Today is the beginning of National Nurses Week. It is a time to recognize and appreciate the unsung heroes who do the lion's share of the work and get relatively small recognition in the medical communities. It is an exciting profession offering opportunities in a myriad of ways. If you are looking for something important to do with your life, consider nursing.
Nurses are everywhere -- no one knows that better than we do.There are nurses in hospitals, schools, doctor's offices, homes, businesses, and many other places. They are not always wearing scrubs either, they may be in the boardroom, or the person behind you in line at the supermarket. If you are lucky there will be a table of nurses sitting next to you in a restaurant when a heart attack strikes or you choke on your food. They will care for you and go right back to their dinner when you are safe.
Before Maggie was born, I admired nurses in a general sense, in that way you respect and admire people who are called to do certain work. I didn't have too much cause to interact with nurses because everyone was healthy, so the respect and admiration were from a distance. When Maggie entered the world, we received a crash course in Nursing appreciation and I never forgot it.
It was a nurse who encouraged me to question a doctor about a decision when Maggie was a baby and I haven't shut up since. It was always a nurse showing us how to do things for Maggie, how to use the feeding tube, and a catheter and care for a trach. I learned how to read monitors and when NOT to worry about the numbers. I still remember trying to learn sterile technique from Adrienne, a veteran in the PICU. We went through a lot of gloves and suction sets until I got the timing right. I deal with nurse practitioners in several of the specialties Maggie sees and always get prompt, reasoned advice. When things are not going well in the hospital, it is always a nurse who has my back and gets things back to where they need to be.
Maggie owes her life to the nurses who have cared for her over the years. But they didn't just care for Maggie. They cared for the rest of the family too. The boys were fawned over when they came to visit and, in addition to the education we received at their hands, Steve and I were always treated with tremendous respect and kindness.
There are a million examples I could give, but one always pops into my mind first. Maggie was a tiny baby, maybe 10 days old. She was in the NICU, where she would stay for 11 weeks, and just out of her second (or third) surgery. It was a big one. When she was born her esophagus was in two pieces. This surgery was going to connect the two pieces and it was extremely delicate because there wasn't quite enough tissue to reach. After the surgery Maggie had to be on Pavulon, a paralyzing agent so that there would be absolutely no movement. Without the ventilator would not even be able to breathe. Seeing her like that is still the most difficult memory I have.
As I stood over her isolette looking down at that frighteningly still baby, I felt completely empty and fought back tears. I was helpless. I could not do a single thing for her and this was day 1 of 10 days. I didn't know how I was going to make it.
Carol, the nurse on that day saw the struggle I was going through. She seemed to know what I was thinking. She looked at me and said, "Maggie can hear you, Talk to her. Let her know you are here."
Those words were perhaps the best gift I have ever received, and not just because I like to talk. They gave me a purpose at the lowest possible moment. They empowered me to help Maggie. I sat there next to her little bed and told Maggie about her brothers and the house she hadn't seen yet. I told her what was going on with the other babies around her and who was coming and going out of the NICU. I told her how tough she was and that things were going to get easier. I read her stories and payed music. I talked her little ears off and probably forged the basis of the relationship we have to this day.
So ... yeah, I do have an appreciation for nurses. The problem is I don't think I can show it all in just one week.