Friday, November 6, 2009

The Gifts...

the people that make it worthwhile...

Right now I am in a vague, fuzzy spot in my career. A gray area, if you will. When that happens, I like to step back and analyze a little. Often I walk away with more clarity and a better frame of mind. So, here we go.

I have been a nurse for 15 years now. I am one of those people who can say "When I was young, I wanted to be a nurse and help people". That was a discovery I made when I was 14 years old. I was visiting an Aunt in the hospital. I sat down on the bed and massaged her hands with lotion after she said how badly they hurt. No one told me that sitting on the bed was not proper etiquette or that cancer patients die horrible, painful deaths sometimes and a hand massage was not going to make that any less so. I just knew that it felt good and right and I wanted to make people feel better all the time. The gift of realization.

Nursing school was a journey. A tough diploma program, non existent in this day and age, a six week old son, and new home and marriage, full time job and a full time school schedule left me spent. I am proud of my journey, which started with 120 students and graduated 72. I lost my Gramps during school and gained knowledge, strength and the realization that I could accomplish so much more than I ever thought possible. The gift of perseverance.

My nursing career started in the NICU. The patients there were like little baby birds who fell from their nests too early. Babies that weighed a pound or less slept next to big, beautiful babies who were expected to go home after their birth and grow up strong and healthy. That is, until something went terribly wrong. The NICU
babies touched my heart, and I had no problem putting myself in the mindset of their parents. I was the nurse you wanted caring for your baby. I made them name tags and dressed them up on Halloween. I took pictures, made cards and left them for their moms. I worked all night long. Sometimes I never sat down because we were working together to keep these babies alive. Some nights I sat down a lot - in a rocking chair with a baby who would scream from intracranial pressure if I put him down or stop breathing if I didn't stimulate her. I learned patience from my tiny patients. That was one of my first nursing gifts.

Sometimes the plans for these babies failed. Parents who never had a chance to hold their babies turned to me and I guided them through the shock of losing their dream. When I read back that sentence, I think I sound cocky. But I am not deleting it. Because I really did do that, and I am blessed because I received a gift from from those parents, too. The gift of compassion and strength. The gift of empathy as my heart broke wide open hearing a woman beg God not to do this to her. I did everything I could to make them look back on that horrible time and find some peace. I helped them bathe and dress their baby, made hand prints, took pictures that they keep forever and cut locks of hair that are touched and smelled and treasured. I tried to give them the gift of memories. To this day my chosen path is helping those through the journey of grief and loss.

That led to Hospice. A brief stint cut short by finding out I was pregnant with my daughter, and thus unwilling to drive alone around Detroit in the middle of the night with a box of narcotics next to me. (The gift of common sense). I did love it. I loved telling a wife of 60 years to get in the bed with her dying husband and hold him because they never slept apart. I loved telling little ethnic women to stop stuffing Jell-o down their dying loved one's throat. I did not love taking the Jell-o back out when they left the room. I loved educating and enlightening families. I saw amazing lives end in the most peaceful, spiritually moving ways I have ever known. I will go back to Hospice nursing someday, when I have 100% to give, because that is what people deserve when they are terminally ill.

Onwards to the mecca. After 20 years at one hospital, I moved to a Level One Trauma Center because hey, if you want to be an ER nurse you have to go big. The gifts I received from Emergency are some of my favorites. The gift of laughter is one. I work with people who are so warped they make me laugh until I cry. I have nights that are so difficult and emotionally draining that I cry until I laugh. I see things that leave me so incredulous I have no choice but to scream in hysterics when describing them to my friends. Through all of this, I have my comrades, my people, my fellow ER staff to lean on. The gift of support. The gift of belief. I see miracles. I watch still hearts start back up, I see talented men and women put the Humpty Dumpties of the world back together again. I share the frustration of dealing with addicts and the mentally ill, as well those who are faking both to manipulate us. Tolerance. There's a good gift.

Many gifts are not meant to be wrapped in a pretty ribbon and given in pomp and circumstance. You should take the ones that aren't, and treasure them, for they are the basis of your spirit. They will make you strong. I am so grateful for mine.

1 comment:

Jules said...

You? Are awesome.