Hannah’s uvula’s Big Day.

 

This week my daughter Hannah had an EGD performed to hunt for the source of some ongoing stomach issues.   After hearing her talk about how much her uvula hurt, I told her I’d write a little something funny to remember the incident.  She had been scoped before, and was caught off-guard by how much it hurt this time compared to last time.  I helped her through the experience as best I could, and then I wrote the story from a totally different angle.  I wrote this mainly for her, but I thought it might make you smile this morning so I included it here as well.  Enjoy! 🙂

Hannah’s uvula’s Big Day

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Today I woke up like I always do, a little dried out from sleeping all night, morning breath in place, because, well, that’s what happens inside a mouth in the morning.  I thought today would be like any other day, but wow! was I wrong.

I got my surroundings brushed up and minty fresh, and assumed I’d be heading off to school with Hannah just like any other day.  Boy, was I in for a surprise!  I started to realise we were at the hospital about the same time the anesthesia hit me like a ton of bricks.  So, I relaxed like any good uvula does under those conditions.  Then I heard a lot of talking by nurses and the doctor.  And then ….Bam!, out of nowhere, the most massive tube ever made just shoved right past me into Hannah’s esophagus.  Quite rudely done, if you ask me.  So I’m trying not to gag, while I’ve got this massive tube pressed up against me, violating me and all of Hannah’s mouth and esophagus all the way to her stomach.  I see a camera come into view at one point, and realize someone is actually taking pictures of this weird and offensive start to my day.

Finally, it’s over and the tube is gone.  Ahhhh, what a blissful feeling.  Until I realize I hurt all over and I’m swollen what seems like ten times my normal size! And her tongue– its swollen too, and we are fighting, pushing and shoving, for who needs more room in the back of her throat.

Several hours later, I’m still totally miffed about the situation.  I’m still sore as can be, swollen up like a dead bloated toad, and nothing is helping.  Finally, Hannah gets some Advil past me, and starts helping me out with some ice chips and cold ice cream.  We can be friends again for that one.   But it might take a few more offerings of the ice cream to make up my mind.

I can tell this day will be one of infamy for me.  I am the biggest, baddest neighbor in town in my neck of the woods today.  I demand everyone’s attention, as my swollen, angry red self asserts itself as the power-to-be for the day.  I get all the attention, all the negative feels.  I longingly wait for my former nice, not-red-and-swollen, self to return. I dream of all my favourite cold popsicle flavors, and think ice is the best invention ever made.  I wonder what I did to deserve this outrageous attack, and vow to fight back the next time.

The next morning I wake up, a little worse for the wear, but feeling a little more like nature intended me to be.  I still long for ice, Advil, and popsicles, but I’m more open to the thought of returning to life as regularly programmed.  However, I have a few thoughts on the subject of EGD’s, scopes, hospitals, and the like….What’s that saying? “History repeats itself”?  There had better not ever, ever be a repeat, that’s all I’ve got to say!

                           Nurse Ames, RN

Peg tubes–good, bad, or ugly?

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”–Rumi–

She’s 66 years old, she lives in a group home, she has cerebral palsy and MR. She’s been in and out of the hospital this past year several times, each time declining physically. She doesn’t speak, she just points to what she wants and makes hand gestures. I’m only 5’2″ and when I help her to the bathroom, I tower over her height-wise. She is tiny, but her personality is huge. We nurses know her normal by now–she’s happy, grins ear to ear, wants to give everyone hugs. If only all of our patients could be that way, right? Today she is back in the hospital. They have placed a peg tube because she can no longer pass a swallow study. She is hurting, despondent–not her normal self at all. Her mouth is dry because she can no longer eat or drink. Her stomach is trying to get used to bolus peg tube feedings, which is stretching her stomach more than it’s used to. The canned liquid we give as total nutrition is causing her gas. Not only are these things causing her pain, but also the new peg tube site itself is still quite sore. She’s never been on pain medicine before, but the need for it is there now. So she sleeps a lot more than normal, is much less active. This leaves her wide open to a variety of complications–bed sores, pneumonia, blood clots in her legs, etc. However, at least she is now hydrated, and getting the vital nutrients she needs to stay alive. She doesn’t have to choke on her medicine, food, or drinks anymore. And she no longer needs to worry about aspiration pneumonia every time she takes a swallow.

