervous all of the time. He became afraid because he would have flashbacks of the war. He also had a hard time concentrating. He had a hard time expressing what really happened in Vietnam. He suffered from insomnia a lot of the time. Something that made his problem worse was that while he was fighting in Vietnam his father passed away. He had a very hard time dealing with this.
To counter these symptoms my Grandma helped him in various types of therapy, including: therapy through cooking, music, art, and one-on-one counseling. The simple task of making dinner made him feel as if he accomplished something, which was very helpful to his recovery, especially since it was YUMMY and his peer group enjoyed it.
He only had one physical symptom. It was a leg wound that eventually healed.
"After only 3 months he got better and moved on."

Then she spoke of another patient:

He "was a man who had one leg (an amputee). He had been a pilot in the war and was very depressed about his accident and losing his leg. He, through counseling and encouragement, was able to leave the hospital and live a normal life." Grandma's role in this was working with him a lot in his one-on-one therapy, which included giving him a lot of encouragement. He became very fond of my Grandma -- always asking her to go with him wherever he went.
Since retirement about ten years ago, Grandma says that "the reduced income has made an impact (but life has been) better than I ever dreamed life could be, even though I miss my job." In reflecting on what her job has helped her gain, she says that, "The kind of work done has helped (me) in figuring things out about life." Sometimes when facilitating small groups in therapy she found herself getting mad -- mostly at her supervisor. She had a "How did I help create this?" kind of attitude. This helped her to realize where her anger was coming from and take responsibility for her anger.

Grandma recommends nursing to others "because it is a very rewarding thing to do. It makes life much more worthwhile."

Grandma recommends this career to others "because it is a very rewarding thing to do. It makes life much more worthwhile. Although, I know it is not for everyone." Grandma feels and with good reason, that she had a big impact on her patients lives. After leaving, some former patients would come back and ask for her. This is because she had been so patient with them. Today, she still is called if one of the younger nurses needs to know what she can do for the psychiatric patients.
The story Grandma leaves me with is that she would often take 11 passengers with her in a big white van. Two of the passengers were always a doctor and another nurse. Grandma said she would take forever backing out of the driveway because she was so nervous. They would often do this on their way to breakfast or the beach. At the beach they would play volleyball or go deep sea fishing. "The patients had to do busy things in order to prepare themselves to get out of the hospital. Nursing our vets was a very rewarding experience!"

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