There was a nurse I had only one time but she made a powerful impact in that one encounter. I was hospitalized for a complication after my mastectomy that required another surgery. A lumpectomy was done just a couple weeks after I was told that I have breast cancer but clear margins were not obtained in that procedure. So I moved forward with a bilateral mastectomy to optimistically insure complete remission after chemotherapy. Unfortunately when the bandage was removed after the mastectomy it revealed darkened skin on the right side which meant that skin was not recovering and would need to be surgically removed and replaced. So in a matter of weeks I was back in the hospital again for the third time. That's when I met one of my favorite nurses.
As you can imagine my mood was somber and my mind cluttered with thoughts of Michael, his multiple infections and declining health. I knew I had to take care of myself in order to take care of him but it was hard to focus on that. This was a low point for me to say the least. A nurse came in to my room around 3:30pm to start the afternoon shift and as she wrote information on the white board she let me know that she was going to be my evening nurse also because she was doing a double shift. I had just got settled in my semi-private room from having the skin procedure earlier that morning to remove the failing skin and replace it with a graft from my back. The surgery was successful but as it turned out it was one of the most painful procedures I had so far, much more painful than the mastectomy. Since I was hospitalized a few times by now I developed a routine where I let every one I came in contact with know that my number one goal along with healing and recovery was going home asap. So as usual I was ready to start my speech with this new afternoon nurse but as I began she said “Oh I already know about you”. It caught me off guard but her tone and smile assured me she was about to partner with me in reaching my goal. She had heard from the other nurses what my intent was but she wanted to know for herself why going home asap was so important to me. As I began to share with her the details about my son Michael and his rare disease she sat on the edge of my bed, holding my hand listening even more carefully to my story. I told her about the miracle that just happened when my sister gave him one of her kidneys resulting in a successful kidney transplant but that multiple infections and rapidly declining white cell counts were taking over. About my husband who just had mitral valve replacement and the concerns I had about him returning to work plus coping with our son’s illness and now my breast cancer too. With complete compassion she continued to listen as I explained how much I miss my daughter too and all the things she had going on in high school and that for the first time ever I was missing her band concert.
Her willingness to take the time to listen to my concerns and take into account what I was going through emotionally, set a course that enabled the physical care she provided act in a true partnership between patient and nurse. My goal of going home asap inside certain medical parameters became both of our goals. She valued what I said and placed it as a priority which made me value what she said and did even more. She explained what I had to accomplish in order for us to reach my goal based on the doctors orders so we started with number one, which was getting out of bed. She showed me ways to get in and out of bed without relying on my right side. Those tips helped me do that more frequently through the evening giving me the real chance to reach my goal. I truly believe that this type of valued partnership makes any recovery go quicker and more smoothly.
I did go home the next morning, accomplishing everything dictated by the doctors orders mainly because of that nurse and her commitment to me. This hospital story describes the vital importance of the human experience being nurtured inside the medical experience. The following week Michael was hospitalized for what turned out to be the last time before going to his heavenly home which at the time of my hospitalization we were not aware of. That nurse partnering with me and getting me home asap gave me precious and valuable time with Michael and my family, together in our home for the last time. Her story wrapped around ours and many like it are the foundation for Be the Change.