Sunday, September 20, 2015

Thank You Nurses

As someone who's racked up frequent flier miles in hospitals, I feel like I need to weigh in on the recent nursing controversy.  In case you missed it, I'll summarize for you.  Last week during the talent portion of the 2016 Miss America pageant, Miss Colorado came out dressed in scrubs with a stethoscope around her neck and gave a monologue about her career as a nurse.  The next day on The View, Michelle Collins and Joy Behar not only ridiculed Miss Colorado (saying among other things that nursing wasn't a talent), they showed a surprising ignorance about nursing in general.

From their comments, I can only surmise that neither Ms. Collins nor Ms. Behar have spent much time in hospitals.  If they had, they would know that nursing is definitely a talent.  I have Crohn's disease and I've been in the hospital more times than I can count.  In the past six months, I've been in the ER twice and spent 2 weeks in the hospital, followed by a lengthy recovery from surgery.  This is not unusual for me.  

When you have a chronic disease, frequent hospitalizations are par for the course.  You learn quickly that a good nurse is a God send.  I can't count the number of times one of my nurses has saved my life.

Twelve years ago when I was pregnant, a nurse practitioner who realized that something was very wrong.  Because of her, my son and I are alive today.  When I told the doctor about my abdominal pain, he ignored me.  The nurse practitioner took one look at me and said, "Get to the hospital."

Once there,it was a nurse who realized that my son's heartbeat was dropping.  She made the decision to rush me to the operating room.  Doctors later told my husband that I was in multi-system organ failure and I would have died in 12 hours if not for that nurse's quick thinking.

As it was, I spent six weeks in the hospital.  While there, nurses watched me round the clock.  When I was in ICU, a nurse came in at least hourly (if not more frequently) to check my vital signs.  When my blood pressure was too high, a nurse noticed it.  When my fever raged out of control, a nurse noticed it.  When the NG (naso-gastric) tube that ran down my nose and into my stomach backed up, nurses took care of it.  They emptied the two drainage bags that were attached to my stomach and the catheter bag.
In ICU. My husband took this pictures because this was one of the (many) times doctors told him I might not make it through the night.

Then there were the non-medical things they did.  I had about 18 inches of open incisions on my stomach (not stapled or stitched shut, they were just packed with gauze so that the infection could drain) so walking and sitting up were difficult for me.  So again, nurses helped me.  They helped me stand.  They helped me walk from my bed to a three feet away, and when I was shaking from the pain of doing so, they eased me into that chair so that I wouldn't fall.  I couldn't shower so they draped towels over my pillow and poured water over my hair, washing it for me.

They took pictures of my son in the NICU (nurses were taking care of him there too) and brought them to me.  I was too weak to get out of bed, so when I was finally off of the ventilator, a team of nurses pushed me, in my ICU bed, up to the NICU so that I could see my son for the first time.  He was three days old.

When I finally got out of ICU, a nurse would bring my son down to my room every day so that I could see him.  I found out later that her shift had ended and she stayed late just so that I could hold my baby.

Nurses who had treated me on different floors of the hospital, would stop by and visit me as I got closer to being discharged.  And when I was finally able to walk again (tethered to a canvas leash with a physical therapist walking behind me), the nurse who had rushed me to the operating room saw me in the hallway (she worked several floors up and had come down to visit me).  When she saw me walking, she rushed over and hugged me, saying through tears, "We didn't think this day would happen!"

All of this happened during just one of my many hospital stays.  But it's the same every time I'm in the hospital.  Nurses have held my hand as I cried because I just can't stand one more day in the hospital.  They've sat with me when I was bored during a blood transfusion, telling me the places my husband and I should visit on our upcoming trip to San Francisco. They've helped me to the bathroom and somehow managed it so that I wasn't embarrassed.

It takes more than medical know-how to be a nurse.  It takes skill.  It takes talent.  It takes passion.

So to all of the nurses who have helped me (and to those who will help me in the future), you have helped me through the hardest times in my life, and I thank you for it.

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