Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For several weeks when Leslie was in the ICU, she literally had tubes coming from all over.  Then on top of all the tubes, she had the ventilator, which while it wasn't breathing for her, it was protecting her airway, which obviously is very important.

I remember when Jay's Grandpa was dying of brain cancer.  From diagnosis to death, we're talking months.  I remember we were on out way to a birthday party and I told Jay I felt we should stop by to see him one more time, as he was inevitably close to death.  When we arrived, he had the "death rattle", meaning secretions were building up in his mouth, throat, and lungs and just rattling around in there with each pathetic breath.  His arms were so swollen they were shiny, and when you touched them, it caused an indent that never fully rebounded.

I also remember when Jay's aunt was dying from diabetic kidney failure.  We were all there.  We were in the process of moving her from the recliner to the hospital breaths when she did those awful "fake"breaths....where her chest rose and fell, but there was no air exchange.  Just like that, she was gone.

Last story was my Uncle Frank's funeral.  He was in his coffin and was on day 3 of the viewing.  I touched his arm. Rock hard and cold.  It made me quietly yelp and back away, and also caused me to vow to never touch a deceased loved one again.

Back to Les.  When people were around, I kept the touching to a minimum.  Maybe hold her hand or brush her hair.  I was comfortable enough in the hospital setting to know that each bleep and bloop of the machines did not necessarily mean something bad, but for my parents sanity, I kept the touching to a minimum.  What they DIDN'T know, was that when everyone was gone and I was on night duty, it was a regular ol' Jane Fonda session all up in that ICU hizzouse.  I'll be damned if my sister recovers from sudden cardiac arrest but then has months and months of PT related to foot droop.  Or worse, she recovers, then becomes septic due to bed sores.  Nope!  Not on my watch.

I remember one particular bad night.  She was in full blown paranoia mode, fully believing someone was going to break in to our "apartment".  Not only that, she was having a horrible reaction to a drug and had hives head to toe.  She didn't get the concept of scratching the itchiness, so she just moved.  A lot.  She still had tubes in, this time we were down to heart monitors, a catheter, and a PICC line.  She'd go to grab at the PICC line, and as you gently pealed her fingers away, she was already plotting on attacking the foley straight on.  As you carefully told her that it will HURT if she pulls that out, she has already detached herself from all the heart monitors and is handing them to you so sweetly as if to say, "here, I think you misplaced these!"  It was nonstop, all night long.  I was tired.  Finally?  I said "Screw it!" to my empty bed and climbed into her bed.  I rolled her to her side and got the foley anchored tightly between her legs.  The PICC was covered by her gown now, so it was less distracting, and the heart monitors were on their own, meaning:  she was still plucking them off left and right.  Anyhow, I got her situated and positioned myself behind her bottom, in the crook of her knees and gently blew some cold air on her backside with one hand while using the other hand to gently rub over her entire body to relieve the itching.  It was then that she finally fell asleep.

Her paranoia ceased because I was physically touching her and calming her; as well as distracting her from other things that were bothering her (the itchiness) which she did not have the mental capacity to put the two together.

This is just a specific example of touch.  My hands were on her constantly.  Rubbing her shoulders, scratching her back, stroking her legs and arms.  I couldn't do much, but I could let her know with a gently touch "I AM HERE."

My current nursing role is very hands off.  Sure, I get to talk to my patients and develop relationships with them.  It's been amazing.  But I miss the hands on part.  I miss being able to assess a patients general well being by simply listening to heart and lung sounds, as well as bowel sounds.  To assess the status of a wound by removing a dressing, comparing previous assessments, and then redressing the wound.  Of having a delicate, bony arm around my waist as I shuffle an elderly patient to the bathroom.  Of hugging the wife of the man who just passed away. Of rubbing lotion on the elderly patient with no family to visit, who winks at me as I leave as his way of expressing appreciation.

I miss it.  Literally speaking, I'm not going "home", as it is a new health system with people I do not know.  To ME, though...I am absolutely going back "home".  Home is where your heart is...isn't that what that cliche little plaque says that you can usually find for 25 cents at a garage sale?  It has so much truth, though.  I'm so read to go back.  Back to what I refer to as "home".

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

You don't even have to know me very well to know that I don't have a whole heck of a lot of confidence within myself.  I seek approval from anyone and everyone all the time.

There are a few things in my life, though, that I don't need others to tell me I am good at (note I said good, NOT perfect) because I already know it.  I know it because I pour my heart and soul into the role and I truly feel if you give something your all, you will be successful.

I'm a good mom.  I adore my children and I believe with my whole heart that they are the greatest creation I have ever had a part in.  Sure, they see me fly off the hook sometimes (all the time) or sit around in pajama pants at 2 in the afternoon and announce "chips and dip for lunch today!" probably more than they should, BUT... they know I love them with every ounce of my being.  They are doted on hand and foot and I would lay my life down in a heartbeat if it meant protecting theirs.   The only authentic art work I own is the works of Ethan and Allison, and their masterpieces are decorated all over my cupboards and walls.  I save everything.  My closet looks like it's out of an episode of Hoarders, but if you took the time to REALLY look, you'd see it consists of folders upon folders of little snippets of all parts of their lives.  I never doubt, not for one second, that they don't know just how much I love them.

