Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nurses- They Dispense More Than Medicine

When we envision hospitals, I'm sure all of our pictures include nurses.  Maybe we picture a women in a starched white uniform, a little cap resting gently on her hair, perhaps dispensing medicine.  But I would contest that that picture would be far from accurate.  Not all nurses are women.  Most do not come in a set uniform, but were varied scrubs, designed to bring a smile to the children they serve.  Some, as you will read, do not have hair to place a cap on.  Nurses, though, do dispense medicine. However, they dispense so much more than simply medicine.  I'd like to share some of the other things they dispense...
They dispense medicines.  I can only imagine how hard it must be to administer chemotherapy, knowing what it is going to do to the one you are giving it to.  Yet, these nurses do it, always double and triple checking with other nurses dosing, medicine and patients, to try to eliminate human error.
One of my many medicines...

Nurses Leslee (L) and Allison double checking the medicine
They dispense empathy.  Some shaved their heads, in support of St. Baldricks, raising money for childhood cancer while empathizing with the children they serve.  I've known these nurses from before St. Baldricks, when many had lovely long hair.  In a sense, I was always sad to see their shaved heads, but I always felt special knowing that while I lost my hair, they had the love to voluntarily cut theirs.
Nurse Kathie, with her St. Baldrik's t-shirt!

They dispense care for the body.  It's chemo.  You throw up-A LOT.  I've sat puking my guts out countless times, only to suddenly find a nurse behind me, with a wet towel, rubbing my back and speaking comfort until I'm done, then taking the dish from me.  I was always amazed at how quickly a nurse would come when I was sick.  It's like they have a 6th sense that they are needed...
Nurse Nancy on BMT day, my crowning day of puking.  
They dispense care for the spirit. They don't just care for patients physically, but also emotionally.  My dear outpatient nurse, Ceci, specially came to see me inpatient, especially when I was really discouraged, to try to lift my spirits.  On bad days, my inpatient nurses have spoken so many words of encouragement, on how well I had done, or how I was nearing the finish line.  And they call the Child Life Specialist :)
They dispense laughter. They are willing to dress up, clown around, and do countless other things to bring a smile to a hurting ward.  Laughter isn't a sound that usually echoes through the walls of oncology; but when it does, there's usually a nurse or two or three behind it!
Remember them?!
They dispense love.  Nobody fills the place of a mom.  There are times when we need dads and brothers and sisters, but I think that when we are sick, we need the love of a mother most.  However...my mom wasn't always with me.  My nurses have so often filled that void, whether it has been physical or emotional support and help, or simply a little extra love.  While many are mothers, even those who are not poured out their love, usually in friend-to-friend conversation.
Christy, a very motherly nurse
They dispense kindness.  Little gestures mean so much.  My nighttime nurses worked to coordinate all my vital measurements/blood sugar readings/medicines/weighings to be at the same time, so they could minimize when they woke me up.  They worked their best to schedule everything so that I could maximize my sleep.  They always worked as noiselessly as possible, to achieve their mission.  I would never wake when they entered or exited; they only thing that would wake me was the taste as they flushed my line, or the pain when they pricked my finger.  No matter when I asked, they would cheerfully change my sheets, or bring me a drink or snack, or fetch my sweater.  Little gestures that make a difference.
The lump under the sheet is me sleeping. Nurse Shannon
They dispense encouragement.  I ate a cracker.  Cheering.  I ate my pills. A hug. I only was toting half my IV pole. Congratulations from everyone I meet. The nurses were always cheering me on, no matter how big or small the milestone.  They were always so genuinely excited, sometimes over seemingly insignificant details.  I was discharged. Dancing, clapping, hugs and tears, a ruckus.
They dispense hope.  Cancer is a tough thing to deal with.  When you are in the midst of everything, it's really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to imagine yourself healthy and well.  Many of these nurses have been here for years, and have seen hundreds of patients.  They have encouraged me countless times, with stories of patients with my same cancer or teens my age who are now done with treatments; some are in college, some married, some with families of their own.  Regardless, it was always a glimpse of hope, that one day I would be out of the hospital and living my life; one day they'll be able to encourage some other hurting patient with my story.
Nurse Sharon, the BMT Transplant Coordinator

It's not easy being a nurse-especially an oncology nurse.  I've rarely seen them sit; usually they are constantly on their feet, as they rush to silence one beeping IV after another.  There have been kids who simply scream to summon their nurse, but they always respond. They are always available.  A simple press of a button would bring one to my side.  Most work 12 hr shifts.  You have to deal with incredible sadness, as not every patient will make it.  You're in it for the long haul.  Leukemia (the most common childhood cancer) treaments can last for three years.  Patients are in the hospital for weeks and sometimes months on end.  From speaking with my nurses, I've come to realize that most of them regard it not as their occupation, but as their calling.  This is reflected in their attitude towards patients.  Some have gone on to become certified oncology nurses, devoting their entire career to bringing hope and comfort to kids with cancer.  My oncology nurses showed me so much love and kindness through my journey, and I'm indebted to each one.
Two special nurse stories...
Early in my treatments, I was alone at the hospital.  My family was in Akron, and my dad at work.  I had passed the day studying, but in the afternoon, I became quite lonely.  An upsetting visit from endocrinology was my last straw, and I began to sob into my pillow.  My nurse for the day, Shaina, appeared out of nowhere, and for no valid reason; she kindly spoke to me, and comforted me, even though I refused to say a word.  Her gesture of kindness helped me through that long day.
This story isn't about an oncology nurse, it's about a nurse on the 3 person Palliative Care team.  Helen visited me mainly on the days Dr. Yip was either sick or unavailable.  But she was always so kind and loving and encouraging.  Towards the end of my BMT, when I was really discouraged, she was always a bearer of hope.  I remember one especially rainy day, when the gloom outside seemed to mirror the gloom I was feeling.  She pointed to the storm visible from my windows, and reminded me that every cloud has a silver lining; the sun ALWAYS shines again.  Every time she visited she would say that the sun would shine again, both actually and metaphorically; she was always reminding me that I would get out of the hospital and that the sun would shine on my life, enabling me to move forward to help other oncology patients one day.

My outpatient nurse since my original diagnosis of cancer is Mrs. Ceci.  I remember my very first visit to Oncology.  It was late in the evening, I was tired and hungry, and then was told I needed to me admitted.  It was an emergency decision, and I was really scared.  Ceci stayed well past her scheduled hours, sharing comfort, love, and kindness to my parents and I.  She has never stopped being a tremendous support to me. She has often given me advice when I'm at a crossroad, hope when I'm lost, and love when I'm hurting.  When I was diagnosed with my relapse, I didn't express any emotions for nearly two weeks, which worried my parents.  My dad begged me to simply cry, and release what he knew was inside me.  On my next oncology visit, it was on Ceci's shoulder that I first cried about my cancer.  During my BMT, I was extremely discouraged one day.  My parents had gone home to Akron, and I was with Rachel.  She stopped by, in between her work and a meeting, to encourage me.  She pointed me to my only hope, God, and gave me the strength to endure through the evening.  She has so often counseled me and loved me like her own daughter. I'm so blessed and proud to be able to call her my nurse!

Thank you to each of my wonderful nurses!!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Jen! As someone who hopes to be a nurse someday herself, I was very encouraged by your article! I hope you'll keep posting!