Making the decision for end-of-life care is never easy. Nurses have the luxury of an objective point of view.  Meanwhile, family members are torn by the possible consequences of their decisions, no matter what that decision might be. Nurses have seen the same scenario enough times to guess the most likely outcome, whereas family members are dealing with uncharted territory. It’s a tough call to make, and I’ve been on both sides of the equation.  As for peg tubes themselves, I have seen some people thrive and regain health with them, while others just sort of wither away regardless. Are we giving loved ones another shot at life? Or delaying the inevitable while their quality of life further declines? I don’t know…there’s definitely no easy answer to that.  Every situation is different, every patient, every family group…All I can do as a nurse is provide information and be as honest as I can be when difficult questions arise.

As for my little peg tube patient, I hope she’s doing well again back at her group home.  I never got the chance to see her smile return before she was discharged.  I do know she was surrounded by love.  Her caretakers and other residents often visited her, and she seemed to have a great support system.  If anyone has a chance at returning to a better quality of life, it would be her.  I hope she gets her smile back.  

                           Nurse Ames, RN

Quasimodo’s house on fire

“France is crying, and the whole world, too.”– Ruairi Casey

September 11, 2001.  Do you remember where you were?  What you were doing? How you felt as you watched the towers fall? …April 19, 1995, 9:02 A.M.  How about that one?  Does that bring back sharp memories? Do you remember the agony of knowing your fellow Americans lie trapped beneath the rubble?  Think back further…Remember the day the Challenger exploded, the day the Berlin wall came down, the day the Gulf War started? How about the day they finally got Osama Bin Laden? I remember the headlines–that day felt pretty victorious in America, almost like a party.

This past week was to be the week that we as Oklahomans gathered together to remember those lost on April 19, 1995. Each year our collective memories gear up for the anniversary of our loss as a state.  Each year, I try to teach my kids the importance of learning about history from those who can remember it personally, not just by learning it from a history book.  I remind them that as their generation takes its place in history, they will someday have their own events burned on their collective conscience.  History that they will pass on to their own kids as a memory instead of from a history book. History is alive in the hearts and minds of those who’ve lived it–it’s personal.  While I can relate to them what it felt like to sit in school and learn about the Challenger exploding, they can go to their grandparents to hear firsthand stories of when Armstrong walked on the moon, or when Kennedy was shot.  It’s way more interesting to hear about it firsthand than to listen to your history teacher lecture about it while you try to stay awake in class.

So, this past week started with generations worth of historical memories already lying on the back burner of everyone’s mind.  It’s usually good for at least one Evening News recap–April is rife with historical events.  The sinking of the Titanic, Lincoln’s assassination, Boston Marathon Bombings, Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine shootings …Tax Day….the list is long and tedious.

And then I walked into a patient’s room this week and watched in horror as another historical event played out on the TV screen in front of me.  I was discharging a patient when I actually realized what was happening–I literally stopped talking mid-sentence, my mouth agape.  Tears sprang to my eyes as I watched in disbelief.  I could hardly stand to watch as I saw the flames and smoke of Notre Dame shoot higher than the great cathedral ever dreamed of reaching. Friends started texting me-“Did you see the news??”  Coworkers passed the word through the halls while the news spread like wildfire on social media. And as we watched her burn, we began sharing stories.  Reminiscing who had seen her when, and what was our favourite memory of her.   I had witnessed Notre Dame’s great beauty myself less than two years ago.  I was awestruck by her magnificence and had every intention of returning sooner rather than later to see her again.  Now I watched from almost 5,000 miles away as 850+years of history burned to the ground.  What mankind had managed to preserve for centuries was now gone in a matter of hours.

That evening I hugged my kids, and cried a few more tears for the majestic building that was now only a shell of its former self .  I related my memories of my time there, and we mourned her loss together. Then we talked.  “…Kids, remember when I’ve told you that your generation will have events that will go down in history, just like all the generations before? And that you will have your own ‘live’ version of that to pass on to your kids?  Here is one that will be in history books.  Remember what you were doing, where you were at, so that it is easier to bring it back to mind. Just as I can remember the day when Princess Diana died,  I want you to be able to remember the day Notre Dame burned.  Because you are a part of history yourself.  And how you relate to history and the world around you affects your life on a daily basis.”

