I was walking down the hall checking the residences one night when a patient’s call light came on about three doors away from me. “I’ll get it,” I called out to Anne and Geralene, the two CNA’s who were down at the opposite end of the long hallway.
I came into the room as Mrs. L sat up in the bed. Mrs. L was of sound mind. I can’t remember a time she was ever confused or disoriented. Her purpose for being in a nursing facility was because she was just old. She had no one who could stay at home with her to help with her daily routines.
“The nurse didn’t give me my insulin. She came in here with it. I saw the syringe in her hand and I pulled up my sleeve like this,” she said demonstrating her actions. “But she just smiled at me and walked away.”
“I’m the only nurse on the floor, Mrs. L. Are you sure you weren’t dreaming or something?”
“No! I was wide awake,” she denied insistently.
Okay, I thought. To her, I asked, “Who was it then?”
She thought a second, shook her head and answered,” I don’t know. I never saw her before.”
“Were one of the CNA’s coming to check your blood sugar,” I asked, knowing in my heart the aids knew better than to do something like that.
Mrs. L sat up a little straighter, “Now Michelle, I am not crazy. I saw that woman come in here with a syringe in her hand and when I pulled up my sleeve, she smiled and went back out the door. I saw the door open, her come in, and then I saw the door close as she left.”
“Just a minute ago! You had to have passed her coming into the room if not pass her in the hallway.”
“Mrs. L, I was only a couple of doors away when I saw your light come on. I didn’t see anyone leaving here. I came straight to you.” After a minute of thought, I asked, “What did she look like?”
“She had brown hair to her shoulders, big eye glasses, and she was wearing an orange smock. You know, one of those things that you wear over your uniforms so you don’t get them dirty. Kind of old-fashiony like.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back.”
I left and went to 1stStation to ask Glenda, a long time employee, if she knew who this person was. I had already figured it was a ghost.
I explained the events that had occurred. Glenda thought and thought and then called the orderly, Robert, to the desk. Robert had been there a year or two longer than she had been.
“Who is that nurse that used to wear the orange smock all the time,” she asked Robert. “I know you remember her. Kay used to get on her all the time about wearing orange.”
“Oh, I know who you’re talking about! Mary Harper was her name,” he answered. “Why?”
“She just tried to give Mrs. L some insulin,” I said to Robert.
Robert rolled his eyes. “Then she did it from the grave. That woman’s been dead for about 10 years now.”
“That’s what I’m saying, Robert,” I added, laughing.
He shrugged and said, “I wouldn’t be surprised. They fired her and she kept coming back to work for three nights in a row afterwards. She took it real hard: them firing her.”
Glenda explained, “She was an alcoholic and they had to let her go. It must have been a year or so later that she died.”
I went back to Mrs. L and told her, “The woman’s name is Mary Harper. She doesn’t work here anymore so, if she comes back in here, tell her she shouldn’t be here, okay?”
“Was it a nurse?”
“Yes, she was a nurse but, they had to let her go so make sure you tell her to leave if she comes back in here. Call the desk if you want me to come down here and tell her myself.”
“She’s dead, isn’t she?” I was trying so hard to be nonchalant about this and I didn’t know how to answer my patient without scaring the daylights out of her. “Michelle, I know it was a ghost I saw. I’m not crazy.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that, either. I could only offer reassurances as I left the room.
That afternoon, Mrs. L was taken to the hospital and three days after that, she died. I learned later on that was not the first time Mary Harper had ever made an appearance and usually within days of her visits to patients who reported seeing her, they passed away, too.
Was Nurse Harper coming to check on them, or was she coming to escort them over to the other side?
(photo is random)