Butterfly Sparks Designs

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Patients: My Heroes

In one moment, the things we hold most precious can be taken from us.

Breath.  Life.  Limbs.  Function.  Hope.

As nurses, because we work with the broken, we receive a gift of gratitude: gratitude for all of the small blessings and gifts we all so easily often take for granted.

This is gratitude for the ability to walk, talk, taste, hear, and smell.  Gratitude that our brains function normally, our lungs pump air, our hearts work just fine, and our legs can move.  Heck, even gratitude for the gift of daily bowel movements :)

None of us are guaranteed good health.  None of us are guaranteed that at any moment some trauma couldn't occur, and who we've always been may no longer be who we may become.

Once I worked with two patients who have lost much.

One, because of an accident, can no longer bathe himself, take care of his own bowel movements, turn himself in bed, and many other things.  He is still young, and his whole life is ahead of him.  The doctors believe he may never walk again.

He chooses to believe he will.

Many call it denial.  He calls it hope.

My other patient received a threatening diagnosis.  While undergoing treatment for it, he suffered a terrible complication.  It now takes 3 people to move him from a wheelchair to the bed.  He gets his food through a tube, has a catheter for his urine, and a diaper to hold his bowel movements.  He chooses to be kind, thankful, and hopeful.  As I prayed with him at the bedside, I felt God impress a simple truth: He was in control of everything- everything concerning this man.  As we prayed and this man cried at that truth, we wept together for the uncertainties that now face this man's life.  He's retired.  He should be on a RV somewhere, seeing our national parks, but now he's wondering if he'll ever walk again and how his wife will handle the things he is supposed to handle.  But he chooses to be kind, thankful, and hopeful.

What if I lost my ability to transfer myself from one place to another?  What if someone had to bathe me, clean up my bowel movements, feed me, and turn me in the bed?  Would I be kind, thankful, and hopeful?  Would I choose faith against the odds or sink into despair?

It's nights like these as a nurse when reality is difficult; where there aren't pat answers and where the cursory statement, "Everything's going to be okay" feels cheap, worn, and like a masquerade ball.

As a believer in Christ, I hold to that in the broken things is where Christ's glory has found the ripest place to shine.  I believe He uses us, as His hands and feet, to bring His healing somehow.  I believe that to Him the broken is beautiful; those who have suffered loss and brokenness perhaps cause His heart to feel like a deep gutter of compassion that aches with the pain and knows the hollows of it better than anyone else.

After all, this is His created who now bears loss- what could move the heart of God more?

I don't know how to be a nurse to people who face these kind of odds.  I still haven't figured out how to say the right things or do the right things or be just the right way.  But I know I feel Jesus's love when I'm near them.  I know my eyes well up and my heart aches and my insides hurt like someone's hollowed them out or chiseled them with a knife, as I wade among broken conditions.

I see the triumph in my patient's eyes every time they choose kindness, when they could choose bitterness and gratitude or when they could choose despair.  I see in those moments what could possibly be one of the most beautiful things about the human spirit: the ability to overcome and have free will over outcomes.

Patients like these two are my heroes.  They remind prideful me to slow down, be thankful, choose love and kindness, and trust God.  They remind me every day, every minute, and every second is a gift.

They remind me Jesus's love is fierce, and our brokenness will be His glory.  Our pain is His pain, and the words, "Jesus wept" found in John 11:35, I understand as a nurse working among the ill.

Let us all be blessed in thanking the Father for all of the things we daily take for granted.  Let us choose kindness and hope when the alternatives might be more automatic or easy.

Every day and every gift is a blessing we must return as thanks and savor the moments of true triumph in our lives.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Willie, the Shuttle Bus Driver :)

Sometimes we see God in unexpected places.

At the last hospital where I worked, employees parked at a lot that was a considerable distance from the hospital. Therefore...

Enter: Shuttle Buses.

And, Shuttle Bus Drivers.

At the start of each day, in the mornings, Willie was my shuttle bus driver.

And in the evening, at the close of my working days,Willie's brother, Robert, drove me towards home.

I think I've said on here before, y'all, that I'm not a morning person. I. am not. a morning PERSON.

Not at all.

When I worked the day shift at this hospital, I had to get up at 5:00a.m.

It was unpleasant. It was something like torture, really, dragging myself out of bed that early :)

But every morning that I'd hoist myself up the large, tall steps of the shuttle bus, there would be sweet Willie, with a nod of his head and a gentle, "Mornin' Ma'am."

