School nurse bids goodbye after 14 years of 'magic'

December 27, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

For 14 years, she has tended to bumps, bruises and the "I-don't-know-what-I've-gotzes."

On the last day before Christmas vacation, a puffy-eyed Rhoda B. Weston, 53, donned a red cap and said farewell to the students and staff of Carrolltowne Elementary. She is packing her bags to go to Jacksonville, Fla., where CSX Railroad is transferring her husband next month.

Between good-byes, the school's favorite nurse took temperatures, checked sore throats, dispensed medicine and extricated a popcorn kernel from a child's gum.

"What's the matter, Christine?" she asked a tearful little girl.

"Something is caught in my tooth and it hurts," answered the child.

After a few quick tugs with dental floss, the popcorn was gone. The child went back to class with a smile.

Ms. Weston knows most of the nearly 650 children who attend Carrolltowne by name.

"I might not remember all the new kindergarten children right away, but I know everyone else," she said.

Every child seems to feel welcome in the cheery health suite, which is decorated with colorful mobiles and murals of smiling animals.

"Nobody is ever afraid to come in here," Ms. Weston said. "I am the nurse who doesn't give needles."

She usually manages within minutes to sort symptoms into "the lousies, the awfuls or the terribles."

While the terribles mean a call to a child's mother, she treats the lousies with "a little lie down."

"Sometimes, all they need is to get out of class and into a nonthreatening place," she said.

Her student "patients" made her a huge nurse troll and hung it on the office door. They wrote thank-you sentiments on the hair strands.

4 "She got a pencil tip out of my hand," one said.

"When my tooth comes out, she gives me an envelope for the tooth fairy," said another.

"She makes magic sponges to make us feel better," said a third.

But it wasn't magic at all. A small sponge, soaked and frozen in a plastic bag, can be the perfect remedy for a child's little aches, Ms. Weston said.

"Gummy bears cure as many ills as the sponges," she said, pulling out a glass jar full of the treats. "They are mostly gelatin and help children make more saliva."

Ms. Weston's school career began by accident. She was volunteering in a classroom when she answered a call for emergency assistance. Later, when the principal needed a new nurse, he offered her the job.

"I said I would give it a year," she said with a laugh. "I love it. The only thing you have to worry about is making a child smile."

The job was a change of pace from the hospital and private nursing she had done since earning her registered nursing degree from St. Elizabeth Hospital in Boston.

Among her favorite students are the special education children.

"I watch 2-year-olds who can do very little come in," she said. "Later, I watch them leave on their own steam."

Once the Westons are settled in Florida, Ms. Weston said she hopes to find another job working with children. Or she may write a book.

"Children have said the funniest things to me over the years, and I have kept those sayings," she said.

She has asked everyone to keep in touch, too.

"We will only be two hours from Disney World, and I have invited them all to visit."

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