After battling a long illness, I lost my hero, mentor, and father, Dr. Jack Fine, a week ago today, October 23. Anyone who knows me, knows the special relationship I had with my dad.
My dad, Daddy, lived out a true rag-to-riches story. As a child of immigrant parents, he believed in the American dream. Serving in WWII in the Navy, first as a pharmacist’s mate and then as a diver on a submarine, he used his benefits to go to medical school.
He eventually became one of the most prominent anesthesiologists in Maryland. I picked up his love for medicine at an early age. Daddy took me to my first autopsy at 13 (bagged lunch in hand) as a “field trip.”
I guess he thought if I could keep my lunch down, he’d support me in the field. Thankfully, my bologna sandwich stayed put and my nursing career began.
I got my sense of humor from my dad. I’d watch him tell a joke to a patient he was putting under while holding off on the punch line until the patient awakened from surgery. It was a trick he did if someone was convinced they wouldn’t wake up.
Daddy told them, “If you want to hear the punch line, then you have to wake up!” And they always did.
He carried his sense of humor to the end. In his last days in hospice, he allowed me to bathe him and do other personal care, while still cracking jokes about his anatomy (that, unfortunately, I can’t share or McKnight’s would get into trouble)! But what a blessing it was to be able to minister to him in that way.
I also developed my compassion from him. I saw him spend inordinate amounts of time with a patient pre-op if they had fears or concerns; not just popping in and out like many of the other anesthesiologists. He taught me that compassion is for everyone; in medicine, there cannot be favorites.
My dad also taught me to celebrate and reward the little things in life. My parents divorced when I was 8, so on Saturday nights, Daddy cooked what he was good at: hotdogs and beans. And he always held a contest on who would pass gas first. A quarter to the winner. (Hey, that was big money back then!) I always got a dime for effort. To spare my sisters, I won’t say which one ALWAYS won!
My dad, who loved boating and golf, also taught me that the balance of work and physical leisure time is important (although I haven’t quite fully learned that lesson yet!). In his older years, he was always running over other people’s balls with his golf cart, pretending it was an accident!
Until about a year ago, when his illness got the better of him, my dad still went to the gym three times a week. AND would correct younger guys if he felt they were lifting weights wrong.
As I say farewell to my hero, let’s remember that as practitioners, every patient we see has a story. And let’s do our best to honor those who showed us the way in our healthcare careers.
And, maybe, let’s bring back the quarter thing.
Just keeping it real,
The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Education for Mission Health Communities LLC and an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.