And then, as I would sigh and anticipate the day ahead, as we got closer and closer to the hospital, sweet Willie would say to each of us as we exited the bus, "Have a good day, now. Have a blessed day."

It wasn't alot of words, and I certainly didn't know Willie, but there was something in his voice; in the way he always said so easy and gently, "Have a good day, now."

It always made me feel better. It was comforting.  His voice was like a warm cup of tea, or a kiss of blessing from God Himself to survive the rigors of the hospital about to rush in. It was like a pat from your momma goodbye, as you stared at a big yellow school bus arriving, or a whisper in the wind telling you it would all be okay.

I used to make cookies for Willie sometimes.

Because I appreciated something that would seem so small as a "Have a good day, now."

Willie was like a guardian to the day, and I thought cookies would be a nice gesture to say thanks. I'd make them for he and his brother every now and then.

After a few years at that hospital, I left to pursue a nursing job with a little less stress. Working the evening shift now, I get parking privileges in the hospital parking garage and don't have to walk very far into the hospital.

Last week was one of those banner work weeks that you hope you soon forget. Very challenging patients and an incident with a challenging, hothead doctor left my spirit heavy at the end of the week.

I had to go to a Conflict Management training class on Thursday, which was a daytime training. So I had to park in a satellite lot again and catch a shuttle bus. [Daytime hospital workers usually park in parking lots farther away so that during peak hospital hours, patients and families can have the parking spots closest to the buildings so they don't have to walk as far.]

At the end of the day of training, there were some lingering issues I still had to address with upper hospital management regarding the challenging doctor. And I walked out of the hospital that day feeling quite discouraged.

I caught the shuttle bus at the shuttle bus stop, and imagine my surprise when who was the shuttle bus driver, but Willie!

"Hi, Willie!" I said. "I'm not sure if you remember me, but it's sure good to see you!" [It had been about a year since I'd seen Willie].

"Yeah! I remember you! You used to bring me cookies."

Turns out Willie still works for my old hospital in the mornings, and works at my new hospital in the afternoons. Willie and I shot the breeze for awhile, and as I exited the bus after a hard day, I heard those old familiar words again,

"Have a good day, now."

And hearing that smooth and easy voice say those words again, helped me leave behind a very bad day, with a new smile on my face :)

Sometimes we find God in unexpected places.

And when we most need Him, He has a way of showing up :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Veer Straight and Forget Not Where the Bacon Comes From.

Just finished up a week of camp nursing at the wonderful East Texas camp where I'm blessed to work each summer.

We work an 80 hour week, and every day we work two 7-8 hour shifts for 8 days.  It's exhausting to say the least, and I usually find myself in my bed with my dinner, unable to move for about 24 hours once it's all over.

So what makes it worth all those hours of hard work?

Well, it is a really unique setting to be a nurse.  I get to meet hundreds of sweet kiddos each week, and since it's a Christian camp, I get to witness all the essence of Jesus intertwining with my service to the little campers.  And Jesus + campers = awesomeness.

The kids were unusually funny this week, as were the coworkers, so I spent most of the week in stitches.  In fact, in all my pictures, I'm not just smiling, I am laughing with my mouth wide open :)  That's a good thing.

Here are some funny lines from the health center this week:

--"Veer straight," said one of the campers when explaining how to get to an activity.  I'm pretty sure to "veer" usually involves some sort of curve or turn, so to say "veer straight" was funny.

--"I'm pretty sure I'm gonna die with this bug bite," said one little camper.

   "Oh!  Don't say that!"  I said.  "In Jesus's Name, you will live!  A long life!" I replied.

   "No, I'm pretty sure my days are numbered."

   "Well," said my coworker, affectionately known as "Fuzzy."  "He's not just a 'the glass is half empty kind of person, he's a 'the glass is totally broken and shattered apart' kind."

--"Man, I wish we had some bacon for breakfast around here, I would LOVE some bacon this morning," said one of the counselors.

"Yeah, I know.  You'd think with all of the cows we have around this camp, we could easily get some bacon!"  (That might or might not have been said by a particular nurse, but I won't name names.  Even if said nurse was me, who might have momentarily forgotten that bacon doesn't come from cows.  It comes from pigs.  I try and regularly provide entertainment for the people.  It's what I do :)

---"I'm not good at knowing things," said one of our nurse assistants :)

---"I have a very large stomach ache," said one cute little pint-sized female camper.  "Oh yeah?"  I asked her.  "Yeah.  Do you have some of that Pop-Ice stuff?  I think that would make it feel better."  Pop-Ice popsicles have a way of curing many ills :)

Oh, the campers.

