My Nanoo was a nurse

As told by Lindsey Hanna, co-owner of Doulas of Memphis Nursing has always been a significant part of my life. My grandmother, whom we affectionately referred to Nanoo because little Lindsey couldn’t quite get out “Nana,” was a nurse. She was like another mom to me and had a significant role in my upbringing. My mother worked when I was small, and we were able to avoid daycare because of Nanoo. She had recently retired from 30+ years working as a nurse, and all of those years were spent in the Baptist system. She was my role model and the reason I became a nurse, too.

Being a nurse runs in the family

If nursing isn’t in our blood, it’s pretty close. Nanoo became a nurse because of her aunt, but not before waiting a couple of years after high school so that she and her sister would graduate at the same time. They were roommates in a big new city, and they jumped in and graduated from Baptist Nursing School (now known as Baptist College of Health Sciences) together in 1953. Here she is in 1955, getting ready:

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My turn

Nanoo was spunky and fiercely loyal to Baptist. She “guessed it was okay” that my aunt worked at St. Francis because “they ain’t no competition anyway.” When I was in nursing school at Baptist College of Health Sciences, the same college Nanoo went to, I mentioned to her that I was considering pediatrics and working at Lebonheur. She said, “That’s in that Methodist Corporation, isn’t it? I don’t want no granddaughter of mine working at Methodist!” Eventually she conceded because it was the only pediatrics hospital around. To be fair, Nanoo also said she would disown me if I ever got a tattoo. I still don’t have a tattoo, and I never embraced the Methodist rivalry, and that’s okay.

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Good enough for me

She was funny and sharp as a tack, and one heck of a cook. The only milk I would ever drink was Nanoo’s milk, even though she got in the same jug from Kroger as the rest of my family. The rest of my family didn’t serve me milk in a chilled mason jar with a handle, and the rest of my family didn’t pour it quite like Nanoo did. Her cooking was “never good enough,” and she was always fussing about this or that detail that didn’t turn out quite right. It didn’t matter because we loved it. Biscuits and gravy, pot roast, cheesy potatoes, peanut butter pie, muscadine pie, strawberry fig jam were the smells of my childhood.

Just like my Nanoo

Nanoo had strong hands, hands that could peel boiled tomatoes, and if you ever had an ailment of any kind, she had the tools to fix it. She taught me to sew, to cook, to can tomatoes, to crochet, and when Nanoo taught you something, you went big or went home. My first sewing project was a reversible vest with pearl buttons, my first crochet project was a full sized afghan, and it’s no wonder that to this day I can’t do anything halfway. I looked like Nanoo, and wanted to be just like her, and that meant that I was going to be a nurse...in the Baptist system, of course.

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I worked as a nurse in restorative care for two years and labor and delivery for three years before the birth of my son, and Nanoo didn’t blame me for taking some time off to be a Mom. She patted me on the leg, which was her version of a great big hug, and said, “That’s all right. He needs you.” Nanoo was a nurse in a simpler time. Nurses had more time to sit and nurture their patients, to treat them like family. I never went back to nursing, but that nurturing spirit that my Nanoo had, fiesty as it was, led me from nurse to mom to doula.

Nurse Appreciation Week

Even though I’m not working as a nurse right now, I will never stop appreciating the work that nurses do. It will always be a part of who I am, and who my family is. If you haven’t recently, take the time to thank a nurse in your life not only for what they do, but for who they are. Show them that you see them, that you see their work, and that it matters to you. Because nurses matter to all of us. My Nanoo was a nurse, and my life will never be the same because of it.