Friday, September 10, 2010

A human experience up close and personal

It was late Monday afternoon February 2005, six months after his kidney transplant, when Michael was being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. It started with a fever the night before. Michael begged me not to take him to the emergency room, even promising to keep a cool towel on his forehead in order to keep the temp down. He said he just wanted to sleep in his own bed that night. Considering he had a follow up appointment already scheduled at the University of Minnesota in the morning, I gave in to his request. That was the last night Michael slept in his bed on 250th street.

His mid morning appointment at the UofM dragged on for hours. We waited and waited for the lab results to confirm what I already knew. Michel had another infection and I could tell it was getting worse as the day wore on. His low grade temp remained steady the night before but now it was climbing. Definitely not the day our family had planned for that particular off school and work Monday. It was suppose to be a short appointment for Michael, lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant, and then off to the American Cancer Society to pick out my wig. I was preparing myself for chemotherapy, which was the course of treatment following the bilateral mastectomy I just had done. Amidst everything, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2004.

That gloomy Monday in February, we desperately needed nursing care that went beyond the usual admit check list. Not just for Michael, but for me too. After multiple frustrations with the original admit nurse, my husband sought help from another nurse he happened to locate at the nurse’s station. She listened with her heart as we explained our situation. We needed a private room that Michael could navigate with ease in his wheelchair as well as accommodate a cot for me to lie down on. Despite the drain tubes still in place from the mastectomy and pleas from my husband to go home to rest, there was no way I was leaving Michael. Instinctively I knew he was much sicker this time than we were willing to admit to ourselves. Plus, I had promised Michael, long ago, that I would never leave him and I wasn’t going to break that promise now.

The second admit nurse arranged a hospital room that had two beds in it, which allowed me to stay with Michael and take care myself too. I wasn’t able to lift Michael because of my mastectomy so she arranged a male nurse for Michael’s bathroom assistance which meant my husband could go home in the evening to be with our daughter. She became my partner in meeting Michael’s physical and emotional needs, those of our family unit and mine as his Mother and a cancer patient. Unexpectedly, that February hospitalization turned out to be Michael’s last. That second nurse gave me a priceless gift in the way she arranged for me to stay with Michael. Outside the box thinking and top notch medical skills, she displayed with excellence how to nurturethe human experience in a complicated medical scenario.

That exceptional second nurse is one of the many faces behind Be the Change, representing how one person can affect the human experience, completely altering how a patient and family cope with medical trauma. She understood our human need both physically and emotionally, which created a human experience I will never forget. It’s an experience that has often comforted me as I grieve, reaching far beyond the kindness extended in a hospital room.

Be the Change believes sharing stories such as that, allows them to make an impact on the medical community, which will influence the choices and decisions they make. We hope in sharing this story, another family won’t have to look for a second nurse to
Be the Change.

1 comment:

  1. Heidi SchwichtenbergSeptember 10, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    Thanks for sharing MT. I still wish I could have visited Michael one last time before he left us. I was scared to say goodbye and chickened out. I regret doing that to this day. HEidi