My Turn: Boca’s Hidden Jewel

Beyond Boca Raton’s glitz and glamour and robust business economy is a school that teaches compassion

By John Shuff

Margaret Mary and I have experienced many things that were exhilarating and exciting. We have traveled the world, met Presidents Ford and Clinton, visited the Sistine Chapel, prayed at Lourdes. We were in Vienna when the Russians invaded Prague in 1968, we’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower and attended Super Bowls. And at the age of 48, I accomplished what has become a high point in all those memories: skiing in a handicapped program in Park City, Utah.

I had never skied before the day I wheeled into the offices of Park City Handicapped Sports (now The National Ability Center) and signed up. My ego cried out for a challenge—something daunting—to get the juices flowing, to get back in the hunt. I had never dreamed that you could ski in the Rockies in a sit ski. And that day on the mountain was thrilling—and a big confidence builder.

Those are the kind of memories that have become increasingly precious to me as recent years have involved fewer adventures—and a great many more doctors. The familiar drill of the anesthesiologist saying, “count backwards from 100.” (I don’t think I ever passed 99.) Or the muffled pain you feel hours later when you wake up in a cold room, someone feeding you ice chips from a Styrofoam cup.

During my young life, I’ve gone under the knife 14 times, starting with a tonsillectomy at age 5, and logging in yet another wound care procedure last June. Margaret Mary has long accepted the fact that she married a train wreck; I’ve spent more time on my back than a prostitute.

The doctors and hospitals are understandably very solicitous—and deeply grateful for my business. I sometimes wonder what happens when they spot my name on the appointment calendar; do they salivate when the see my name, licking their chops, saying, “Here comes Johnnnnnnnyyyyy…?”

But all these operations have taught me that sometimes the best care comes after the surgeon tears off his scrubs. That’s when the experts take over: the nurses. They and their aides initiate the healing and caring process 24/7, doing all the heavy lifting, the mundane tasks, the careful monitoring of every vital sign. They become your doctor, your advocate, your lifeline, your friend. Most have great compassion. They know that complaints are part of the drill, with food being the primary target. They have several balls in the air at the same time, and as the daily pressure mounts, you would never know it by their complete composure.

One of the places we find these caring angels is right here in Boca Raton at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing on the FAU campus (made possible by former nurse Christine Lynn). The school, under the leadership of Marlaine Smith, has been rated by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 50 schools of nursing in the country. The college has achieved national recognition but is little known in its own hometown of Boca.

Dr. Smith, who is retiring this year after seven years, has taken ownership of this program, which is based on three core values: caring, comfort and compassion for every patient. Although I don’t know if any of my nurses have gone through this college, I have seen the qualities it advocates on a first-hand basis. They are at the core of good nursing.

Being sick or slated for surgery or going to doctors’ appointments may not be the kind of exhilarating life events we like to celebrate, but they are part of the ride—part of who we are. And I like to think the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing has made all of that a much better experience for all of us.


This story comes from our March 2018 issue. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine