Thank you, nurses (Nurses Week)

You stopped me in the hospital hallway to see how I was doing. I didn’t remember you from a sedated procedure several days earlier, but I know that procedure couldn’t have happened without you. You were glad to see me up and walking and you wished me well in just the most genuine way. And even though I didn’t remember you then, I still remember you now. Thank you, Carmen.

You were my nurse in post-op. You kept showing up at my side reminding me to breathe. You were soothing and reassuring through severe pain, and you didn’t let them move me until I said I was okay to be moved. Thank you, Mary.

You were my nurse when I returned to the floor after surgery. You were very pregnant, as in when I was re-admitted two weeks later you were home with your new baby. You must have been exhausted, but you stayed past your shift to help me anyway. Thank you, Nicole.

You placed both my PICC lines. If you were at all frustrated when placement took longer than expected, you didn’t show it. Later, you were already out of scrubs and you should have been on your way home when you showed up to adjust my line so that the heart palpitations would stop. Thank you, Marie.

You knew that 23-year-old me was out of place in a ward mostly full of older adults with dementia, and you did your best to make me feel less alone. You were pregnant and I made a hat for your baby-to-be, and then a year and a half later, when I wasn’t even your patient, you made the time to talk with me and show me pictures of your baby boy. Thank you, Nicole.

You saved me from the hallway. You saw what no one else saw, that even though I was young and mobile, I was actually really sick. And later, after I spent days trying to get someone to solve a problem with my line, you took care of the problem within an hour of being on shift. I still think you have magic powers. Thank you, Rose.

You exuded competence and skill and I remember being shocked to learn you were less than a year out of nursing school. It was clear that you were deeply invested in your patients. You were on shift over Thanksgiving weekend and you gave me reason to be thankful. Thank you, Mallory.

You always spent extra time chatting with me. You told me stories that made me laugh, even on otherwise bad days. You most made me feel like just a person, not a patient trapped in the hospital. Thank you, Kristine.

You were quiet but so kind. Your presence always instantly put me at ease. After a stressful situation in the middle of the night with another patient in the room, you knew that I was shaken up and you put your own stress aside to talk me through it. Thank you, Cristina.

You were there for my first tunneled line placement. I wasn’t given sedation and I had no idea what to expect, but you asked me if I was okay every few minutes. And every time you saw my eyes scrunch up in pain you gently held my hand. I never got your name, but thank you all the same.

You were with me for 12 pretty scary hours of my life. I was alone in the ER and sicker than I realized, but you watched me like a hawk. You acted quickly when needed, yet were calm and cool the entire time. You were always one step ahead and I knew without a doubt that I was safe on your watch. Thank you, Ashley.

You did my TPN training. You taught me everything I needed to know to manage my own care and you were the reason I was able to go home. You were encouraging and accommodating and you will always have a special spot in my heart. I hope you’re enjoying retirement. Thank you, Sheila.

You’re my TPN nurse now. You care about fitting my medical routines into my life, rather than revolving my life around my medical routines. You’re the first health care professional who I feel truly understands and validates the challenges of life on TPN. Thank you, Jennifer.

You’re still a student. You’re smart and caring and sincere. You’ve spent hours listening to me talk about my experiences and you don’t even get course credit for it. You’re in this for the right reasons and your future patients are lucky. Thank you, Angela.

I’ve spent months of my life watching nurses at work. I’ve watched you take abuse from patients who don’t acknowledge your skills and training. I’ve watched you care for people who are careless towards you. I’ve watched you watch patients ignore everything you’ve said and then quietly deal with the fallout. I’ve watched you comfort people as you tell them that their loved one has died. I’ve watched you care for patients in ways that go beyond your job description. I’ve watched you struggle due to staffing shortages and budget cuts. I’ve watched you do all of this, while also juggling a seemingly impossible number of other responsibilities, with patience and grace. And dedication. And all too often without recognition.