 I learned alot this week about how who you work with makes a pretty big impact on your work.  The medics I worked with this week were a barrell of laughs.  So no matter how tired we were, when you are laughing, you just don't care.  And when I work with the Medics, I always breathe easier, because since emergency response is part of our job, I know they will take those calls.  Those calls always give me the anxiety, because I haven't ever worked the ER as a nurse, and because I wasn't trained that way.  I have learned to manage patients once they are stabilized from an accident, but actually knowing how to make the decisions when they aren't always puts me on the edge.  I never had to worry about it this week, because I knew the guys had it covered.  Therefore, I could enjoy the health center work with alot more peace than usual.

So, the nurse survived camp one more time.  I counted up this weekend- after 4 summers as a camp nurse, this was my 15th week to serve in that capacity. 

It's been fun.

But now I will go recover for the next few days. 

And if I don't hear another person complain about their aching stomach, their turned ankle, their poison ivy, or their congested sinuses for awhile, I will be none too sad. 

Here's a nurse quote I found today, which applies to a great many things, actually:

"It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing." Mother Theresa

I always knew Mother Theresa was smart :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Someone's Beloved

I read this on the back of the July 12, 2010 issue of NurseWeek magazine, and thought it embodied the heart of being a Nurse so well:


This is what I thought as I admitted my new patient, and my true contribution as a nurse began.  I asked myself, who am I to you? I am your nurse.  I help, teach, monitor and give comfort and compassion.  I am your guardian.  And you?  You are my teacher.  You show me the resilience and endurance of the human body and spirit.  Our relationship makes a complex healthcare system personal.

I Am Your Nurse."

--(Taken from an ad for the American Association of Critical Care Nurses).

And that is the truth and the beauty behind the crazy world of being a nurse :)

Tryin' To Quit

Hi. My name is Beth, and I'm addicted to Coke.

Not the white, dusty kind, but the dark, soda kind.

Coke and Pepsi. I'm no respector of my soda, and I have developed an affinity to an ice, cold Coca-Cola or Pepsi now several times a week, for going on the better part of a year.

And since I'm a Nurse, I know that insanity has to stop. It's like pouring acid and pitchers of sugar straight into your veins.

My coworker, Alice, has noticed my problem, and a few weeks ago when we nurses were talking about all the unhealthy food Americans love to eat, Alice looked over at me with the eyes- you know, the ones that come with silence and an all-knowing glance. She looked down at my Coke and looked away.

"Alice!" I said. "I'm trying to quit, really I am!"

She said nothing.

Nothing like being chastened by an older, rather militant nurse.

Something about a chaotic, constantly moving shift at the hospital brings out the desire for a Coca Cola like nothing else. Call it the stress, the need for caffeine, or whatever, but I've been known to tell the coworkers all too often, "I'm heading to the basement for a drink. I need a cold one." I don't do alcohol, so Coke has become my substitute. (The basement is where our hospital houses the Coke machines).

And I'm not the only one. One of the night shift nurses came in last night with two, count it TWO, very super-sized large, to-go cups of soda for the duration of her shift. I am not alone in my addiction. I know that's pitiful, but somehow it makes me feel better.

I decided to stop the insanity Sunday. I enjoyed my last cold one at the Mexican restaurant, Chuy's, in my hometown. There are certain foods that just seem better with Coke- Pizza and Mexican. But I digress.

I haven't had a cold one since.

And you can imagine last night at work, for the last hour of my shift, between 10:00 and 11:00pm, when my rather confused patient started having problems, I was itching for a Coke.

He kept yelling out rather loudly and sporadically, "Deeee----BOORRR-- UHHHHH!"

This sweet man lives with his daughter-in-law who cares for him, named Deborah, and he was very confused, thinking he was at home and he needed his Deborah- Quite Loudly. The other patients started complaining.

I was getting pressure from the coworkers to just give him a sleeping pill, so he'd pipe down.

I tend to be the kind of nurse who doesn't favor giving sedatives to the confused, elderly folks, because in many of them, it tends to make them worse the next day. Sometimes you can talk these people down without the drugs, and I was trying my best to do so, in hopes I wouldn't have to medicate him to slumber. All the other nurses didn't vote on the same side of that wagon, though, and they were very vocal to let me know.

"Just give him the pill!" Alice said loudly, over and over.

