Thursday, July 26, 2012

human connectedness

I sat in the back row of the large Catholic Church and watched the young people and their families file in.  Most heads were bowed but some were looking around with sad eyes.  My heart was racing and I physically felt uncomfortable as I fought to not let tears escape my eyes.  The open casket at the front of the Church kept calling to me but I couldn’t look at it…not yet.  Her family was escorted in~ mom was crying and her little brother appeared fearful~ no father…they sat next to an elderly woman in the front row that I hadn’t met before. 
I have no idea what the priest said that day because as soon as he started talking my mind went to the images I knew of this amazing young woman.  Her room was painted in purple.  Let me rephrase that~  her entire room was painted in purple…including the ceiling!  The walls were lined with teenage posters and Polaroid pictures of her and her friends, trees, fish and her family.  She took Polaroid pictures of everything!! She had a huge fish tank on top of her dresser that held a multitude of fish that she cared for.  Each time I entered the room I was taken aback by the amount of clothes that could be found on the floor J.  She would always say with a giggle, “my mom is going to be so pissed that I didn’t pick up my room before you came over.”
She was obsessed with death and what happens after one dies.  Each of my visits would end with her asking me, “Before you go…tell me one more thing that the Bible says about heaven.” I would then tell her another fact from the Bible that I had looked up prior to going to her home…she would get quiet and just think it over.  Sometimes she asked about hell…I would answer that as well.  She often asked me about Jesus and how I was so sure that He was real…I answered her ~ 
I was this amazing young woman’s hospice nurse.  She was 13 when I met her and she was enduring end-stage leukemia.  I was responsible for administering antibiotics via her PICC line for the pneumonia she had contracted.  She lived with her mother and 6 year old brother in a third floor apartment.  Her mother worked full time and she babysat her brother during the summer…it was summer.  She was like any other 13 year old who had to stay home and babysit her little brother~ annoyed.  She was far too weak to leave the house and do anything else but she still was annoyed.
Her mom’s shaky voice pulled my mind back to the present…to her funeral.  Her mom talked lovingly of her 14 year old daughter whom she would miss terribly.  She told of her bravery, her passions and her fears.  She thanked all those that had helped them during the last 6 months of her life…and then she lost it…and we all lost it….
The funeral ended and I felt sick…my head hurt so bad from trying desperately not to cry…I felt strange, like~ I was just her nurse and I only knew her for 6 months…I figured I didn’t have the right to feel so sad.  I now know how wrong that was but at the time I didn’t realize it was ok.  As I walked to her mom to give her a hug I prayed for strength.  Her mom hugged me and cried…she asked me to wait a second and she went to her purse and came back to me.  She handed me a Polaroid picture of her daughter and I…the picture she had taken of us the first day I met them.  The tears wouldn’t stop.  The Polaroid picture is in my Bible…
We nurses do make a difference and we do have a right to feel and experience things with our patients.  It is when we let the patient into our hearts that they then feel the care we have for them.  A relationship can then form and that is when a shared human connection can happen.  Not all patients want that and there are patients that are so difficult that it just won’t happen…but on any given work day there is someone out there in patient land that needs their nurse to connect with them…believe me~  it is worth it!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Releasing some pain

Her tiny, delicate face haunts me
Perfect round structure
Purple bruises line her cheeks
Closed eyes, left one black

Wild dark brown hair
Fine and Full
Flat in the back
Long, wispy and straight out

Red lips in a perfect pout
Closed mouth
What truth is trapped inside?
No more breath

Creamy white skin
Limbs that lay limp
Ten fingers and toes
Soft and cold to touch

Metal and Plastic equipment
Mucous and blood
Sea green sheet
Everything lifeless next to her

Photographs and swabbings
Police and investigators
No family

Nurses, EMT’s and techs
Anger, frustration and sadness
Tears that won’t fall
Tightened throats

Hold her tight Lord
Kiss her tiny, delicate face
Heal her bruises
Give her life

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Prayer/Patients and Presence