I hope they can soak up my knowledge–what I’ve learned from my love for history, travel, and the world around me.    I hope what I’ve learned in my lifetime is not in vain, that they can retain it and use it for themselves.  So that they too have a love for life and respect for all mankind.  That they can pass it on and make the world a better place.  And I’m glad for my memories.  And my pictures of myself and that grand beauty.  For she was a building like no other.  I hope she is rebuilt, stronger and better than before.  That her purpose remains the same.  To point others to God as well as continue on as a historical legacy for generations to come.  To be an inspiration, a source of beauty, a place of worship, a safe haven.  She unites not only the people of France, but mankind as a whole.  I am so thankful to have been one of the millions to have passed through her doors and found peace within.

                        Nurse Ames, RN

Proms, perms, and Aqua Net

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” —Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ahhh, the 80’s.   Do you remember them?  They were glorious.  Permed hair teased as high as Aqua Net would take it, stone-washed jeans, all the great hair bands, neon colored anything, mohawks and mullets , CD’s and walkmans….the world was a happier place.  We listened to Reagan as the wall came down, we cried when the Challenger exploded, and we lived out the last of the cold war.  As a teenager, I can well remember how we rocked “Born in the USA”  along with Springsteen for all the world to hear.

And then there was high school.  Its own little world, its own hierarchy system.  Were you the basket case, the brain, the princess, the criminal, or the athlete? Which clique did you hang out with? Did you love it or hate it?  During my senior year, I was the brainy nerd dating the class clown.  It made for some interesting memories in my small town.   When they announced us Prom King and Queen, I about fell over dead.  And because I was a nerd, I was instantaneously so anxious, I could barely walk to the front to enjoy my moment.  Flash forward 30 years…I’ve already seen my daughter live through her Breakfast Club days.  Now it’s my son who’s a junior in high school, living out his own version of the Wonder Years.  He’s quiet, sticks to a small crowd, just the average kid in FFA and shop class in western Oklahoma.  He drives a dependable car, works after school at a small engine repair shop, and is headed in the right direction in life.  You’ll miss out on his dry wit and sarcastic humor unless you’re privileged enough to be close family or friend.  Then he cuts loose.  And does so in spades. I marvel at him, this son of mine.  He’s so different from me, yet he’s the closest to me personality-wise out of my three kids.

This past weekend was his junior prom.  I was shocked when he announced he was going.  He hates social events, especially the more formal ones.  As prom planning approached, he had told me he was going with a group of friends which would make it easier on him.  Knock me over with a feather.  Fast forward and imagine my surprise when I found out he was taking a date.  This is new.  This is very, very new.  This is a side of my son I’ve never seen before.  Even more surprising, it’s a blind date, set up by a mutual friend.  What just happened?  Did I miss something?  Did he magically grow wings and start to fly?  Did someone kidnap him and replace him with a lookalike?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic for him.  But this is so far from his norm, I’m in shock.  We are in uncharted waters here.  But hey, I’m a proud momma, so let’s fancy this boy up and send him to prom! I do have to say, it’s about a million times easier helping a 17 yr old boy get ready for prom then it was my 17 yr old girl. No drama, no fuss.  The only thing you have to decide is if you want the super-expensive slim cut tux, or the just-as-expensive regular cut tux.   And in western Oklahoma, it’s a given you’ll be trading out the formal wear shoes for your best pair of black cowboy boots.  And of course, he’s a boy, so he is tasked with finding the coolest ride possible to deliver his date to the promenade at the beginning of prom.  And does he deliver.  He borrows a bright yellow 1980 Camaro with loud enough exhaust pipes to let you know he’s arrived from two blocks away.  Western Oklahoma kids show up in some outrageous rides to prom–I’ve seen grain trucks, fire trucks, semi trucks, tractors, antique cars, sports cars, the biggest and baddest pickups you can find… This year one of his friends was determined to ride her horse side saddle in her prom gown.  That would’ve been a sight to see.  But good ole’ Okie weather had to have a temper tantrum and ruin everything.  It went from 80 degrees the day before prom to bitterly cold, windy, and raining the evening of prom.  And little does my son Cadon know beforehand, the car he has borrowed doesn’t have a working heater.  (Who needs it in 80 degree weather, right?)  Promenade gets cancelled an hour before it’s supposed to start.  A small group of us decide we will watch them walk in anyway, even though they will no longer be announcing them as they make their grand entrance.  So we huddle under a canopy near the doorway, a small band of cold, wet parents, determined to get that picture of our kids walking the promenade.  In the meantime, the kids wait in the valet line for over an hour in a cold Camaro, getting to know each other, cause, you know, it’s a blind date.  I can only imagine how awkward that was.   Needless to say, Cadon’s friend did not arrive on her horse sidesaddle.  The wind and rain had no sympathy on anyone that night.  I cringed every time I saw a girl in a beautiful long, flowing prom dress step in a puddle of water. Or when I saw the umbrellas flying away in the wind while the girls melted in the rain on their mad dash indoors.  The collective hours of beauticians everywhere that went to waste that day…Wow, I’m crying foul on that one, Okie weather.