She was not a fan of my conservative medicinal ways.

The pressure, people, of the screaming man and the pushy nurses was just the right combo to test my abstinence and resolve against the soda.

I thought to myself, I can just hop in the elevator, pop in some coins, and have a sweet cold one in no time.

But I persevered. I prayed that man into a final, heavy sleep, and the nurses all thought I gave him the sleeping pill which piped em' down. I grabbed a cold glass of water and told myself it was just as good as a cold Coke.

I took some Advil to wage war against the caffeine withdrawal-induced headache, and I WON THE BATTLE!

I will quit these Cokes, by golly. Sweet mercy, they will no longer have a hold on me!

(I hope. Y'all pray for me. I'm takin' it a day at a time like those 12 Step programs whose mantra is "Just For Today." Just for today I won't have a Coke. I have admitted I have a problem, and I am quitting cold turkey.)

I have a better compassion for the addicts now.

I think we might need some sort of 12 step meetings for quitting cola. But then that might just look like a pity party, and come on, can't we all just say no to ourselves and get on with it?

I'm praying I'll keep having the gusto to Just Say No to myself when it comes to the soda and will keep popping the Advil in combat to the headaches that come like a freight train in my head- that alone should speak to me of the nature of my enemy, Coca Cola- it doesn't quit you easily.

Pray for me, bloggy friends. This battle will not end in defeat- I'm confident!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Republic of the People.

One of my favorite things about being a Nurse is bearing witness to the people I serve.

Working in a hospital is like the set of a really good television show sometimes, and the characters are always colorful :)

Here are some characters from this week at the hospital, deep in the heart of Texas:

Mr. Westingame.

The first time I saw Mr. Westingame with all his tattoos, sitting in his wheelchair, I walked up to him and asked him his name. I was looking for a patient of mine, Mr. Bailey, who wasn't in his hospital room, whom I hadn't met yet. As I spotted Mr. Wetingame in the hallway, I thought he might be the patient I was looking for.

"Are you Mr. Bailey, sir?" I asked the man with shiny, tanned, and tattooed arms, who had a bald head and an attitude you could ascertain from a mile away.

"No, I'm not, I'm Mr. Westingame," he said.

"I'm sorry, I was looking for someone else and thought it was you," I said.

"Oh, baby, you've been looking for me all your life, you just didn't know it until now."

Smooth. Mr. Westingame is, and I gather has always been, smooth :)

Last night, a motorcycle gang showed up at the hospital to visit their fallen friend, Mr. Westingame, who suffered a motorcycle accident. Mr. Westingame has been in our Rehabilitation Hospital awhile now, learning to walk again, feed himself, and perform everyday grooming tasks. Mr. Westingame is walking now, he is feeding himself quite well, and grooms himself just fine. I came down the hallway last night to see the entire "rough and tough" gang walking towards our outdoor deck so they could "hang" and "chill" together on a Friday night at the hospital. The men were tall and hulking. The gang had on their black leather, cowboy boots, and various tattoos, but couldn't have been nicer as they continually addressed me as "Ma'am." Mr. Westingame made sure to let Alice, his nurse for the evening, know in front of his friends that she was quite special to him and his "favorite nurse- very good at what you do."

He meant it sincerely and said it with a tender smile towards Alice. Then he winked at me and set off down the hallway with his gang. That made Alice's night, and I have to say it made mine to come down the hallway and see this entire Motorcycle Motley Crew, gracing the halls of our hospital :)

Ms. Smith.

General Anesthesia, along with certain combinations of medications, has a way of altering some patients. If you ever have a loved one who will undergo the anesthesia, please say a prayer for them, the Nurse advises.

Ms. Smith, another of our patients, hasn't been quite the same since her recent vascular surgery. Seems the general anesthesia threw her for a bit of a loop. Prior to surgery, she was already on several psychotropic, mood-altering medications for various psychiatric diagnoses.

Many of our patient rooms house two patients to a room. These are called semi-private rooms. You can just imagine how pairing two total strangers in a room just leaves the door wide open for all kinds of antics, but that's another book for another time :)

Last night, I entered Ms. Smith's room to do a few dressing changes on her incisions. On my way out of the room, after I'd finished, I stopped to talk to her roommate, Ms. Whaley. As I was talking to Ms. Whaley, I heard Ms. Smith on the other side of the curtain, talking to someone. However, no one else was on the other side of the curtain with Ms. Smith. Knowing she had been suffering from hallucinations the day before, I peeked back around the curtain and said,

"Ms. Smith, who are you talking to?"

