Monday, May 20, 2013

TING AND I, Tribute to Tina Su Cooper from Nurse Diane Beggin

Diane Beggin, RN, joined us in November 2004 and has served the longest with us of any nurse. Tina’s health was so compromised then that we knew each day was a miracle. Diane’s exceptional intelligence, her dedication to Tina’s care, and her outstanding attention to detail have made her first among equals on our staff. She writes about the impact Tina has had on her:
Years ago, in November 2004 when I started working at the Coopers’, I anticipated it would be a short-lived position. Tina was rather delicate and overcoming a long hospitalization. Her prognosis was guarded, and that was being optimistic. But I was recuperating from a cervical spinal injury that left me unable to work in the CCU—for the time being. So this seemed to be a perfect position for me. I could use my critical care experience to care for Tina while I prepared myself to return from the “disabled list.” I never anticipated that, while Tina would thrive, my progress remained static and I could never return to the unit. As I look back, that “temporary” job at the Cooper’s and Tina became blessings in disguise. And for more than one reason.

The days passed to months to years. During this time, Tina and I laughed and joked how our lives had similarities. For instance, her sons are named Ted and Phil. I have a Tom and a Bill, and it turns out that their personalities are as similar as their names. We’d reminisce about Chicago, our love of Hyde Park, the museums and the terrible weather but glorious Christmas window decorations that the city presents during the season. We’d discuss everything from time-worthy news issues to complete nonsense. Our dreams and hopes for our children were imagined. Our memories of our youth were retold. We chatted about everything and nothing. But we also maintained our own identities and opinions. Neither of us always agreed with the other–and we weren’t shy about stating such. Truly, little by little we were becoming friends.

I still find it remarkable, as I did long ago, that Tina remains so psychologically and emotionally vital and strong despite everything she cannot do or cannot experience. Through her I believe she taught me how to deal with my personal inabilities and disabilities… to accept myself. And I thought I was the strong one–her nurse. In retrospect, my patient has become my healer.

First and foremost, Tina is my patient. But I can also state that I love this beautiful, intelligent, strong, determined, proud—and yes, humorous—woman. We still hold our own unique opinions and feelings. Sometimes we don’t always agree, yet we continue to chuckle seven years later. We certainly have a personal relationship and not merely a professional one. And I treasure the history we share.

The Cooper family is my family–every single one of them–because of Tina. But what makes this relationship so special is that Tina also wanted to be, and is, a part of the Beggin family. I feel honored to be loved by her.

Funny how my misfortune long ago became an opportunity and gift that could never have been envisioned. From Tina, the Coopers and this “interim” position, I have had the opportunity to have a satisfying nursing assignment. But I gained so much more. I have learned self-tolerance. I have a developed a cherished friendship and another family. I have the luxury of caring for someone for whom I truly feel affection. And I hope this “temporary” job continues for a very long time. Tina and I still have more chuckling to do….

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