I could have mentioned many more of you by name, but there are also a lot of you whose names I can’t remember. Just as all of the medical stuff has blurred together over the years, so too have your names and faces. Honestly, though, just the fact that you are able to do everything you do without me remembering you for the wrong reason is a feat of heroism. And name or no name, I know that you were there, and I know that you gave of yourself to help me and others like me during our most vulnerable moments, and that’s amazing.

And I am grateful.

Thank you, nurses.

 

 

Winters and springs

(Hi friends. How are you? It’s been a while. I’m sorry to those of you who I worried with my long absence, although I appreciate that you were worried because I know that means you care. But please don’t worry! I’m okay, I’m just struggling with my health right now and life is a bit blurry and that makes the whole writing thing rather slow and difficult. Plus I’m out of practice. But I miss it! So hopefully I’ll have another post sooner than four months.)

Spring is here. And it finally actually looks and feels like spring.

Winter seemed to go on forever, eh? Even when the calendar said it was spring, the weather said otherwise.

And while I am speaking meteorologically, I’m also speaking personally. It rained on end outside, but it’s also been kind of raining on end in my life. Nothing major, just the daily grind of life, of living in a broken body, of being sick every day and everything that comes with that. It takes a toll. I know it’s been months since I’ve posted anything here, but with all the rain all of my energy has been focused on not letting myself get washed away.

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Why yes, yes I am related to Grizzly Adams. Have I never mentioned that?

In some ways, the more you deal with the tougher you become, but in other ways, with enough rain, well it all just turns into mud. And there’s been a lot of mud lately. Not quite as much mud as my brother recently hiked through on the Dusky Track in New Zealand, but a lot of mud nonetheless.

As I mentioned, though, it does seem that actual spring is finally here. Outside, at least. Personally, I’m still stuck in winter, but when I look outside it’s definitely spring and that gives me hope. Because despite the unusually long, cold winter, and despite the well above average April rainfall, spring still showed up. Just like it always does. Just like it always will.

No matter what comes before it, eventually it always turns to spring. The tulips always bloom. The birds always start building their nests. All of these things happen every year. No matter how long or cold or dark or rainy or icy or snowy or gloomy winter is, winter always ends.

Spring always shows up. It’s dependable like that. And that’s encouraging.

But in other ways, it’s actually kind of discouraging, because spring is actually a lot work.

Think about it.

Those tulips don’t just appear by magic. They start out beneath the soil where it’s dark and lonely and they have to grow roots anyway. And then they have to find their way out of the soil, but sometimes squirrels dig them up before they even have a chance. And then they get to grow and bloom and be spectacular, except sometimes even if they’re doing a really great job growing and blooming the deer come along and eat them and there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s a lot of work being a tulip.

Same with being a bird. Some birds use the same nests each year, but a lot of them don’t. Come spring they start from scratch on a new nest. And birds usually only use a nest once so if they raise multiple broods each year, then that’s multiple nests every year. From scratch. It’s a lot of work being a bird, too.

And a human. It’s also a lot of work being a human.

Because we have seasons, too. They’re not as well-defined and as the ones that result from the Earth’s changing position relative to the sun, but we have seasons. Those gloomy and doomy and dreary and weary times? Those are winters. Sometimes our winters last for three months and sometimes they last for three years, but eventually things change for the better. Those better times are the springs. And just like the meteorological seasons, winter always ends and spring always shows up.

So sure, that’s encouraging.

Until you think about how much work spring is. And until you realize that eventually it’s going to be winter again and that winter is going to ruin everything. Again. So then when spring comes back it’s going to be a lot of work all over again. Finding your way out of the soil. A new nest from scratch. Over and over and over again.

Winter is harsh and spring is hard work.

Kind of discouraging.

But then I spent some time outside and noticed that winter doesn’t actually ruin everything.

img_0618Look at this Angel’s Trumpet in my backyard. Look at that new shoot. It’s growing right up from the middle of last year’s trunk. It’s not starting from the very beginning, from the soil. Winter didn’t ruin it. This tree weathered the long, cold winter, and that counts for something. All of its hard work from last year counts for something.

The new shoot is fragile, but its foundation is sturdy. Because it weathered the winter.

I think humans are the same. Fragile and sturdy. New and old. Finding our way and solidly rooted. All at the same time. Because we’ve weathered a lot of winters and our winters count for something.