I'm a good wife.  Luckily, Jay does not log into my blog so he can't do any editing, but on the flip side, he could log in if he wanted, because our lives are shared.  No secrets.  He is the only human being who can drive me crazy both in a good way and a bad way.  He loves football, I love Real Housewives.  He loves (has) to budget, I spend like money grows on trees (technically speaking, though, it does..)  Bottom line is, we share the common bond that family is everything.  We chose each other for a reason, and we don't take our relationship lightly.  There is nothing in this entire world that I keep secret from him (except the Target bill, and only then, it's only secret until it arrives in the mail) and he is the same.  I pride myself on our trust, faithfulness, and loyalty.  And the greatest part?  I could take out the "mom" parts of the above paragraph and replace it with "dad", and it would be completely applicable.

I'm a good nurse.  It's not an act when I take care of a patient.  And to me, they aren't patients, but people.  Both fortunately and unfortunately, I know the role of being a patient and being the family member of a patient, and those memories never fade and I definitely apply them in my practice.  Won't lie, seeing the diagnosis "ETOH addiction" or hearing "go ahead and push the dilaudid works better that way!" makes me roll my eyes and want to run off into the sunset screaming, there are so many amazing moments that trump those.

I'm a good Christian.  It took me 30 years to fully grasp what it meant to be a Christian, and I can say that ever since the near death experience with ,my sister, I have finally learned that God is key.  I hate that it took me so long to "get it", but I am so glad I finally did.  Every single decision I make, I literally do think, "What would God think?" and act based on that.  I'm far from a perfect Christian. FAR from it.  But I can say with confidence that God knows I am trying.  When I hear my daughter sing worship music, clench her hands in the world's tightest fist when she prays or hear that my son did the prayer over the children's offering in Sunday School, my heart bursts with love and amazement.

The past two years have been hell on Earth.  I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy.  Through it, though, I have learned more about MYSELF than ever, and the above are the biggest things.  I've learned I cannot control my surroundings, but I can control how I respond.  I've learned that people may hurt me, but it is not my job to ensure they understand or feel the pain they inflicted.  I've learned that sometimes, the only things important in life are God and family.  The world can crumble all around you. but if the foundation YOU are standing on is strong, you will be just fine.

I will be just fine.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie

 burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being

 strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe

that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that

tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to share a recent ER experience I had.  I am intentionally leaving out as many identifying details as possible, as my purpose of this letter is not to get anyone in trouble or to receive any form of service recovery.  It is simply to make you aware of how one experience can change a person's perception for forever.

I recently presented to the emergency room with a threatened miscarriage.  My heart was broken, so of course, I was crying.  I went through triage where my vital signs were taken.  I was immediately taken back to a bed, where a gentleman who was a part of the support staff asked me, "What brings you to the ER tonight?"  Through tears, I had to tell this man what I was there for as we walked through the crowded hallway.  I knew his intentions were good, but it just re-opened an already very raw wound.

Once I was put in my bed, a nurse came in to draw blood.  A physician was speaking with me at the time (someone I know personally, this was not the assigned physician to my case) so she gave us privacy and said she would be "right back".  "Right back" turned into several hours.

When the nurse returned, it was someone else, as I assume it was shift change.  She came through the curtain and happily exclaimed, "congratulations!"  Again, good intentions, but not appropriate for a woman in the midst of a miscarriage.  My response was a hesitant, "thank you, I hope," which lead to her asking if this was my first baby.  I said no, it was my third, and that I had an 8 year old and 3 year old at home.  She was visibly surprised by the ages of my other children at home.  When the transportation worker came to get me for my ultrasound, she said, "you should be pleased to know that the medical staff are talking about how you are too young to be here."  It's becoming repetitious, but again, I do not believe it was meant to be insulting, but hearing that and also seeing the surprised look on the nurses face, I knew what was actually being talked about was likely more related to me appearing young, not having my husband at my bedside because he was home with our other two children, and being on my third pregnancy.  Had anyone looked at my chart, they would have seen I am a married woman and of a "socially acceptable" age to be on my third pregnancy.  This was the ONLY discussion that night as far as my previous OB history is concerned.  No one ever asked again about how many times I have been pregnant, if I have miscarried before, or if I had any risk factors for miscarrying.  Simply that I was "too young" to be here.

Next came the pelvic exam.  I don't think there is such a thing as a pleasant pelvic exam, but I do know there is such a thing as compassion and warmth when giving one.  The physician, who explained to me that she was very busy that evening, did not walk me through any of it.  In fact, she gave zero warning when inserting the speculum, which naturally caused me to tense up.  The only verbal acknowledgement she gave me was, "you need to relax."  The manual exam was equally as painful, as there was no warning as far as what she was about to do.

