Tilda Shalof


Being a nurse for thirty plus years, I had no choice but to suddenly become a patient and was surprised to discover that I had a lot to learn “on the other side of the bedrails. 

What helped me most was staying in charge of my patient experience and working in partnership with all of my caregivers. 

One very real fear as I as many have, was what if I don't survive the experience. I began to realize  there was so much I could do before, during and after surgery that I decided to write it down to share with others and before I knew it I had written a book. 

Through the process i realized that writing down my wishes in the event that my fears became my reality was a good thing to do. Preparing an at -the--ready disaster plan might include a trip to the  lawyer to draw up a living will.

I realized that Nurses are your best friends during the time you are a patient. Once your doctor has completed his miracle, the nurses will be the people to care for you and to show you what is needed to recover and get to the point where you can resume a healthy lifestyle. What makes a great nurse?
It takes more than knowledge or skill and it’s not enough to be caring in the sentimental sense of the word ... to be a great nurse takes intelligence, energy, imagination and integrity... with love added into the mix. Stir. Shake. Serve! 

I learned more from my one-week stay as a hospital patient than in all of my years caring for the critically ill. I like to write stories about my experiences, but I recently, I found another way to express what nursing means to me in Opening My Heart – A Journey from Nurse to Patient and Back Again.

For years, I had an odd habit: I saved medical trash, collecting the bits of hospital ephemera, all those plastic bits & pieces, normally discarded after use the purple or turquoise caps from antibiotic vials, yellow lids from saline bottles, pink, lavender, or green tops of test tubes, .(Cont'd at right)  
the black & red heparin caps, a yellow lid from a saline bottle, clear amber cubes from arterial blood syringes, & much more. These objects delight me.
Not only are they concrete evidence of my work – diuretics to patients in heart failure, vasopressors boosting a plummeting blood pressure, insulin to lower an elevated blood sugar - to me they are also symbolic souvenirs of my patients. 
At the end of each shift, I’d gather my precious items & toss them into my knapsack. Over the years, my children sorted them, made games with them, & strung necklaces. They are grown up now, but I still had bags & bags of the stuff…now what? I couldn’t bear to throw them away.

My dear friend, Toronto artist Vanessa Herman-Landau, suggested a mosaic mural and lent her expertise to help create it.  Starting with no design in mind, we allowed patterns & themes to emerge organically, drawing inspiration from molecular science, cell biology, anatomy, medical and nursing science.
Now, the mural hangs in a bustling intersection of wings of the Toronto General Hospital, where I worked for most of those 35 years, in the Medical-Surgical ICU. People whizz by on their way to work or appointments. In the late afternoon, they move slower on their way home. Patients walk past or go by in wheelchairs, visitors, along with doctors & nurses who’ve grabbed a bite from the food court, technologists, therapists, administrators & scientists- busy people with a lot on their minds.

 Some stop in front of the mural, pause for a moment and take a breath.  What a joy it is when we stay mindful of the meaning of the work we do, each & every moment, with each & every body & soul in our care. 
Find out more about Tilda Shalof by visiting her Website, Following her on FacebookLinkedIn Twitter  

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