Sometimes winter makes us tougher, and sometimes it just buries us in mud. Sometimes it does both. But that’s not what matters.

What matters is that we weather it at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Turning the page

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Well, here we are again. December 31. We’re coming up on that kind of trippy moment where the day, month, and year all change over at the same time. We’re at the end of one chapter, and we’re about to turn the page and start a new one.

Okay so speaking of chapters. Books are made up of chapters.

Okay so speaking of books.

We generally don’t start reading books from the middle. We start from the beginning, of course. However, if we were to pick up a new book, open it to the middle and start reading, we wouldn’t be surprised when things didn’t make sense. We wouldn’t know anything about the characters. We wouldn’t know who they were, let alone why they were the way they were. We wouldn’t know what they had been through or what storyline they were in the middle of now.

And without going back and reading the first half of the book, we would intuitively just understand that we didn’t have the whole story.

People are kind of like books.

You’re in the middle of living out one of the chapters of your life, and everyone around you is doing the same. Every single person. And as you interact with the people around you, you become a sentence in their story and they become a sentence in your story. And then you both go on and become sentences in other people’s stories, and they in yours. And those people’s stories are written around the people they came across before they came across you. And so on and so forth.

It’s basically just a big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs without any context. It’s messy. 

We spend a lot of time stuck in our own books trying to make sense of our own stories. Our own brilliant, devastating and everything in between, stories. Our stories consume us, and because they do, and because beyond our own books is that big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs without any context, we lose sight of all the other stories taking place around us.

While we’re keenly aware of how other people are written onto the pages of our own lives, sometimes we forget that the reciprocal is also happening. We often don’t get to read more than a sentence or a paragraph of someone else’s book, and so we forget that they’ve lived through pages and pages of their own brilliance and devastation and everything in between.

Every interaction we have with another person is like picking up their book and starting to read it from the middle. There is always more to the story.

You’re probably familiar with the YouTube Rabbit Hole. You know how when you watch something on YouTube, suggestions about what to watch next show up…and then you watch one of those…and then that next video has more suggestions…and you open a few in new tabs but each new video in each new tab has its own suggestions…and then all of a sudden it’s 3am and you have 20 tabs open and what have you even spent the last five hours of your life doing and on that note what are you even doing with your life???

Trying to make sense of the stories of the people around us, that big jumble of words and sentences and paragraphs, well it pretty much goes the same way. Is that person upset because of what you said? Or is it because of what that other person said to them yesterday? Or is it because what that other person said yesterday reminded them of that terrible thing that happened last year? And on and on because of all the words and sentences and paragraphs and all the people walking in and out of each other’s books.

It’s a rabbit hole of its own. We will never know the whole story.

But we really don’t need to.

The last meeting I had with my health mentorship program students was centered around my story. After I’d rambled on for a long time about a lot of things that had happened, one of the students commented on how one of the challenges of clinical practice is that they’ll never have the opportunity to actually get a patient’s story. Not just the part of the story that explains why the patient is there and what they need that day, but their whole story. The story that includes how they got to where they are.

The demands and time constraints of their jobs mean they will never get to know the whole story. But I’m going to tell you, now, what I told them, then:

You don’t need to know what someone’s story is to know that it exists.

The thing is, no matter how long we’ve known someone or how well we know them, we will never read every single word of their book. Most of the time we don’t even get to read an entire chapter, but rather we get a few sentences here and there. Maybe a paragraph or two.

But that can be enough. Because we don’t need to know what the story is. The pages are still there even if we never read them, and recognizing that is what makes all the difference. Simply remember that the story exists. And respect its existence.

Other people’s stories.

Our own, too.

And so. Here we are once again. The day, month, and year are all about to change over all at once. New sentence, paragraph and chapter. But our lives continue. The stories continue. Mine. Yours. Everyone’s. None of them more important than any other.

May 2018 be the year we honour them all.

10, 9, 8, 7…

Turn the page.

6, 5, 4…

New chapter.

3, 2, 1.

Happy New Year!