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Anouk: Nurse (by Anna Gavalda)

Anouk was very beautiful; she got pregnant early on in her youth with a musician who did the disappearing act.  Anouk had to raise Alexis and worked as a nurse in a hospital in Paris.

She worked as nurse most of her life and served in all the difficult units or services, especially the terminally ill patients.  The administration upgraded her position to supervisor in chief.

Anouk was not into administration paperwork, since she preferred to tend directly patients instead of paperwork, assigning and scheduling nurses and functions.

Anouk’s motto was: “Patients are forbidden to die on my watch“.  She uplifted their morale, made the sick cry and laugh; she hugged them and touched them.

After her formal service hours, she would lightly paint her eyes, lips, do her hair and wear nice dresses and then visit with patients who are discarded by their relatives and never received visits.  It was Anouk’s way of giving patients the sense of being with family.  In short, all the behaviors that nurses are not permitted to do with patients or frowned at by management.

Nurse Anouk was untouchable in the hospital:  She was the best of nurses.  What she lacked in medical knowledge she compensated by her extreme attention to her patients.  She was the first to notice the slightest changes in patients’ behavior and to perceive the tiniest symptoms.  And best, she had this extraordinary instinct to what’s going wrong.

During their daily rounds on patients, physicians and surgeons lent particular ears to Anouk’s comments and feedback. Nobody in the hospital or the patients resisted to Anouk:  She imposed respect by her tenderness, compassion and professionalism.

Anouk knew the names, faces, and stories of her patients; she knew their families and befriended their family members.  Anouk told lots of stories, imagined plenty of stories, invented stuff of wonderful concerts she attended, famous and glamorous people she met and befriended.

New nurse recruits adored her and aided them in their first contacts with patients.  At night fall, when every nurse and employee is totally tired they could hear Anouk’s laughing and crying with patients.  Older nurses knew that Anouk was indeed doing her best to amusing and lightening her heavy life.  Probably, she gave life to patients because she had no life after her service hours.

Once, Anouk’s neighbor lady gave her a plant.  The next week, Anouk returned the gift crying profusely:  Anouk was used to seeing many patients die but she could not bear experiencing a plant eventually die, out of her watch.

Alexis turned out to be a musician too and he was addicted to all kinds of drugs. Professional Anouk did not suspect that Alexis got into hard drugs since she was not in frequent touch with him and he had moved out from home.

One morning, emergency called Anouk and informed her that Alexis is succumbing to a overdose and is showing early signs of AIDS.  Something snapped in Anouk.  She became an automaton, a machine delivering smiles but she was still being obeyed.  Anouk quit her supervisory function to finding the best medical treatment to her unique son.

Later, Anouk would resign from the hospital when she realized that she was totally alone and everybody in her family had left her or quit on her; she wanted to take the initiative this time around:  It would have too hard to be retired from the hospital, the only real home of hers.

Note:  This story is part of the French book “La Consolante” (the rematch) by Anna Gavalda.


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April 2021
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