A Nurse's Story
By Tilda Shalof
(Emblem Editions, Paperback, 9780771080876, 368pp.)
Publication Date: February 22, 2005
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The team of nurses that Tilda Shalof found herself working with in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a big-city hospital was known as “Laura’s Line.” They were a bit wild: smart, funny, disrespectful of authority, but also caring and incredibly committed to their jobs. Laura set the tone with her quick remarks. Frances, from Newfoundland, was famous for her improvised recipes. Justine, the union rep, wore t-shirts emblazoned with defiant slogans, like “Nurses Care But It’s Not in the Budget.” Shalof was the one who had been to university. The others accused her of being “sooo sensitive.”
They depended upon one another. Working in the ICU was both emotionally grueling and physically exhausting. Many patients, quite simply, were dying, and the staff strove mightily to prolong their lives. With their skill, dedication, and the resources of modern science, they sometimes were almost too successful. Doctors and nurses alike wondered if what they did for terminally-ill patients was not, in some cases, too extreme. A number of patients were admitted when it was too late even for heroic measures. A boy struck down by a cerebral aneurysm in the middle of a little-league hockey game. A woman rescued – too late – from a burning house. It all took its toll on the staff.
And yet, on good days, they thrived on what they did. Shalof describes a colleague who is managing a “crashing” patient: “I looked at her. Nicky was flushed with excitement. She was doing five different things at the same time, planning ahead for another five. She was totally focused, in her element, in control, completely at home with the chaos. There was a huge smile on her face. Nurses like to fix things. If they can.”
Shalof, a veteran ICU nurse, reveals what it is really like to work behind the closed hospital curtains. The drama, the sardonic humour, the grinding workload, the cheerful camaraderie, the big issues and the small, all are brought vividly to life in this remarkable book.
An intensive care unit nurse with twenty years of experience in Israel and Canada, Tilda Shalof now lives in Toronto.
“Tilda Shalof’s A Nurse’s Story is the first time the work of nurses has been documented in print in Canada in such an honest, no-holds-barred account. . . . Shalof has seen it all, and writes about it, too.”
–The Calgary Herald
“But her book isn’t a doom-and-gloom account of overworked nurses. Interspersed with tales of tragedy are accounts of the funny, often bizarre events that transpire on an ICU.”
“A compelling book laced with humour.”
–Times & Transcript
“There are genuinely heart-rending, disturbing and thought-provoking stories to be found in the pages of A Nurse’s Story. If this book doesn’t give you pause, you’re made of stone.”
“In a post-SARS world where nurses are finally being recognized for the heroes they always were, A Nurse’s Story is the best-seller no one can put down.”
“This is a difficult book. Its content is difficult. Its tone is difficult. But it is also difficult to put down, so compelling and beautifully written are these stores.… Shalof’s stories are naked and vulnerable. Nothing is held back in her portrayals of her most memorable experiences from the early ‘80s to the SARS crisis.… Shalof’s colleagues point out during one of their ongoing discussions about the value of their work, that eventually everyone needs a nurse. And for that reason alone, A Nurse’s Story would worth reading, in order to understand where it is most of us will end up sooner or later, what it is that might be visited upon us and just who it is that will be looking after us.… A Nurse’s Story helps us understand where it is most of us will end up sooner or later.”
–Winnipeg Free Press
“Readers may approach this book with the hope of reading dramatic tales such as those seen on television shows such as “ER.” While such readers are not likely to be disappointed, they are likely to discover more than they had hoped.… By turns sad, funny and touching, the author has done an admirable job of providing an insightful look into the real world of an ICU.”
–Brandon This Week
“A cracking good read.… Despite the overt moralizing, this is undoubtedly a strong memoir. I hope it’s not the only story Shalof has to tell.”
–Quill & Quire