Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Monday, May 11, 2015

An Open Letter {On #NursesWeek} to The Nurses Who Cared Every Step of the Way

My Dear Nurses at Toronto General CVICU,

The word nurse, it comes from Latin and means a “person who nourishes”.

That is exactly who you all are. You are people who nourish.

The dictionary defines nourish as “supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to strengthen, build up”. That is what you do!

You do it all with compassion. You feel the depth of the suffering right in your gut and you spring into action. You take care of the suffering. You attend to the needs of your patient. You give a piece of your heart, your self, to the sick. You humble yourself to the one that has been laid low.

In your giving . . . in your caring . . . in your nourishing . . . you have the opportunity to build up the weak to health and strength and life. No, you don’t create life, but you take the broken hearts, broken lives in your hands, and you have the privilege to help to bind up their wounds, heal the broken bodies, comfort the weary, encourage the frightened, relieve the worried, and cheer on the disheartened.

But, perhaps, no one reminds you of these things. It's possible that all you have sacrificed has not been properly recognized.

You give your energy, attention, intelligence and strength, for twelve hours straight, day after day, doing the most mundane and humbling of duties intermingled with the most extraordinary and life-saving feats and, maybe, you think all you do goes unnoticed and unappreciated?

Let me tell you: You are simply amazing!

Following my open-heart surgery at the tail end of summer in 2014, I had the privilege of experiencing firsthand for 80 days how you serve and nourish every step of the way. You cared for me and my family and you are not forgotten and ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem to cut it.

Remember, how you all nursed me back to health?

Oh, I’m not only talking about all the obvious medical care you so diligently accomplished like pulling out the drainage tubes, alleviating pain, changing bandages and bedsheets, repositioning me in my bed, and ordering a special gel mattress to prevent further sores, keeping PICC lines clear, checking stitches and ulcers and vitals and my INR and elevated CO2 levels, suctioning my tracheostomy tube, emptying the suction cup, and commode, and catheter bags, taking care of oxygen tanks and feeding tubes and IV poles laden down with feeds and bags and bags of saline water and antibiotics, documenting pages and pages of meticulous patient notes and numbers, administering meds, asking every. single. day. if I had had a bowel movement {Really? I mean . . . Seriously!!!}, and watching my weight and heart rate and blood pressure.

In CVICU, these tasks are assumed. And you performed them well.

But, you all went above and beyond and took care of ME and MY FAMILY.

The way you sprinted like an Olympic runner across the Atrium to call a Code Blue for me when my tracheostomy tube blocked and I started into respiratory failure and wasn't anywhere near my ICU room.

You faithfully came to my bedside when I called in panic and fear from ICU psychosis and drugs, held my hand, wiped my brow, and offered a shoulder to weep on when I desperately missed my children.

We shared stories about our families and life—weddings, anniversaries, childbirth, vacations, what we believed about God and His grace in our lives.

You brilliantly figured out a way to wash my hair with water when I couldn’t get my tracheostomy incision wet, then later whisked me in a wheel chair to the shower room so for the first time in weeks and weeks so I could feel hot water stream all over me like a fresh waterfall after a long arduous journey, and you ran to your locker to get me your own shampoo.

You worked wonders so I (along with and all my medical contraptions) could sit outside in the glorious sunshine after a month of being cooped up in my four walls and beeping machines and fluorescent lights.

You used warm water to add to crushed meds to prevent further discomfort from my feeding tube. 

You brought me books and movies and bundles of scrap paper for my clipboard and you responded to all my requests scrawled in my broken cursive. You wrapped me in warm blankets and helped me get dressed when I didn’t have the strength to dress myself.

The wonder of the times when you walked into my room, assessed the situation, and had me moved to a bigger and brighter room, wept with me, laughed with me, prayed with me, and had my room filled with praise music and asked me about my children whose photos were posted all over the walls.

Remember, how you curled my hair, and spilled into my room to sing “Happy Birthday” to me and you even called from home on your day off to wish me “Happy Birthday”.

A week later you congratulated Jon and I for our wedding anniversary—when I was too swollen to wear my wedding rings, couldn't even eat a fancy meal to celebrate 15 years, and I felt sorry for myself, but then reminded myself I was still here to do life with the man I love.

And then you planned for my family to have a Thanks-giving Swiss Chalet meal together in the staff room—all inclusive with the Wii, and you planned a birthday party for my son and you ordered in pizza and blew up balloons and gave treats to my children.

Ah, you cheered me on when I walked laps in the halls as though I was training for a marathon, and you coaxed me on for a month while I weaned off my tracheostomy mask, and you gave me a chocolate bar when I passed my swallowing test, and cried with me when I could speak again. You understood my relief when my bleeding finally stopped and my mind cleared up and I became more me again instead of the patient inflicted with strange hallucinations and vivid delusions.

I’m so thankful you extended your care to my husband who faithfully stayed by my side and lovingly sacrificed so much to do so—and you trained him in Nursing 101 and helped him with paperwork. 

You kept reminding me to keep on “moving forward”.

You thought of ways that would make going home a reality, all the while jesting with me that you were ‘keeping’ an eye on me’ that I wouldn’t devise an ‘exit plan’ of my own.

This list could potentially never end. However, my time with you did.

Staying in CVICU for 80 days is nothing I would ever want to endure again, but you, the people who nourish, my nurses, made my time bearable and you sent me off on my way with cheers and prayers, and words of encouragement.

I left behind new friends and came home to be with my family where I belong. My affection for you all is deep like an ocean and my appreciation for you all is as great as the heavens.

I thank God for you all and the way He has made you to nourish others. And, I think you are all simply amazing.

Rebekah Hughes

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