I chuckle as I look down memory lane and remember my own junior prom 30 years ago.  My dad insisted I make him a chocolate shake minutes before my date was to pick me up.  As I took the glass canister out of the blender, the bottom fell out, and chocolate shake went all over my dark green dress.  By some miracle, it was a material that repelled liquid and for the most part, ran off and onto the floor.  I was able to wash off what remained without leaving a stain.  I’m sure I smelled of extra-chocolatey goodness that evening.  And then there was my ride to prom.  My date had a 1966 Mustang that was the envy of everyone.  Only it was 80+ degrees that day, and his car had no air conditioning.  I remember sweating buckets by the time we arrived–along with my chocolate catastrophe, I was a certifiable mess.  I was thankful he was a good friend, because my social anxiety was at an all-time high that evening.  I probably never did thank him enough later for helping me get through that first memorable prom experience.

So thirty years later,on my son’s prom night, I stand next to that sweet boy’s parents in the cold, windy rain.  They are here because their “honorary” granddaughter is my son’s blind date.  Doesn’t life have some funny twists and turns?  We reminisce as we wait, laughing about Jason’s old Mustang and escapades lived out a lifetime ago.  Finally, I hear an engine rev, and see a flash of bright yellow.  I’m not sure who’s more happy about it–us or them.  You would have thought we were the paparazzi as our little group of teenagers made their way past us to go inside.  I’m so stinkin’ proud of them.  My momma’s heart swells with pride as I watch my son offer his arm to Natalie, and see him grin as he walks by.  Go have some fun, son!  Tear up the dance floor, take the pretty prom pictures, eat the fancy hors d’oeuvres.  And in thirty years from now, may you too have great memories to look back on as you watch your own teenagers engage in this timeless ritual.  Who knows? Maybe by then they’ll be showing up for promenade in flying cars.  I can only hope I am around to watch the magic one more time.

In Loving Memory 

Jason Miller

1972-2000

Palm Sunday

IMG_2893There’s nothing cuter than all the little kiddos waving their palm branches in church on Palm Sunday.  Clearly, this is way more fun then trying to hold still while sitting in a pew!  And there’s a festive atmosphere in church.  This is the day we celebrate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  It’s also my Sunday off, and I’m thankful to be here with family and friends.  But what tugs at my heart the most is seeing our little foster baby waving his palm branches and grinning ear-to-ear for me. My heart is heavy for him, for his future remains uncertain.  His parents have recently split; meanwhile, termination proceedings have started for dad and mom is back in rehab AGAIN.  This is the second time around we have had him in his short life.  I feel so torn between love for this sweet, innocent child, and anger for the unfairness that life has already dealt him.  And he’s just one of so many kids in this situation.  So, so many families in America are touched personally by this same problem.  And each time I get to know another foster kid and their parents, I realise all over again that these are people just like you and I, who are either down on their luck, or dealing with every-day life issues just like the rest of us.  They usually have a poor support system, poor role models, or both.  They don’t set out to purposefully sabotage themselves, and yet that’s where they end up, regardless.  There’s no quick fix, no easy solutions to these problems in society.

