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Stories from Main Street: “That could be me…

National Nurses United Executive Director, RoseAnn DeMoro recently called on RNs nationwide to share stories about how the economic crisis is impacting their lives at home, and in their hospitals and communities. Their heartfelt responses were deeply moving, some of which can be read on the NNU blog.

During a recent shift as a charge nurse I was happy to learn that one of the patients wanted to compliment her RN for the care she received. The patient, who was in her 50s, was eloquent and carried herself elegantly, shaking my hand when I entered the room. A former executive secretary for more than 30 years, she penned her comment card in a beautiful handwritten script. Later that shift, I realized that the patient was the same person I had seen on the boards two weeks ago but never met: a homeless woman. I would have never suspected that this former executive secretary with impeccable penmanship was the same homeless woman if it weren’t written right there in the charts.

The discovery brought me to tears. I went back to visit the patient and learn her story. It’s an all-too-common one: After losing her job, she lost her healthcare, then lost her home and her family. The face of homelessness in America has changed. We have prototypes in our heads of what homeless people should look like, but they look like you and me. Her story also struck a nerve for me because some years ago, after a back injury at work, my husband and I also struggled to pay $1,400 a month in COBRA premiums to maintain our health insurance while I was on medical leave. I was just crushed by this woman, thinking that could be me.

— San Bernardino, California

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