12 February 2010

THE Nurse

By the time I was wheeled into the hospital's TCCU (Transitional Cardiac Care Unit) that night, my body was "road weary", my mind was in shock, and my soul was parched. The two weeks leading to this moment had been peppered with multitudes of tests, doctors, needles, drugs, and even a biopsy, and then finished off with what I thought to be my death sentence. I felt like an empty, used paper cup.

Thankfully, my bed was greeted by a warm, strong voice, accompanied by a big smile. "I'm 'J,' your nurse; and I'm going to be taking care of you tonight. You're here because you need to be watched closely. Those clots can be dangerous. So we have to get rid of them as quickly as possible!" Her presence was assuring. She radiated care and comfort. This might sound trite, but is absolutely true. As soon as J crossed my plane of consciousness, I knew that the crazy ride was over -- for that moment. It was time to stop and recuperate sanity. I started to see the light at the end of the seemingly never-ending gray tunnel. I felt the ground beneath me. I could feel my heart beat again. Exhale......

J was compassionate without being overbearing; professional without being distant; and, most importantly, present. Her presence shored up my then-weak foundation. She was diligent, informative, assuring, and patient -- the quintessential care-giver. She took care of me for only two 8 hour shifts of the 2.5 days I was in the hospital, but the impact she made was quite significant. Particularly, I am really grateful for one short piece of advice she gave me. It became one of the helpful tools I used consistently during my bout with cancer.

One of the hardest things I had to do after I found out about the cancer was to relay this to my children. I was at a loss. What a daunting and heart-breaking prospect! It weighed heavier in my mind more than the cancer did. How do you tell your children that you are gravely ill? What an awful, awful thing to have to do! I wished more than anything that I could spare them, keep the cancer away from them. They're two young adults, with their whole lives in front of them. Cancer need not get in the way. I wondered if there was a way around this. There wasn't, of course! And I needed to tell them immediately. I was in a panic.

J, listened to my dilemma intently. Then, she offered the most perfectly brilliant solution: "Set the tone. Set the tone and they will follow." Wow! It was so simple and obvious -- and so true! How empowering were those 4 little words! Set the tone. Of course! How they would take the news would be up to me, largely. They're my kids and they will negotiate this difficulty based on the tone I set. I had to take the reins and not fall apart. If I needed to be surrounded by positivity and strength, I needed to demonstrate that. It had to start from me. What a great gift to have gotten from the Nurse! And for that I will eternally be grateful.

Nurses, I think are the unsung heroes of the business of curing folks. Their role is so substantial, yet (it seems to me) mostly unsung. If the doctors cure, then the nurses care. But that's even a gross oversimplification. Yes, doctors can come up with the course of treatment. But who is there with the patient, making sure that the course is executed properly? In my vast experience with health care professionals this past year, I can say with great conviction that without the nurses like J, I wouldn't have been able to do it. They were there to clarify, care, listen, and carry out the course of my treatment and provide the grounding and sanity needed to "stay the course."

So, J really is the the perfect example of all the nurses to whom I owe so much; from those who assisted me in the ERs to the other shift nurses at the hospital to the wonderful, wonderful oncology nurses who administered my chemo with so much care and compassion. Thanks for sanity and grounding over the past year.

I wouldn't be here without you.


Karen said...

You did it --you made me cry! Undoubtedly, I can speak for all my fellow nurses as I communicate these two small words: "Thank you."

Thank you for setting the tone, one that is music to my ears.

ce_squared said...

Thanks, Karen! :-) This post is also dedicated to my former mother-in-law, who died of pancreatic cancer a few years back. I only hope she got the care that she so selfless gave when she was a nurse. I'd never met anyone who loved helping people so much.

Nurses rock!


WhiteStone said...

I always appreciated my nurses, too. Even the tough ones, for they were tough because they knew their business. One especially comes to mind and I am ever grateful for her care.

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