How do I reconcile my faith with the problems of every-day America?  There’s no easy answer to that either, but I do it the best way I know how– I put it into action.  On this Palm Sunday, I’m thankful I can love on this little one, and keep him safe from the big bad wolf, so to speak.  He doesn’t have to worry about going hungry, or being scared or hurt, or crying himself to sleep at night.  He can run and play at our house to his little heart’s content, and not have a care in the world, as all one-year-old’s should.  In the meantime, I pray for his future.  I pray that this happy-go-lucky, carefree toddler gets a chance to grow up as a normal kid in a normal home.  That his smile never goes away, that his cheerful spirit stays intact.  Every kid deserves that chance at happiness.

His future won’t be decided today, however.  That’s somewhere out there in the hazy distance.  But today is here, right now, and we are gonna live it up the best we know how.  Which means we’re gonna swish some palm branches around for fun a few more times, probably chase each other with them a time or two, and laugh out loud while we’re doing it.  I’m going to try to not to fall in my heels while he scampers away from me, and when I catch him and all his greenery, I’ll give him a huge bear hug.  And my heart will be full of thankfulness.  

Grandfather time

1014016fb0324258342cdd5468c05329You’ve seen him. Pictures anyway. Grandfather Time in all his white-haired, long bearded glory. But have you met him?? I took care of him this week.  Or at least his doppelgänger. At 85 years old, he could certainly have claimed the title of Grandfather Time. As soon as I entered the room, I knew this patient was different from the average. He had the weathered, grizzled aura of someone who had seen much during his time on Mother Earth. I decided when I had a moment, I would ask him about his life story. I was not disappointed when I did. Slated to go back to the VA Center that day, he was well enough to sit and chat at the nurses station over a cup of coffee before he left. He said he grew up in Connecticut and had only ended up in Oklahoma due to an accident. When we asked why he chose to stay, he chuckled and said, “Stupidity…”  He had been in the Air Force for 15 years and said he had seen the world over many times. I asked him if he served in wartime or peace. ” Well, girl, you know…the Korean War… that’s where I messed up my head so bad.”  I nod silently. We’ve all heard the stories of the soldiers who never came back the same. He talks more of the places he’s seen, and jobs he undertook while in the service. Then he falls silent as he sips quietly on his coffee while reflecting on the past. I thank him for his service, although that doesn’t seem to count for much, compared to what he has done for me and my fellow countrymen. I make sure his next cup of coffee is exactly to his liking( lots of sugar) and carry on with my work.

Personnel from the VA Center soon show up to take my patient home. And just like that, my brief encounter with him is over. I reflect on what he’s told me. Have I spent my life making a difference like he did? Does what I do matter?  I hope so.  I can’t imagine getting to the end of my life and not knowing if I made a difference in the world around me.  Time waits for no one.  We either use it or waste it.  I hope when I am as old as Grandfather Time, I too can say I have seen the world over and come to it’s aid.  Make today count. 

                                  Nurse Ames, RN

Puppies, babies, and springtime, Oh MY!

Hey, everyone, today I’m taking a break from the weighty matters that sometimes fry my brain. Today is absolutely nothing about nursing and all about a Dixie update. That’s more fun anyway, right? 🙂 You’d love her if you could meet her. She has stolen all of our hearts, along with a few of the foster baby’s toys, the cat’s bed, and a few shoes. She’d chew on your fingers if she could, or play tug-of-war, or trot all over the backyard with you, checking out the smells and sounds. She’s a small, wiggly, black-and-white bundle of pure puppy love.

And my foster baby, who is just as adorable in his own way, has fallen hook, line, and sinker for Dixie. He literally has stars in his eyes when he gets to hold her and play with her. Cuteness factor overload!!

Daddy Duty

Speaking of babies, my daughter and I visited Lake Hefner on our way home from an appointment today. While visiting the lighthouse, we found one serious daddy on duty. Mom and her eggs on her nearby nest were well-protected!

My beautiful daughter Hannah

And because it’s springtime on the farm, I’ll share a couple of other spring pics that make my heart happy. Fall will always be my favourite season, but spring is a close second!

Spring is a season of renewal, hope, and change. I hope wherever you are, your spring is blooming beautifully, and full of life and love.

“Who is my neighbour?”

