Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Power Of A Nurse

I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything, 
I will not refuse to do something that I can do...Helen Keller

The car pulls into the driveway of a cape cod as the sunrise breaks through remnants of last night's fog. The driver pulls up to the garage and stares at the door, deciding to park outside. Lights are turned off. The engine is cut. The driver exhales a deep breath she didn't know she was holding. She rests her forehead into the steering wheel. A tear rolls down her cheek as a hesitant smile emerges. She thinks back to the many triumphs and defeats she bravely faced for the past twelve hours. Her fingers entwine the plastic Minnie Mouse bracelet she is wearing, given to her by a patient with leukemia. She walks into her house. Despite her sheer exhaustion, sleep will not come until after she wakes up her three kids to dress them, feed them and escort them to their bus stop.

This is the life of a nurse.

He looks as tired as he feels, despite sleeping well the night prior. It's been a thankless shift. Through the window of the nurses' station, he observes the outside rain, its drizzle rhythmically tapping a soothing beat. He signs off the last of information on his seventh patient to his replacement, sharing the important medications, vitals, activities, and care-plan in depth. He says his goodbyes, heads to the locker room and changes out of his scrubs into his street clothes. He collects his belongings, walks down a hectic hallway to enter a packed elevator, and exits through the lobby. He crosses traffic and enters a long walkway that leads to the parking garage. Here, he cannot hold back his emotions any longer. He turns around to look at the intimidating building he just left, and stares at the end window of the seventh floor. His chest heaves and he starts to cry, knowing the death of this patient will haunt him in tonight's sleep.

This is the life of a nurse.

She grabs the crockpot of baked beans and yells for the kids to hurry up. She doesn't want to be late for her family reunion. It's been a year since she's seen some of her distant cousins and she has been looking forward to revisiting her childhood memories with those who shared in them. Thankfully, her husband packed the car earlier with silverware and lawn chairs. Suddenly, her phone rings. She looks at the number and dreadfully picks up, knowing that her plans for the day are ruined. She faces the disappointed faces of her children and husband before she changes into her scrubs and clogs. Within thirty minutes, she is on her unit, a familiar place of chaos, for this unplanned shift due to mandatory on-call. She sits down on the cracked leather chair in front of her computer, wishing for the world she was sitting at a picnic bench with her family instead. 

This is the life of a nurse.

There is not one among us who has not had our lives enriched because of a nurse. From birth to now, each of us has been touched with the kindness and loving attention that a nurse has provided us. Whether it be at the doctor's office, the hospital, the medical centers with inpatient and outpatient services, or within our own homes, nurses have been a constant source of unlimited talents and skills, selfless souls who have always had the gift of propelling us forward on our life paths. They have comforted us in our down moments and genuinely rejoiced with us in the glory of good health.

They have held our hands through so many stages...always supportive...always beside us. 

I clearly remember the many nurses who have accompanied me on my life journey. My childhood doctor's nurse, holding me through my shots. My dentist's nurse, holding my hand while soothingly talking in my ear during a cavity being filled. My family practitioners' and specialists' nurses, always greeting and treating me with a big smile.

We not only remember the many nurses who have touched our lives, but also the nurses who have touched our family members' lives. I will never forget or be able to repay Nurse Rose, an energetic bundle of goodness from the local Children's Hospital who each week guided us through the chemotherapy treatments of one of my children. The same goes for Nurse Sue and Nurse Don, two of my mother's favorites nurses when she had to spend 40 days in the hospital as she bravely fought leukemia. When my mother's hair started falling out in clumps, it was Nurse Don who brought in his hairdresser clippers and made her even more beautiful than she already was.

Excuse me while I wipe my tears...

Uniquely, I have had the pleasures and memories of working beside so many incredibly talented nurses as I traveled through medical school and residency. Their names and faces are etched into my mind's vault as I fondly recall their unselfish sharing of their medical knowledge and laughter and coping skills with me. Often, it was a nurse who calmly guided me through a crisis when I stood at the bedside of a crashing patient at 4 a.m. in the ICU during my internship year.

