International Nurses Day was last Sunday — it capped off National Nurses Week — which makes today, in my opinion, a perfect day to celebrate nurses. I like the message it sends: “The party’s not over, nurses. We see you over there, 365 days a year, elbow-deep in our most personal problems, solving them in a way that is (generally) mystifyingly non-judgmental.”
I have a story to tell today about a nurse, and I’m excited to tell it, but before I do, I need to take a personal moment to marvel at nurses in general. Several of my closest friends are nurses; I tend to be drawn to them. First, I take comfort in knowing there’s a trained medical professional nearby in the somewhat-likely event I choke on food, get knocked out, twist something, have a question about a skin aberration, etc. No matter what you manage to get yourself into, a nurse has seen it eight times before, and will see it nine times again. I take comfort in knowing that, too.
More importantly, they’re incredible to have around, because if the ones I’ve met are any indication, they tend to be lionhearted people. If a nurse is flinching, I don’t want to imagine the thing that’s causing it. And a good nurse — somehow, I do not know how — combines all that bravery and fortitude with the ability to give compassionate, reassuring care, resulting in what is, essentially, a super-human.
The super-human I’m going to tell you about today is named Helen Linebrink.
Last month, The Crescent-News published a story I’d written about Evansport man Add Brunner, an update of sorts, as the paper first told his story — what little there was to tell at the time — in 1957, after Brunner, then three days old, was found in a box on the porch of a Highland Township home, abandoned. The article stated that the woman who found him, Mae Dunbar, “notified the sheriff’s office, and the baby was taken to Defiance City Hospital, where he quickly won the hearts of nurses and staff with his sweet demeanor.”
Linebrink, 84, Defiance, was one of those nurses, and after reading the story, she reached out to Brunner to see what had become of the baby she remembered. Linebrink said she always knew she wanted to become a nurse.
“Back then, when you stood in line chit-chatting in high school, that’s all you talked about, what you wanted to do, whether you wanted to be a teacher, or a nurse...” Linebrink said.
She had just started working at the hospital when baby Add arrived.
“It was something extra-special, to have this little blonde fellow there, who looked so happy and perfect and small,” Linebrink said. “I remember everyone saying that when he did go, he would go far away, that’s why I was surprised when I found out he was nearby.”
As the story went on to tell, Add was with his forever family, the Brunners, by July 1958. Linebrink — whose six adult daughters live nearby — took a 20-year hiatus from nursing to raise children, but continued her career in 1978, ultimately retiring in 2010. When the two met, as Brunner’s wife, Tanya, put it, Add met the woman “whose arms rocked him when his own mother’s could not.”
I learned the three (Tanya, Add and Linebrink) had met up when I saw a photo posted recently to Facebook, and was happy the story I’d written had been the catalyst for such a unique reunion. I am, however, kicking myself, because I forgot to ask if Add had quickly won her heart with his sweet demeanor. I’m betting he did...