“Be the reason someone smiles today.” –source unknown

Here’s to all the good Samaritans out there. To those who always go out of their way to help when they see someone in need. To those who pitch in in times of disaster, whether it be at the local, state, or national level. To those who stop to help someone cross the street or to help change a flat tire. To those who babysit for the tired single mother who has reached her limit, or to those who stand in line at the blood bank during shortages. You know who you are..my hat’s off to you!  

Here’s the deal. I try to be that person. That all-American, next-door neighbour kind of gal. I think it’s my nature, I am a nurse of 25+years after all. In fact, I took an oath when I became a nurse, right? But even nurses, who are inherently compassionate, sometimes miss the obvious. Sometimes we rush through life like everyone else and miss an opportunity to lend a helping hand. Sometimes we just want to make it to that appointment on time, or actually take our full 30-minute lunch break, or get home to our waiting families. But that’s never a good excuse, and I know it.
About a week ago, a high-school buddy of mine from out-of-state texted me that he was in town because his dad was in the hospital. Wanted to know if I was working the weekend and if I would be his dad’s nurse. And to please swing by to say “Hi” if I could. It wasn’t until I got to work and chatted with him and several of the other nurses that I realised how sick his dad was. My fellow nurses were telling me things like “We weren’t sure if he’d make it that first hour or two in the ER.”, and “We didn’t think he’d pull through that first night.” Ok, so I’ve written about the upside of living and working as a nurse in a small-town community. This is definitely the downside–when you watch the gradual decline of friends and neighbours, or their family members. My friend’s dad, John*, had recently been hospitalised for pneumonia and his stay was much longer than it was last year. And now he’s back in the hospital with a much worse case of pneumonia. And here’s the part where I’m kicking myself (as well as a 40-something year old nurse can do so). I might have been able to prevent it. In fact, I think with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I am pretty sure I could have helped this situation from escalating to this point. A couple of weeks ago, I had seen John in the hospital cafeteria eating lunch. Being an elderly single 85-year-old, he doesn’t cook for himself and often goes out to eat with his other older buddies, or by himself if necessary. This particular day, I had seen him in the cafeteria while quickly grabbing my own lunch. I was shocked at how much more frail he looked than when we had discharged him the month before. He was breathing slightly faster than normal, and his overall appearance spoke of decline. I debated over and over in my mind…Do I respect his privacy and assume he will take the necessary steps to care for himself? Do I text his son(my high school friend) and tell him he needs to make an appointment for his dad with his doctor? Independence is one of the last valuable gifts we cling to as we age–do I respect that for John, assuming if he gets worse that someone else closer to him will step in and help? Is it rude to go up to someone and tell them they look horrible and need to be seen by a doctor? Is it breaking HIPPA if I send a message to his son, since he’s technically not a patient at this point? I quickly ponder all this as I make my run through the cafeteria, my mind halfway on the patients waiting for me back in ER. And then I’m back in the thick of things, and I have no more time to think about it until later that evening when my shift is over.

We are all faced with decisions like this every day. Do we chance being the nosy neighbour or meddling family member? Is our help truly needed or can that need be met by someone else closer to the problem? Am I enabling someone with my help? Or giving them a hand up? We all have to decide how we will respond to those in need around us. And what might seem like a huge need or concern to us may not even be important to the person actually dealing with the problem. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, and I wish like crazy I could go back in time and text my friend that day that his dad appeared to need medical attention. Or, I wish I would’ve taken the time to stop and say, “Hey, John, come by the ER when you’re done eating lunch–we’d be happy to take a look at you and make sure you’re okay.” Instead, I rushed through my day rather than take the time to divert my attention to a friend in need. I feel terrible. We all screw up from time to time, and I’m gonna add this one to my list of “could’ve-should’ve-would’ves”. My instincts failed me this time, and it is not a good feeling. So, moral of the story, my friends–always trust your gut. If it’s telling you to intervene, take the time to do whatever is necessary to help. You’ll feel so much better about it, and who knows? It might even save a life. Thankfully, I can report that John is making headway on beating this newest round of pneumonia. He is planning on moving into an assisted living facility after his hospital stay, as he has no family around here to care for him. His son will oversee his care from several states away. And I will personally make sure I check on him as often as I can. Again, it’s the “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” rule. And this time I plan to get it right, to be that good neighbour/friend. For who is my neighbour? Besides the obvious ones living next door, it’s those around me in need, those who cannot care for themselves, those who need a helping hand. One thing in life is for sure, there’s always more opportunities to help, always another occasion to give a friend a helping hand. You might not make it to that appointment on time, or get your 30-minute lunch, but you’ll be able to sleep in peace at night, knowing you did the right thing. So here’s to being the good Samaritan, the good neighbour. You’ll be glad you did.

