This is Nurses’ Week. It is my pleasure to send out a big hug and many thanks and a virtual cup of coffee with a fresh Krispy Kreme to each and every nurse who has touched our lives. We have been blessed by your kindness, your skills, and your dedication to what you do. Thank you.
My first eye-opening experience with those of this profession was when I started work with our local Hospice in the Fall of 2000. For over two years, I worked as a team with these beautiful people who made the journey from this life to the next one a lot more peaceful and a little less frightening. When Mama and Daddy made the decision to call Hospice for Daddy in September of 2011, I was so hoping for just the right person to come in. And she did. A sweet spirit, calming and loving. She was just the perfect person for Mama and Daddy. And when Daddy was gone, she still cared for Mama. Because of her, Mama found a whole community of people who loved and supported her through the next fifteen months. And when Mama left this earth–our wonderful nurse was there, loving us and Mama, and holding Mama’s hand. Just as she did a week later when our cousin Miss Betty took her last breath. I know that calling her an “angel on earth” seems rather trite and cliche’, but I don’t know how else to decribe her. Without being intrusive she became a part of our family. To this day. I love her with all my heart because of what she did, but even more because of who she is. It takes someone special to be a nurse.
When Mama went for the second HospitalStay in January, we felt like we were old hands at this in some respects. This was, however, my first experience with ICU nurses. PHENOMENAL. These men and women do so many tasks that are delegated to others on other floors. I’ve watched them do things that I won’t describe here, but let me tell you–hearts of gold, stomachs of steel. Enough said.
I won’t be able to mention each one, but most of them were pretty doggone great. The joke amongst the family became that I got into in-depth conversations with the people who took care of Mama, while my baby sister felt like she was interrogating them by comparison. (She would say, “Tara asks, ‘So where did you go to school? Oh that’s great,’ while I say (in clipped sharp tones) ‘So. Where did YOU go to SCHOOL?! OH, that is just great.” ) I just shrugged at her version of it, and said, “I’m looking for my new BFF for-evuh! I’m convinced I’m going to find her during the HospitalStay.” And I tried. We met some interesting people.
Tony who-smelled-good was our first nurse that night when Mama was moved unexpectedly to the ICU. He was on again when she was rushed to surgery the next night. He cared for her after the surgery. He is precious to me because he is one of the few who remembered her awake and alert, how she smiled and made conversation through the pain. He comforted her in her anxiety as she headed down to surgery. He was the one to whom she bragged about her soon-to-be-born grandson. He smiled and listened. Listening. That is huge.
Andrea was another beautiful soul from the beginning of our stay. She had Mama several times before we were moved to the STICU. She and Miss Betty, the patient care tech, made a great team–comforting us in our concerns, answering our questions, and oh, the healing laughter. They laughed and filled that room with joy. They told Mama, who was still sedated, funny stories and made up nicknames for each one of them. Andrea left us a note on the obituary on-line. That connection. Thank you. She let us know Mama was more than just another patient. She was also one who let us stay even though visiting hours were over. She knew the situation and decided accordingly. That was such a gift. We didn’t really know it at the time. I will always remember this beautiful woman who was a surprise to her own Mama–she was a twin born to a woman expecting only one. What a precious surprise she was.
Janel, and I may not be spelling her name right, took the time to teach us how to take care of Mama. Mama ran fever a lot, and for several reasons, they couldn’t give her medication to bring it down. Janel was the one who said “Let’s mini-skirt her and wipe her down.” She would tuck the gown up a bit, and then she used a wet washcloth and wiped Mama’s arms, face, hands, and legs. She asked if we’d like to do that. Thank you, Janel. Because of her, I wasn’t afraid to move around the wires and cables and touch Mama, love on her. Though Janel was only with us one day, we started asking other nurses if we could do that, and by the time Mama was moved to the STICU we just started asking for washcloths and telling them what we were doing. Janel believed in the family being a part of care. She even said, “If she were my Mama, I’d be crawling in the bed with her.” She got it, and for that I give thanks.
There were so many other great nurses and patient care techs who touched our lives with love and a tender touch. I am thankful for each and every one, even the ones who kept “ma’am”ing me. (Boy was that hard to hear!) I would have taken any of them as my new BFF for-evuh. Loved. Them.
When our cousin Miss Betty was admitted into the hospital in Warner Robins two weeks after Mama, our family decided it was best if Miss Betty didn’t know about Mama being in the hospital. She would not have understood. Mama was her guardian, and it only would have frightened her. We hoped it would not be necessary. And it wasn’t. Just not in the way we anticipated.
So each time we spoke with a new nurse at the hospital there, we explained two things–that Mama was in the hospital so we couldn’t be there as much as we would like, and that Miss Betty wasn’t to know about Mama. The team of nurses on the ICU and step-down unit were so incredible during this really hard time. They became Miss Betty’s new BFF’s. It was precious the night that I was visiting with her, and the night nurse Miss Cece came on, walked by and waved. Miss Betty waved back, and said, “That’s my friend.” I never worried once about Miss Betty’s care. To this day I give thanks for that great group of nurses. From the first day with Amber who took Miss Betty and my sister under her wing, to our last night with Mary, who was there to mother me as much as to care for Miss Betty, we were blessed with caring, compassionate people–among them Willa, Brett, Brandi, Cece, Mary, and so many others. If we saw one in the hall, even when she wasn’t Miss Betty’s nurse that day, each one would ask how things were going. They remembered and cared. One I owe a great deal of sanity to is Aimee. On the way to see Mama during one of the very strict visiting times at the hospital in Macon, I had hoped to have time to swing by the hospital in town to see Miss Betty first. The skies looked ominous, traffic was awful near the Base, and I knew that if I did drive to Miss Betty’s hospital, I would probably only have 1/2 hour out of the two hours allotted to visit Mama by the time I could get there. With no other options, I called and asked for Miss Betty’s nurse. Aimee. I told her my situation and asked that if I got there a few minutes after visiting time was over, could I please still see Miss Betty before I needed to head home?
This sweet and compassionate woman gave me the gift of grace. “You go see your Mama. Take your time, drive safely, and when you get here, no matter when, you can come on back.” I cried right then and there. Later that evening when I finally arrived to see Miss Betty, Aimee was there, ready to change shifts. She stayed to ask how things were going in Macon with Mama. She listened and she laughed with me and let me just be. What a gift of love. Tonight I am particularly thankful to Aimee for my being able to have that visit with peace in my heart, as it was only three days later that I had to tell Mama goodbye.
Dear nurses, you have a thankless job. I know. I saw and heard things during our HospitalStay that broke my heart for you. But please hear me say this, I owe you all a debt I can never repay. You took the time to make sure my Mama and Miss Betty were safe and comfortable and had the greatest of care, just as you do for each one of your patients. And you took the time to talk to us, to answer our questions, to listen to our stories, and to just let us be. You are loved and treasured. Thank you all, those whom I have met and those whom I have not. Please don’t ever doubt that what you are doing is making a difference. You are healers of body and spirit. With your gentle hands and your full hearts. Thank you.