Tom Henry: Here's to you, Mom, and your fellow nurses

·4 min read

May 9—Happy Mother's Day.

Moms are all about sacrifice, and — if you can't hug yours in person, as I can no longer do — I'm sure they'll understand if you just think of them as they look down at you from Heaven or as you're calling them from some place where distance has kept you apart.

One of my favorite blues lyrics comes from a B.B. King song, which goes like this:

Nobody loves me but my Mother,

And she could be jivin', too.

My mom, Barb Henry, had a great sense of humor, even a cute little snort when she found something particularly funny. But she wasn't the jivin' type, especially on the issue of public health.

She prided herself on her long career as a nurse and as a hospital floor supervisor.


Like many people, my admiration for doctors, nurses, and other health-care workers has grown with their fierce dedication to us during the coronavirus pandemic.

I don't want to get political here. But Mom wasn't exactly a liberal.

Even so, I could never — ever — fathom her disdaining science or politicizing it.

Throughout the pandemic, I've thought about this from time to time.

I am convinced that if she were alive today — and was a much younger woman, at the height of her career — she would be out on the front lines with other nurses, doing her part to help keep the death toll down, comfort those who need it, and jab vaccines into arms.

She admired doctors, enjoyed the teamwork of health-care providers, and respected science.

She marveled at how quickly the field of medicine was advancing, such as how many more premature and severely underweight babies were surviving in the 1970s — a much more common occurrence now, one we have been conditioned to practically take for granted.

"English, please!" my sisters and I would occasionally blurt out upon hearing some of the medical terms she threw at us when we were children and teenagers.

Despite her Republican loyalties, there would have been no defiance over masking up, social distancing, or promoting life-saving vaccines.

Mom didn't mess around when it came to medicine. I hate how science has become so polarizing and political, as if we have a choice to believe in it or not. That's the funny thing about science: It's gonna happen, no matter what.

I've been reflecting more upon the role of doctors and nurses in recent weeks after undergoing hip replacement surgery on March 3. I got outstanding care, and began wondering how health-care workers can manage to stay so positive given what our nation's going through.

They've always been unsung heroes. But I don't remember them taking quite this much crap from the general public for doing nothing other than their jobs.

Throw in angry, biting comments from jerks, naysayers, deniers, and anti-maskers/anti-vaxxers, and it all seems a bit overwhelming.

It's tiresome enough just writing about it.

Yet most doctors and nurses seem to ignore the noise, stay upbeat, cheer up hospital patients as best as they can, and continue to provide top-notch health care, even with the heavy burden of the pandemic lingering over us.

I was impressed by nurses and volunteers I met at the Lucas County Recreation Center when my wife, Jordie, and I got our two coronavirus vaccines.

Two nurses we met on our last visit are from Mississippi. They said they had been hunkered down in the Toledo area for more than three months helping to vaccinate people here while putting their own families and their own lives on hold.

On Monday, NBC News With Lester Holt aired a 1:29-minute clip about traveling nurses who selflessly give of themselves to help vaccinate people against the pandemic.

One, Ebonee Gresham, has a family of 10 children in Georgia whom she keeps on task with daily chats via her cellphone and laptop. She's been on the road since Christmas evening on behalf of Snapnurse, an app-based service which has dispatched thousands of nurses across the country to communities hit hard by the pandemic.

"Knowing that we're still saving lives and making history here, it feels amazing," Ms. Gresham told Mr. Holt during their interview, which was done remotely from Pomona, Calif., where Mr. Holt said she now leads a vaccination clinic.

Ms. Gresham likened the experience to a military deployment, explaining that she and other nurses don't consider their jobs done "until we fight this battle out with COVID and we win."

My Mom died in November, 2006. It's been almost 15 years. She would have turned 92 on March 3, the day I got my hip surgery.

She might not have been traveling around the country vaccinating other people if she was alive and much younger today.

But who knows?

I'm sure she's looking down and pulling for nurses everywhere.

So Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Here's to you and your fellow nurses, and everyone else in the healthcare industry who — somehow, some way — have maintained a fierce desire to serve us.

First Published May 9, 2021, 12:00am