Most of all, though, I would like to salute the nurses who I have been fortunate to work beside for the past 23 years in our chaotic trauma center's ER. Through each shift, among the memories of the triumphs and tragedies, of the heartbreaks and celebrations, and of the mundane and exciting, you have unselfishly stood beside me and encouraged me to be and give my very best to each and every patient. You are not only my coworkers, but you are my brothers and sisters.  

This is the power of a nurse.

To all of you, it has been my privilege to witness your strength and vulnerability, your discipline and strong-will, your compassion and empathy, your perseverance and endless energy, your grieving and your heartfelt rejoicing, and your gratitude and happiness while caring for the lives of ill patients who rely on you.

I have learned from you and am buoyed by you.
I am a better doctor because of you.
I am a better man and human being because of you.

This week, then, please smile as you are flooded with memories of...

...the patient who gave you a hug and a vase of flowers when she was discharged.
...the tears of happiness you shed when you helped save a patient's life.
...the compliments you received from a patient's grateful family.
...the first successful IV you placed in a squirming patient.

...the nurse mentor who guided you through your first week on your new job.
...the child who colored you a picture of yourself.
...the first thank you note you got from a patient in your work mailbox.
...the pride in your family's eyes when you received your nursing diploma.

...the first time in public a patient recognized you and thanked you for your care.
...the admiration in someone's eyes when you told them you are a nurse.
...the thank-you you received from an appreciative doctor when you caught a medical error.
...the thank-you you received from a fellow nurse you helped when their patient crashed.

...the lives you have affected by your selfless and endless compassion, love and caring.
...the hours you dedicated to always bettering yourself to be the great nurse you are.
...the accolades you have received from your volunteerism and sharing of yourself.
...the love and respect we each hold for you as you face another uncertain work day.

Nurses represent all that is good in our world, the epitome of love and compassion and empathy and selflessness. It is a special person who has this inherent recipe of characteristics and pursues one of the most noble professions in our society. Although it can be heartbreaking and demoralizing at times, thank you for seeing beyond this fog to appreciate the rewards that awaited you.

From myself, your fellow co-workers, your family and friends, and your fellow human beings, then, we send each of you a collective heartfelt thanks for the work you do, the lives you enrich and the difference you make each and every day.

Happy Nurses Week to you!!!

You are angels
You are heroes.
You are family.

You are a nurse...

Thank you for reading! Also check out Senator Walsh...Thank You for more nurse appreciation!

I dedicate this to one of my heroes, my sister Chrissie, and her forty-year nursing career. Thanks for inspiring me to be a part of the medical world (and for being a great big sissy!). 💕


Unknown said...

KOJO You are an amazing man and Doctor! I love how you always take the time to make sure that everyone knows how much you appreciate them. I know that you probably don't remember me, but I worked in the ER in the lab when we still did some tests up there. You used to call Kim and I the dynamic duo. Because we could somehow always get blood from the babies that came in very sick. I just wanted to let you know I admire you and always will!!

Anonymous said...

During this COVID crisis, I've been reading histories of WW2 nurses. Mostly Anzio and the European theater. Just started on Corregidor and Bataan. To the point of the surrender and their "First day in Hell." What pioneering, remarkable, courageous, beautiful women! I am so grateful for them, and every other doctor, nurse, medical professional, and first responder out there.

jimbo26 said...

All I can say is - Thank you - to ALL Nursing Staff and Doctors everywhere .
Thank you .

Esther Paris said...


Crystal Severino said...

hey there Kojo! Not sure if you will remember me, I worked with you in Hamot ER as RN a few years back - some of the best nursing I have ever been a part of! just wanted to say thank you! Your words truly touched my heart, so much that I have decided to share your words with all my fellow nurses within my organization.
thank you again and keep being you!
Crystal Severino

AriaLover said...

Blessed is the nurse who held me in her arms and tenderly stroked my hair after I had been in labor for almost 24 hours with a fever of 102 F. The OB doc on call brusquely said "I give up. We'll do a C-section." I was crying my eyes out because I couldn't go on any longer.