Murder and Mayhem

It’s chaos out there. Utter chaos. But quarantine is not what’s on my mind this week. No, I’m still reeling from the everyday, run-of-the-mill events of this past week at work. Have you ever taken care of a murderer in your line of work? Nope? Not suprising. (Clue…It was the colonel with the candlestick in the library….)

Well, life and death often go hand in hand; after all, nursing is all about the circle of life. Earlier this week, not only did I help code a murder victim, but I also took care of the accused only hours later. It’s a bit of a surreal feeling; we did our very best, but a gunshot wound to the chest is not something that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can ever put back together again. And as remorseful as a soul can be, there’s no returning anyone back to life after a split-second action gone wrong. I mourned for everyone involved in the scenario. The young children who no longer have someone to call “Mommy”, the mother who lost her adult child, and the poor soul who “accidentally” discharged the weapon mere feet away from his girlfriend’s chest. His life will be over from this point on. He can never close his eyes and forget what happened or the consequences of his actions. He will be reviled and hated for the rest of his imprisoned days. His tears were real, and far from over. And of course, there were extenuating circumstances. (There always are, it seems like, but I can’t speak to that here.) I shudder to think of what the girl’s family is going through. Unimaginable pain and loss, and the day after Mother’s Day, at that. So, so incredibly sad…..

The night after that, I was called in to work due to an emergency c-section for a 27-weeker who was bleeding and in labor. There were tears in that room that night as well. Tears of fear…and pain…and then JOY when the baby responded to care. It is always miraculeous to see a baby that small respond to modern-day emergency medical care. We are a small hospital — to enjoy the benefits of a NICCU team, we have to call ahead of time and arrange their 1+hour drive to our facility. They work alongside our nurses to stabilize the baby for several hours before loading up and driving the 1+hour back to OKC. They are courage under fire, calm under pressure…it is always amazing to see them at work!

I also took care of my first-ever case of mumps this week. Having never seen it before except in textbooks, it was still immediately recognisable. My first question was, “Have you had your immunizations?” Interestingly enough, it was the doc’s exact same first question, so I knew we were both thinking the same thing. I’m telling you, it’s been a weird week, and it’s not even full moon.

All this is going on while the covid virus is still running amok and causing chaos. Or, at least in our area, the covid restrictions are causing chaos. We have been extremely fortunate to not have the virus in our town, other than a handful of cases which have all been resolved. I hope you have been fortunate wherever you are as well.

2020 has not been a stellar year for anyone. For us, it started with the death of an extended family member hours after the ball dropped to bring in the New Year. Then, an unexpected death of a dear friend on January 4th, and it just went downhill from there. A huge house renovation has hit multiple snags and delays for us during all this. We are still fostering the same child we’ve had for three separate placements now. Parental termination hearings have been delayed several times, but are finally happening in two weeks, if all goes according to plan. We anxiously await to see if we will be able to adopt him. We have been “in limbo” for so long, it seems like we will wait forever to find out. Such is the foster care system, and I repeatedly remind myself that patience is a virtue.

That’s my life in a nutshell, how is yours? We are all in this thing called life together. We may not be in the same vicinity, and our covid restrictions may not look the same, but we are all experiencing loss and change at the same time. We are all learning new things about ourselves, as well as our neighbors and coworkers. If you didn’t know before if you’re considered “essential” or not, you know now. If you didn’t know before if you’re an extrovert or introvert, you certainly know now. ūüôā Perhaps you’ve learned a new skill or taken up a new hobby. Maybe you’ve found new favorite TV shows or movies that have helped you get through this. Maybe you are a better cook, or gardener, or family member, etc, after all of this. I hope this finds you well and slowly returning to a more normal lifestyle. May there be peace in the midst of our chaos, and hope amid our covid fears. I have faith that we will come through this stronger than when we started. We have a better understanding of our fellowman, and a stronger sense of identity. We have hopefully gained a better appreciation for what’s truly important in life, and can take that with us into a better future.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ” John 14:27

                                 Nurse Ames, RN

 

What’s it all about, anyway?

