Yesterday was one of those days that reminds me of why I do what I do. One of those days that drains you emotionally and physically. One of those days that keeps you up at night because your head and heart are still at work with the people you cared for.
One of my patients went from bad to worse yesterday in a matter of hours. She was admitted into the hospital a few weeks ago with a blood clot in her leg, went through surgery, and was expected to make a speedy recovery considering she had no other health problems. God had other plans for her. In the weeks following her surgery, she developed a whole slew of health problems that eventually led to her coming to our unit and receiving very aggressive treatment to stay alive. But now, after a few weeks, her body has just grown tired and she has slowly begun slipping away.
And her family, who have been by her side day and night, finally realized it yesterday. They saw it in my deliberate body language as I moved around her room, the urgency in my steps as I quickly walked in and out, the intent way the doctors looked her up and down, the hushed tones we spoke in at the nurses’ station. The energy was shifting and they knew why.
But they weren’t ready to accept it. They pleaded with me to give them concrete answers, a timeline for what to expect. They cried as her breathing became more labored and begged her to open her eyes.
And I cried with them. I hugged them, rubbed their backs, prayed with them. I ushered them into a state of acceptance, gave them encouragement but also allowed them to feel the grief that would soon wash over them. I assured them in every way I could that no matter what, we would make their mother as comfortable as possible. We would be there for them every step of the way. Because that’s what we do. Not because it’s our job but because it’s who we are as caregivers.
It was time for me to go home, clock out and return to my own little corner of the world. But my heart was aching for this family and I wanted to stay with them to offer whatever support I could. When you see a grown man hug his dying mother and sob, “Please don’t leave me Mama, I need you! I love you!”, your heart can not help but swell.
It’s one of the hardest things about being a nurse: giving of yourself and providing the care people need while still protecting your own heart. I sometimes have a hard time keeping that balance. But it’s also one of the most gratifying things about my job as well. Because I truly realize how fragile life is, I see how short and swift this journey can be. A day like yesterday makes you come home and squeeze your babies tight, whisper I love yous to your husband, call your parents and thank them for being there. Days like that put things into perspective. And no matter how hard those days can be, I know that I am a better person for them. I woke up this morning feeling alive and thankful. Ready to not just be, but ready to LIVE.