Once all of the testing was done, the physician came into my room with a smile on her face, which  gave me a glimmer of hope that things might be okay.  Instead she stated, "your pregnancy hormone levels are declining and you are miscarrying.  I'm sorry."  That was it.  No instructions as far as what to expect, nothing.  The nurse did come give me a print-out on miscarrying, but that was all.

I feel compelled to write this letter, because what most of the staff did not know is that I am a nurse.  Not only am I a nurse, I work in a gynecology clinic, so a lot of this is not foreign to me.  No, I did not share this information that evening, because I was not there as a nurse.  I was there as a patient.  A patient going through an extremely traumatic event.

The only thing I want this letter to accomplish is to stress the importance of viewing patients as individuals.  You can be the best doctor in the country as far as your knowledge goes, but if you lack compassion, nothing else matters.  I suffered a huge, huge loss that night.  It is something I will never forget and I will always remember that I have two children on Earth, and one in Heaven.  I do not expect a hospital staff to feel the same emotions I do because that would be completely unrealistic.  I just want them to realize that the way they are towards a patient going through something difficult is also never forgotten.  If I could erase that ER experience from my memory, I would.  Unfortunately, because it is intertwined with my loss of a baby, it will be with me forever as well.

I do not feel anyones actions that night were intentionally cold or disrespectful.  I can assure you with my whole heart that I don't feel that way.  Being in the medical field, I know that there are budgets to work with as well as staff shortages, so people are doing what they can with what they have, and it's hard and exhausting.  I do believe, though, that my experience could have been a completely different experience had people practiced some common sense.  Read my chart and see what I am there for before you congratulate me on a pregnancy that is ending right before my eyes.  If you don't want to make the effort to read my chart, then read the tears on my face before you ask  me why I am there.  Understand that while no woman wants a pelvic exam, I am receiving one because I need to know for sure if my baby is gone or if my baby is still there.  I'm going to be tense.  That is an understatement of how I am going to be.  Use gently words and walk me through it.  I can guarantee it will make your job easier, if anything.  And please.  When you come in to tell me I am losing my third baby, at the very least, don't say it with a smile.  Sure, you may be otherwise having a wonderful night at work, but for me, it is going down as one of the worst days of my life.  Please respect that.

I have no idea what will happen with this letter.  I pray it doesn't get tossed aside.  Again, my intentions are NOT to get someone in trouble.  I want nothing in return except to know that maybe people might be more cognizant of their actions and how they affect others, because while my case might be forgotten about already from the hospitals standpoint, it will live with me for forever.

Name withheld

Thursday, August 9, 2012

As of yesterday, and for the rest of my life, my medical history will always say G3P2.   That's obstetrics lingo for "I've been pregnant three times, but have two living children."  Three times I've seen those two beautiful pink lines on a home pregnancy test, but just two blond hair, blue eyed babies to hold.  And please don't get me wrong.  When I say "just", I am not discounting the blessing having Ethan and Allison is in my life.  I thank God every day for those two.  I will just forever know that there was a glimmer of a chance that there would be three.

I'll start at the beginning-ish.  Jay and I weren't trying.  I always rolled my eyes when people would say they had an "oops!" while on birth control, but now I get it.  It can happen.  It does happen.  It happened to me.  Granted, when it happened, just a short 7 days ago, it took me over by surprise and complete shock.  It took me a day before it finally sunk in that I was pregnant.  As we tried to figure out due dates and bedroom arrangements, the reality REALLY took hold and we allowed ourselves to be excited at this new, unexpected reality our lives were about to endure.

Just as I was finishing up the touches on how I wanted to announce our blessing to the world, I saw what every pregnant woman fears.  Blood.

After a trip to the ER, which was the absolute worse experience of my life and I will do everything in my power to erase it from my memory for forever, it was confirmed via blood work that my pregnancy hormones were declining instead of rising.  A miscarriage was in process.

The first 24 hours were horrible.  Crying like I have never cried before.  Deep, anguishing cries.  Pain, both physically and emotionally.  It's not like a miscarriage is something that happens and it's done.  Each twinge of a cramp, each movement I made was another stab in the heart:  my body was rejecting this tiny bundle of cells that would soon turn into a sweet baby.  I've taken more Motrin and Aleve than recommended, but it is all I can do to attempt to get through this with the smallest amount of pain I could manage.  It's just a mask, though, as regardless of what I feel, I know what is happening and, to put it quite frankly, it sucks.

Last year at the street fair, I bought a silver necklace with two tiny charms.  One has an E, for my Ethan.  One has an A, for my Allison.  I no longer have the business card of the woman who designed it, but I so wish I did as it is one of my very favorite pieces of jewelry.  Regardless, this afternoon, I purchased a tiny, delicate silver heart to add to my necklace.

 It won't mean anything to others, as most already think my "AE" necklace is from American Eagle.  But to me it will represent that third beautiful pregnancy test that never really went much further.  That had the potential to be, but just couldn't, for reasons only God will ever know.

G3P2, but my heart will forever wish it was P3.