When I started this blog, it was with the intention of reflecting on stories of my nursing career. As time went by, life got really complicated. Gradually, I stopped. I was working through a lot of things mentally and emotionally–things I didn’t want to write about and share with the world. Grief eclipsed my desire to write about every-day, mundane things. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself writing blog posts, but never publishing them. Just the catharsis of writing and exploring my feelings on page, helped me work through some of the problems I’ve been facing. Lately, I’ve been returning to my reasons for starting the blog in the first place. It was meant to be a place of warmth, healing, comfort, compassion….And the more I thought about it, the more I realised…Hey, maybe I was writing about the wrong things! Maybe I SHOULD be writing about the every-day stuff. So, so MANY others out there are walking the same steps I am. Perhaps not the same personal journey, but certainly the same situations. Where I go, others have gone before me. And others will follow me…So, maybe we can help each other down life’s highway by sharing stories and easing each other’s burdens. Or maybe adding joy or a smile to someone’s day with a funny anecdote…Life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured… (Although, I think we could all agree, 2020 deserves a do-over so far. )

This morning, I started my day at work by watching a patient’s heartbeat slip away to nothing on the heart monitor. She was the grandmother of a nurse friend of mine. My friend came out of the room crying, “She’s gone.” What do you say? I’m still numb with grief myself over the unexpected passing of a good friend of mine several weeks ago. I’ve learned that a hug and a listening ear are some of the most valuable gifts we can give to each other. We need to share our grief with each other, friends. This world is a great place with so much to offer. Really, it is! But with it, we pay the price for the love of family and friends when we lose them. The greater the love, the greater the grief. In a way, it’s a tribute to that person you’ve lost, to care enough to grieve their absence. To let the world know that they mattered, and that you will keep their memory alive.

And tonight, as we collectively mourn for one of our greatest basketball athletes of all time, let’s all remember to be there for each other, no matter what we are facing. Everyone goes through good and bad times–let’s be there for each other through thick and thin. Give a fist bump in the good times, and a hug in the bad times. Be that friend that someone out there so desperately needs.

“Good friends help you to find important things when you have lost them…your smile, your hope, and your courage.” —Doe Zantamata

Trying to teach an old dog new tricks (Uh, that would be me)

Have you ever been in that situation in life where circumstances force you out of your comfort zone? Where you have to jump into a new skill set, or learn a new way of doing an old job? Where you get transferred out to a different facility, town, maybe even state? If you’re like me, I’ve had my job down pat for quite some time. It’s comfortable like an old hat. I can do it in my sleep. I do so many things by rote memory, I’d be hard pressed to have to explain to an outsider what it is exactly that I’m doing. But, ahhh, that great dictator Time brings change for everyone. And for me, that change has come in the form of taking on a new department at the hospital. I’ve been asked to join OB land, mother/baby, labor/delivery, whatever you want to call it. Now then, I’ve avoided that department like the plague for the 25+years I’ve been a nurse. But here I am. My patients are no longer only the COPD, pneumonia, heart attack, stroke, postop variety. They now weigh under 10 pounds instead of the 300-400 pounds I’m used to. They’re at the beginning of life, not the end.

If all goes well, it’s great. Cue the pink bows and blue hats. The big smiles and proud parents. If not? Well, it looks a little different. I work in a small rural hospital, so we have no NICU to call on. It’s just us. If babies are bad enough for NICU, we have to neo-flight them over an hour away to OKC.

For that matter, we don’t have an ICU either, so we often fill in as ICU nurses (unofficially) until the patient gets better, or takes that same ticket out of here to an OKC hospital.

That saying about trying to teach an old dog new tricks? It does have a ring of truth to it. We who have honed our skill set for years, who have gotten too comfy in the job we are in, sometimes have a hard time with change. Gotta fire up those brain cells and make some new brain pathways to incorporate all that new knowledge. Gotta get off the couch of life and jump right in there with both feet forward. See the world thru different lenses.

