Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In Praise Of: Nurses

Many of you know that Jason's mom has been fighting COPD for years. She's been in the hospital being treated for complications of this illness since March, and yesterday things took a grim turn. I got one of "those" phone calls, the kind you don't like to get, and as I raced to the hospital I really thought it was the end.

She is, however, still with us. I don't know how things are going to end, and Jason is just dealing with it the only way any of us knows how: day by day.

As I so frequently am when someone I love is in a medical crisis, I was struck by the nurses. So today's edition of the "In Praise Of" segment honors those men and women who run the show in a hospital.

I've seen some bad nurses (and after Ainsley's birth, had one attend to me) but more often than not the nurses I've seen in action have been angels walking on earth.

When Jason and I were allowed back to see his mom, one of the nurses from the last unit she was in was with her.

"I love you," she said, patting her patient's hand. "How could I not? You're so easy to love." And then she turned away and wiped away tears.

I've always heard that nurses and doctors don't let themselves get too attached to their patients, because if they did, every day would be a day of mourning and they could never make the tough decisions. Maybe I've watched too much ER and Scrubs, but I think sometimes a personal touch from a medical professional goes a long way. Sometimes it helps to know that that person with your life in their hands is a human being.

Jason's mom's nurses care about her and love her and I know she feels that.

All of my chemo nurses were good, but I had one who was great. Her name was Fran, and she was there for that very first round when I was still high from the Ativan I was given to relax me through a bone marrow biopsy. Even though I was beyond annoying, asking her over and over again if I got my anti-nausea meds because I was too dopey to have any short-term memory, she laughed with me instead of at me. She always tried to grab my chart when I came in so that she could administer my meds. On my next-to-last appointment she took me by myself into an exam room to get my IV started because I had become a difficult stick and another nurse had tried and failed to find a good vein, making me cry for the first time during a treatment. For five minutes she worked to get a vein in my hand, both of us in silence. After she finally was in and taped me up, she threw her head back in a huge belly laugh of relief. When I looked closer, she was had tears in her eyes.

She hugged me.

"Oh, kiddo," she said. "I need a beer after that one."

"Me, too," I said. And for a few minutes we cried together. I appreciated that moment of humanity from her more than she may ever know.

From our school nurse, who patiently showed me how to give myself a shot when I needed to do that during treatment and who hunts me down every fall to give me a flu shot because she knows my immune system is blown, to the hospice nurse who showed up minutes after my father died and sat with until daylight helping us find peace, to the nurses who have cared for my mother-in-law as if she were their own mother: thank you for what you do.

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