"Well, I'm talking to this man sitting right here on my bed," she said.

I cocked my head and looked at her, with a twinkle in my eye and a slight, smiling curve to my mouth.

"Oh! I know, okay. He's not really here, and I know that now. At least now, I know it, and I'm sorry, I'll stop talking to him."

"Yep, he's not here, Ms. Smith."

This might sound patronizing, but work with psych patients long enough, and you'll understand the humor that lies within it sometimes.

"Alright, alright. I'll stop doing that," Ms. Smith said, "I know Herman and the rest of them aren't real anymore."

Needless to say, Ms. Whaley asked for a room change later in the evening, for fear her "confused" roommate might start seeing more "friends" in her altered state and harm her in the night :)

Ms. Whaley's family approached the Nurse's station sheepishly and wide-eyed, after they'd stopped by to visit Ms. Whaley. After hearing Ms. Smith on the other side of the curtain talking to "Herman," they very slowly and nervously requested that "our mother please be moved to another part of the hospital- away from that woman talking to people who aren't there."

Seems Ms. Smith's talking to Herman had turned to yelling, making everyone within a five yard radius very uncomfortable.

We nurses looked at each other later and smiled.

I visited Ms. Smith later and told her she and Herman were going to have to quieten down, so as not to disturb the rest of the hospital.

"Oh, okay, we will. He just is so annoying sometimes," she replied


This has always been and forever will be my favorite part of being a Nurse: the people; the colorful, wonderful, beautiful people I meet every night.

We are all unique, and that makes my world go 'round a little better on any given day of the week :)

Happy Saturday, friends-- Enjoy the world moving all around you :)

Camp Nurse

Every summer, come May and rising temperatures, I don a different Nursing cap: a Camp Nurse cap.

I walk into the wilds of a large and busy summer camp which serves nearly 900 people each week.  The summer camp where I work houses a health center which weekly employees four nurses to staff it and take care of campers and camp staff alike.

We do four times per day medication calls for all the kiddos on scheduled medications.  We do sick visits throughout the day for anyone who might come down with a sore throat, stomach ache, or flu-like virus.  We are emergency responders for things like lake accidents, water slide injuries, ropes course mishaps, etc.  We do much more, too: like lice checks, launder soiled bed linens for campers, allergy shots, manage diabetic campers, and cure homesickness with our secret weapon- Pop-Ice.

It is a wonderful change from the walls of the hospital and adult medicine.  Working within an outdoor setting at the camp, with smiling kiddos, always renews my heart for nursing.

We also work very hard.  Our health center opens at 6:00a.m. and stays open until midnight.  After a full week of long hours, we nurses always go home dead tired but very full in our hearts from all the people we have served and met throughout the week.

By day 3, you begin to remember the individual kids as they come through the "Med. Call" line for their morning medications.  You begin to build rapport with them and are able to encourage them in their day, love on them a little, and always, always- laugh.

For a nurse, camp nursing is a challenge.  With no doctor in the immediate vicinity, and the potential for absolutely ANYTHING to walk in the door- good assessment skills become a must.  I've seen everything at camp from snake bites, to a raccoon attack, to orthodontic mishaps requiring minor oral surgery on the premises, to a swine flu outbreak that resulted in Camp Quarantine 2009. 

There is never a dull moment in camp nursing.

Last week at camp, we nurses made up a little Med. Call song with a guitar to sing as a diddy for the campers and counselors.  The words went a little something like this:

"It's the crack of dawn,
as you start your day;
you've gotta get your meds,
so, you'll be on your way...."

Then we nurses went into a little coordinated rock and sway routine with our Pop-Ice, band aids, and stethoscopes that would rival the Rockettes any day.  In fact, we aptly named ourselves for the musical number, "The Nightingales," as a homage to Florence.

Being a nurse is always an adventure, and being a nurse at a camp is a very special and unique adventure.  If you've never tried it, you're a nurse, and you might be interested, Go for it! 

Nothing will brighten your day more than a wet, swimsuited camper, coming into the health center with their towel dragging behind them, ready for a day of fun in the sun, who just might need a boost from a smiling, caring nurse.  Nurses have a special gift of comfort and care, and it's awesome getting to impart that to the little campers who come through our doors.

So, nurses- what are you waiting for?  If you'd like to learn more about Camp Nursing, visit the Association of Camp Nurses's website at http://www.acn.org/.

Happy Summer, friends!