Like so many others, I have a lot of friends and family who are nurses. Some work in the emergency room. Others are in administration after years on the hospital floor. Some work medical surgical units. Others are labor and delivery extraordinaires. I have watched Miss Colorado’s monolouge and The View’s comments on her performance and while I think this has been blown way out of proportion, it cut. Deep. While I’ve always had a respect for what nurses put up with—the cranky patients, the demanding family members, the bodily fluids, some holier than thou doctors—my perspective completely changed when we RELIED on the nurses to get us through the longest six days of our life. Let me tell you about my perspective.
I cannot begin to explain to you the first moment we saw our son in the post-anesthesia care unit after hours of waiting for him to come out of the three procedures doctors had to perform to save his life the day of the accident. The nurses were kind, yet busy preparing him for transport to the intensive care unit. It was five minutes. But I do remember that they called him by his name. I also remember them reassuring us that they would “get him ready” as quickly as possible so that we could be with him. We needed reassuring and every brief second of compassion that we could get. We needed to know he was in good hands. The nurses did that for us.
They explained, over and over. An hour or so later, when we were finally allowed to be with Noah at his bedside, the nurses were there to explain what the machines were monitoring, what the multiple tubes were doing to keep our son alive, and what each line was pumping into his bloodstream. As parents who aren’t medical professionals, we had no idea what we were looking at, what a normal ranges were, what the beeping sounds meant, or when to be alarmed when they went off. The nurses were there. I know that in those six days, we asked hundreds of questions. I can honestly say that not a single nurse ever lost their patience with us, never once looked irritated when they explained things for the 900th time, and never once gave us an answer that was anything other than detailed. Because of the nurses, we were less afraid of the alarms, we understood more about what was going on with our baby, and we never felt like we were in the way of Noah receiving the best possible care.
They cared for him. For six days, they cared for Noah with unparalleled compassion. They redressed his head wound. They cleaned his cuts and scrapes. They brushed his teeth. They bathed him carefully. They moved him carefully. They called him by his name…They never once referred to him as “the patient.” He was always “Noah.” For six days, I watched them care for my son. I watched them treat him like they would their own family. And even after we knew the time had come to say goodbye and they were preparing Noah for organ donation, they never once showed any less compassion for him, or for us.
They cared for us. Noah had a lot of visitors—A LOT of visitors. During the day, Noah was surrounded by family, two or three people at a time. The accident happened in my home town. Noah was cared for at the same hospital where I lost my mother when I was 18. My entire family was there to support us. By day three, we knew is was time to call in Dan’s family, and every day, we stayed with Noah—all of us. When we baptized him, the nurses allowed 12 of us to cover Noah in prayer, and when we anointed him, they had nothing but kindess toward all of us. At night, when Dan and I would take shifts staying with Noah, they brought us warm blankets and extra pillows. They worked quietly but diligently, caring for Noah as the clock ticked on. When my lips started to crack, they brought me Vaseline. When we were thirsty, they brought us water or coffee. They constantly asked what they could do to help US, while simultaneously caring for our child.
They took the time to get to know Noah and our family. You form a bond over time. The nurses would sit and talk with us about Noah, about his drumming, and the kind of kid he was. We shared pictures and stories of his shenanigans. They talked with Gavin, giving him an outlet to share about his brother and the relationship they had. They checked on each of my neices as they came in to say goodbye and were caring toward all of the grandparents, aunts, and uncles as they trickled in, learning everything about Noah and our love for him. They laughed with us. The cried with us when we got the news that there would be no miracle—no chance of a “meaningful recovery” after such a “catostrophic injury.” God, how I hate those words. Later, they would tell us that in all of their years of nursing, they had never seen a family rally around a loved one in the way that we all did for Noah. In the end, I think they knew how much he means to us.
A month or so after Noah passed away, I opened what was, by far, the most difficult sympathy card to read. It was from the nursing staff of the intestive care unit:
Mindy, Liz, Nicole, Devone, Chris, Myra, Jan
They were our saving grace. I cannot ever thank them enough for helping us through that time.
Here’s the thing. I don’t think Miss Colorado’s point was to “read her email” to the panel of judges. I think it was her way of showing respect for a profession that is often thankless and underappreciated. Not by me and not by our family. And shame on anyone who makes light of the profession or the kind hearts of the thousands of nurses around the world who are there for our loved ones when they need it most. Without them, we would not have been able to as easily stay focused on spending our final days with our son.