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Friday, August 29, 2008

Silence and solace

An article I recently wrote was just published in the latest edition of American Nurse Today, The Official Journal of the American Nurses Association. The article is my personal story of how a nurse's silent empathy is the best consolation for many grieving families. Follow the link below.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Eat Everyday

Today at the hospital I took care of an 88 year old gentlemen with a very sick valve in his heart. In getting to know him he said that had been married to his wife for 63 years. I asked him what the secret was to such a long-lasting marriage. His response was, "Eat everything," or so I thought.

I said, "Eat everything? - What exactly do you mean by that?" He smiled and said, "No, I said Eat everyday. Have dinner together everyday," he explained. He went on, because in the end a lifetime is just a whole bunch of meals and good conversation." 

"Oh, and he added, have lots of patience."

I grinned as I thought to myself, and wondered just how much happy juice I had given him, how simple but true.

Later that afternoon we had to break the news to he and his wife that he would need to have open heart surgery tomorrow. This was shocking and frightening news for the pair. Me and a few other nurses discussed the procedure and the road ahead to his wife. She gave us each hugs and thanked us for helping her through this, the first time they would be apart in years. As his wife left for the day, she turned and said, "Oh, I just can't believe this is happening, we do everything together, who will I go shopping with." And then she left.

We were left speechless and with tears in our eyes, each imagining ourselves in 10, 20, 30 years having to face the unknown alone and having to say goodbye to a spouse or some other loved one. 

Just another simple reminder of how precious even the simplest of things are in our lives and in our relationships. And how dearly we miss them when they are gone.

Bon Appetit'

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not a Dry Run, eh?

What I love about my job.
78 years. That's it. That is the average life expectancy at birth in the United States. Doesn't seem like enough time to accomplish it all does it? As a nurse I work with people who are at the end of their lives everyday. Most are elderly and have accepted it - even joke about it. Others are young frightened and feel unprepared and out of control. I am amazed that literally everyday I, a young (sort of) woman who happens to be a nurse , find myself center stage cast into the final chapter of people's lives. And it never ceases to take my breath away. That is what I love about my job.

Over the years I have had many a conversation with patients about their lives. Patients love to tell stories - really they love to be listened to. People feel uninhibited around nurses, and why shouldn't they, we see, smell and touch pretty much every part of their body inside and out. And there are no agendas when you are sick. Life is universal and so is sickness and death. People tell it like it is and boy do they tell.  But that is what I love about my job.

For me, the best stories come from the elderly patients who reminisce about their lives. Their wrinkled, spotted hands and tired eyes tell of simpler, but harder times. Of lost loves, and wars won, of goals achieved and forgotten, and of regrets. These people give unsolicited but appreciated advice about raising children, celebrating milestones, finding happiness, lessons learned and living a good life. They all, without exception tell me how fast the days, weeks, decades pass, how they wish they could go back and do it again, or do it just a little bit, or a lot differently. And these conversations, these people, these lessons are why I love my job. 

Our perception changes after a major milestone, a tragic accident, an illness, the birth of a child, the loss of a loved one. We become introspective and we email our friends more often. We rethink our jobs, our homes, our family, we exercise more, we watch tv less. But soon after our newfound enlightenment fades and we slip back into our regular routines. 

A friend recently told a story of a man he met on a train while traveling through Scotland. The man was middle aged and alone and he spoke about how he was in the middle of a trip around the world, he had quit his job and decided to pick up and travel. As they disembarked from the train and began to walk in different directions he asked the man what had prompted his spontaneous adventure. The man smiled, leaned in and took him by the hand and said in his thick Scottish brogue, "It's not a dry run, eh?"

I hope these stories inspire you to get the most out of your 78 years (+/- a few). I do not claim expertise, only humanity and a willingness to listen, share and motivate others.  Enjoy! And if you are interested in submitting your own story or thought for publication on this blog, please do. 

Stay Tuned.

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