Yes Maam…he says over and over during my triage of him.  His accent is thick and Southern.  He tells me he is “here in beautiful Maine with a Christian group doing some work at China Lake Christian Camp and that he has a little problem with some chest pain.” 
This young man~ early 20’s~ is a big burly kid with a smile that lights up the room.  He is jovial and kind, but nervous about his pain.  He tells me about an irregular heartbeat that usually doesn’t cause pain.  As I talk to him he continues to call me Maam and just smiles every time he says it… He calls the doctor, “Sir” and the lab tech “Sir”…he is so polite I can barely stand it.  (He is not our usual patient. )
After the IV is started, the labs are drawn, EKG is done and interpreted, chest xray completed…he and I just talked for a few minutes while we waited for someone to come and sit with him.  He is from the Bible belt~ a long way from home!~ and in a strange place.  I didn’t want to leave him alone until a friend arrived.  (He is my sons age…I felt motherly).
He went to college in Virginia and currently was doing work with his local church traveling to other States and doing work on Christian Camps.  He is from a loving family and his mother is a nurse… He tells me that, “she will be calling soon and she will be worried.”  I assure him I will talk with her and let her know everything that is happening, as long as he approves it.  “Oh for sure~ she would whoop my butt otherwise…you must understand that, being a nurse.” 
I laugh and tell him, “oh I understand…I have a daughter older than you and a son your age…I would be so scared and I would want to know all the details as well.” 
He just laughs and flatters me with how young I look…I tell him, “you know how to work the ladies…” he just grins and yes, “yes Maam.”   We continue to talk about God and religion…we are from similar denominations and I understand his faith~ I am impressed by his level of faith and expression of it.
As the night unfolds he needs some Adenosine to slow down his heart rhythm so we can see what the underlying rhythm is…for you nurses out there…his Pwaves were barried into the T wave…he was tachy but not really in a narrow or wide complex…so we prepped him for the Adenosine…he stated he was scared…his room was filled with several friends at this time and the room grew serious but remained friendly; he wanted them to stay.  The doctor and I explained the Adenosine and the feelings it would produce….he again said, “Just wait…I’m scared.” 
I asked him if he wanted to take a moment to pray before we started and he said yes.  They all looked at me.  I then asked him if he wanted me to pray for him and he said yes.  I put my hand on his arm and bowed my head.  As I started to pray out loud for him I heard his buddies begin to quietly pray out-loud for him as well (not uncommon in our denomination).  I prayed, “Dear heavenly Father, Please put your hand on this boy and calm his nerves…let your presence fill this room and quiet his heart.  I pray that you would let this medication do its job and show us how to proceed.  Take your child into your arms and bring peace.  In Jesus name, Amen.” 
When I finished, he said thank you to me…and he was ready to begin.  We gave him 12 mg of Adenosine and the effect of it was minimal on him…he did not get the full force effect of the med side effect wise but it did slow the rate down enough for P waves to be seen.  We captured the rhythm and the Cardiologist then had a plan.  His mother called and I spoke with her and she was then relieved.
As he was being discharged, he thanked me again for taking the time to care for him, to pray for him and to talk with his mom.  He said to me, “Your presence made all the difference in the world for me tonight…not only were you funny and able to take my humor ~ you allowed God to be present in my room and for that I am so grateful.” 
As nurses our presence is required to take care of our patients… If we take the time to listen to our patient and hear what is important to them we can then give them as much of that as we can.  I was lucky to have had the time to spend with this boy prior to the intervention so I knew that God was majorly important to him and that prayer would calm him.  Because I am of the same religion as he was I could pray for him in the way in which he was accustomed…
The blessing of the night was for me.  I saw God work in many ways that night.  I felt that I had made a difference and that our team had given amazing care that involved our presence…what I didn’t say in this story was that in the room during our prayer was a the group of Christian boys, myself, a Jewish doctor, a Buddhist intern, as well as another nurse (not sure of her religion).  What is so amazing to me is that during the prayer, all heads were bowed.  We all came together to care for the patient despite our differing religious views.   Very cool.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Self-Care and Yoga~Reiki~Prayer

I returned to Yoga class today after several months of being absent... life’s little interruptions…and what I found out was how much I had missed it~  Oh I knew what I was missing but what I didn’t know was how much my body was missing it too.
I was excited as I drove to class this morning; almost giddy.  I arrived a bit early, picked my spot and then just sat and enjoyed the silence.  Walking into the yoga studio was like walking into a little slice of heaven.  The studio is cozy, warm and inviting. Sitting on my yoga mat in the right lower corner of the room, I felt happy.  I sat with my legs crossed and my eyes closed and just let my mind wonder.  I took deep, long inspiratory breaths and let them out slowly~ I felt all my muscles relax and all my cells seemed to come alive in anticipation of the wonderful stretches and power stances to come. 
As people arrived and took their spots I continued to just sit and enjoy the moment.  I felt thankful for my life. As I sat and just breathed in and out I felt my heart of thankfulness.  I thanked God for the love and forgiveness I was granted.  I thanked him for my family, my life and the multitude of blessings that I am showered in daily.  I thanked him for the 45 year old body that was free of disease and could enjoy daily living. 
Class started and I was lost in one pose after another as my body responded to the memory of classes before.  I stayed in the range of safety for where I was and just let myself be present in the moment of enjoying what my body could do and feel.  During Shavasana, I completely relaxed and let all the thoughts floating through my mind go in and out.  Happiness was so strong of an emotion welling up inside of me that I thought for a moment I might laugh out loud! 
Driving home I felt peaceful and relaxed.  I pondered the question that so often tugs at my mind.  Why do insurance companies NOT pay for alternative therapies as preventative medicine?  Why do MCD and MCR not reimburse for them either???  Why are physicians so driven to just prescribe a medication when alternative therapies are effective and cheaper ~~Why as a nation do we stand for a health care system that just wants to clean up the mess and NOT prevent it in the first place
These past 2 years I have been participating in the wonderful world of alternative therapies and I can tell you that IT IS THE WAY TO GO!!  Yoga, Reiki and prayer… totally free your mind from stress, anxiety and fear.  Instead of medication… your body heals your mind.  God provided us with a multitude of ways to naturally heal, sooth and calm our bodies and minds. Tapping into them will only make you happier and more healthy.  Nutrition is a whole other topic as it relates to the healing of the body and mind…an area I too need to do better in! 
As nurses I feel it is our duty to educate ourselves and our patients on the BEST treatments for the BEST outcomes.  While I agree with most of the traditional Western interventions ~ I would love to see a world where the earth’s remedies are tried first and where “alternative therapies” are considered first line defense!!   As I get older I hope I am getting wiser…and with my aging process I want to engage in those things that make me stronger and healthier~  I want to educate my patients on the cheaper, easier and safer interventions that aid them in a richer life! 
I know Yoga nurse and Reiki nurse (here in Facebook land) agree~ as do their multitude of followers…how many of you nurses out there are using alternative therapies in your own self-care routine???  And how many of you are implementing them into your practice??? Id love to hear how its going!!