*name changed for privacy

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Dixie and my Day Off

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Spring is at its finest today. The daisies and yellowbells are in full bloom, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and a gentle breeze is blowing the curtains at my window.  And most importantly? It’s my day off!  I rose with the morning sun–as always, the Oklahoma sunrise is breathtaking, and it gives fresh inspiration for the day.   Today is state testing for my youngest in middle school.  He has requested hash browns for breakfast.  So I make a quick but delicious breakfast of hashbrowns, farm fresh eggs, and juice.   Trust me, I don’t do this every morning, but it’s my day off and he has made a special request.  I pop in VeggieTales for our foster child to watch while everyone readies for school and work. I then kiss and hug everyone and watch them go out the door. After the door closes behind the last one, I throw my hands up in the air and twirl around in a circle -“Woo-hoo! What do I do now?”  I have a whole day to myself with no commitments, only minimal housework, and a beautiful spring day to rejuvenate my soul.  So I proceed to do exactly that. 

Because that’s what it’s all about.  Health and well-being are not solely physical in nature.  Our mental state of health is as much a part of our overall wellbeing as the physical aspect.  What is one of the number one causes of nursing shortages? Burnout.  Has been for years.  We as nurses often take care of everyone else first and ourselves last.  This goes directly against everything we’ve been taught–we all know the drill on an airplane–“Put the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on those around you.”  And yet in real life, we often do the opposite.  We pour all our energy, to the point of ongoing fatigue, into those around us.  We rarely leave time left over just for ourselves to pursue our own hobbies, quests and quiet times. It is in that environment that burnout creeps in.  Where our mental health lags as our mind and soul cry “Enough! What about me?!” 

So, on this rare luxurious day off, I spend my time meandering through several projects, working in the garden, taking a quick nap, reading a book, giving treats to my chickens…you get my drift.  Whatever I felt like doing, I did.  And my soul inside of me stretched and went “Ahhh…This is more like it.”  And I could feel myself relaxing and destressing the longer the day went on.  And now school is out and my 17 year old’s grinning face pops up in the front door window.  He opens the front door carefully to show me what he is holding.  A wiggly, squirmy, fluffy bundle of floppy puppy ears, pink tongue, and a short, wagging tail. Dixie has arrived!  Its his birthday this week, and he has been waiting on this puppy for six weeks.  He is ecstatic. He’s my quiet, dependable child, so his ear-to-ear grin speaks volumes to my heart.  So he plays with Dixie and shows her around her new home while I cook supper for the incoming masses.  Which would only be my sweet hubby, my daughter who is home from college for the weekend, my middle-schooler, and our adorable foster child.   But they can put away a lot of food! 🙂  Soon everyone arrives and it’s almost time to eat.  But first, introductions must be made. Everyone quickly falls in love with Dixie, but the squeals of joy and laughter from our 19 month-old foster baby help rejuvenate my soul a little more.  For he is simply enchanted with the wiggly wonders of a small puppy.  The look on his face is priceless as he hugs her as hard as he can before she wiggles loose and escapes.  Finally, we sit down to eat together around the table, another rarity in today’s fast-paced world.  We eat fried fish that was caught on a fishing trip by the boys last year, steamed veggies and a large garden salad.  It tastes delicious, made more so by our precious family time.  We talk, we laugh, we tell old jokes and stories, we giggle over earlier memories of when the kids were growing up.  My mother’s heart is thankful for the bounty at my table this evening–all my family is present, the food is good, and the memories are even better.  Soon however, as do all good things, our evening draws to an end.  The puppy is placed in her kennel, the foster baby in his crib, and my other kiddos do a few other odds and ends chores.  Soon I will ready for bed, knowing I have another long 12 hour day ahead of me in the ER tomorrow.  But I don’t dread it like I sometimes do.  I have worked out many emotional knots and kinks today while I took time to unwind.  I feel much more content and less stressed in general.  Did I accomplish great things today on my day off? Well, I guess that depends on how you look at it.  Achieving and maintaining good mental health is definitely a goal for everyone to strive towards.  Today, I took time out of my busy schedule to do just that.  And I even found a new friend in the process.  Welcome to our world, little Dixie!

                     Nurse Ames, RN

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The Circle of Life

       “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.  What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”           –Jane Goodall

I hear the 911 call go out over the police scanner.  EMS is responding to the local grocery store.  A customer has passed out while paying for groceries and has gashed his head open while falling and hitting the countertop.  Soon EMS encodes with information about the patient they are bringing us.  My heart drops.  It’s my old doctor, retired for many years now.  He helped raise me–kept me healthy until I was grown, married, and moved away.  I’ve moved back, and now it’s my turn to care for him.  He’s 85, suffering from stomach cancer, and has a heart dysrhythmia.  Still the same kind, professional doc he always was.  Although I believe in giving equal care to all my patients, no matter their background, today he will be getting the gold star treatment.   This man has helped shape the medical community in our small town, working tirelessly to bring about the new hospital we work in, always caring about the good of the people. Always putting the needs of others ahead of himself.   So my fellow nurse and I give him the best care we know how. We joke around with him as he does us to lighten the mood.  He says he is in a hurry to get home.  He has guests at the house, whom he was buying the groceries for when he passed out.  He doesn’t want to keep them waiting.  (There’s a joke in there somewhere about always waiting on a doctor, but I keep it to myself. )  His wife shows up.  He assures her he’s fine.  He goes on to tell us in front of her that his stomach cancer has been asymptomatic so far. We know she has early dementia and he doesn’t want to worry her, so we nod our heads and say nothing.  We don’t comment on how bad his color is, or how much weight he has lost. Or the fact that he passed out today for no apparent reason.   Deep down, we know he knows the truth–he’s too good of a doctor to ignore all the signs.  If only there was something we could do to pay him back for all he has done for our little town over the many decades he has served here.  But we have no magic pill or concoction.  I know he is a praying man, so I send up a prayer that God be with him and show him favor.  I bandage his head wound and attend his other needs as kindly as I can.  I give him a tetanus shot and joke with him that it’s payback for all the vaccinations I got in his doctor’s office over the years.  Still, he is anxious to return home to his waiting guests.  Always thinking of others before himself.  Finally, he gets his discharge orders and he is clearly eager to leave.  We wish him well and help him to his car.  Giving him discharge orders felt rather like a joke–telling a doctor of 60+years what concussion symptoms to watch for seemed silly.  He smiled graciously and acknowledged my instructions, and happily went home to his guests.  Meanwhile, I discussed with his grandson (also a doctor) the implications of his fall today. What the future might hold, what course of action they might take from here.  That’s just it, though. That’s the kicker.  None of us know what the future holds.  Just because we may have done great things doesn’t mean cancer won’t kick our butts at the end of life.  Or a vicious stroke maim and rob us of any quality of life, despite our best efforts at making the world a better place.  Life sure isn’t fair sometimes.

As for me, this is what being a nurse is all about..to be able to give back to the community, to be a part of a never-ending cycle of care and support.  The medical community is always evolving, always changing.  But those who are fortunate enough to live in a small town know this; being a part of a tight-knit community that cares for its members through all stages of life is immensely gratifying.  You’re not just a medical number on a chart, you’re the grandson of the hairdresser I used in highschool, you’re the son of the art teacher my kid had in 3rd grade, you’re the UPS driver’s wife, you’re the elementary school secretary that everyone knows and loves, or yes, even the retired town doctor. It’s the circle of life, when you think about it. A word of advice?  Take a page out of the good ole’ doc’s book on life and treat others kindly because you never know when you’ll be the next person in need.  What comes around goes around.  Karma. The golden rule..”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”..  Whichever version of the old adage floats your boat.  It’s not only what being a good nurse is all about, but also a decent human being.  Pass it on. 

                   Nurse Ames, RN

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