Well, here I am, and I AM learning new things. For instance, did you know that if you work on a bad baby while standing under the warmer for upwards of eternity, you can practically get a sunburn without even going outside? ūüėāūüėā. At the very least, what feels like heatstroke. And the babies born today are just as slippery, tiny, and fragile as they were when I had my babies 15-20 years ago. Then again, they’re just as cute, so that counts for something.

So, here’s to new beginnings. Whatever new venture you might be facing, I hope it’s going well for you. I hope you’re out there killing it every day, turning your world upside down and enjoying every minute of it. Because ultimately, it IS satisfying to change things up a bit, to knock those brain cells around and see what shakes out.

Good luck, my friends! And may your new experiences include great things that don’t involve the eternal sun of a baby warmer. ūüėä

Housekeeping Blues

 

Now I’ll be the first to wholeheartedly agree that without good housekeeping staff, no institution functions properly. They are the backbone of any hospital, Medical Center, nursing home, etc. That being said, they can sometimes offer up humor without trying, just like any of the rest of us.

This past week in the ER, we had an interesting experience. I had a elderly patient that had an unfortunate experience in the bathroom. An enema gone wrong, and diarrhea that somehow ended up covering the walls and also the floor near the toilet.

We called housekeeping and let them know the bathroom would need a thorough cleaning. After the patient left, housekeeping came to clean and we warned them how bad it was and that they would want shoe covers and gowns.

They dressed up like they were going into major surgery. They were covered head to toe in blue throwaway gowns, caps, shoe covers, eye protection… it was like aliens were invading that bathroom. Or so we thought. We saw them from the doorway cleaning the whole room– floors, walls top to bottom, mirrors, equipment–they even took the clock down and cleaned behind it! We were so impressed they were going the extra mile –although we didn’t quite understand their reasoning, we weren’t complaining. They finished and left, and soon another nurse went to put a patient in that room. She took the patient to the bathroom in that room and handed them a specimen cup for a urine sample. Soon the nurse and patient came hustling out of the door and headed for another room. When we asked what was wrong, the nurse said “There’s diarrhea all over that bathroom!”

Completely puzzled, we called housekeeping to come back. What were they possibly thinking, meticulously cleaning the room itself and not the bathroom where the actual mess was?

It wasn’t long before we found out. And when we did, we were rolling on the floor laughing. Tears were coming down our faces– I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!

(And remember, friends, you can’t make this stuff up. Absolutely priceless.)

When we asked the two ladies who had cleaned so diligently before and yet missed the mess altogether, here is what their response was. ” We thought the mess was in the patient room itself, not the bathroom, and since we didn’t see any mess in the room, we thought it was that kind of diarrhea that is the clear diarrhea!” Huh? Clear diarrhea?? “Yeah, you know, the clear kind!”

Omg, smh, lol. ūüėúūüėāūü§Ēūü§£

                           Nurse Ames, RN

 

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Old MacDonald had a farm

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Little man had his end-of-year daycare program yesterday evening. He was a little piggy for the verse of “Old MacDonald had a farm, E–I–E–I–O… and on that farm he had some pigs…E–I–E–I–O”. ¬†Little man didn’t want to be a pig–specifically, he didn’t want to wear his cute little piggy ears. He wanted to run and play, and hit the balloons, and eat the pig-shaped cookies. Wearing the piggy ears just wasn’t an option in his little one-year-old mind. I suppose if I was a one-year-old, I would feel the same way. ¬†But doggone it, he sure was cute for the 2.2 seconds we got him to keep them on for a picture. ūüôā

My heart was happy to see him run and play and act like any other kid his age. ¬†It ¬†hurt though, to know that although we love him, and he calls me “Momma” with confidence, that’s not the way it will always be. ¬†And last night as I thought about his fate in the foster care system, my sweet friend walked by with her daughter. ¬†My friend, who is as good of a mom as any you’ll find, was there with her daughter, yet was missing her son who was killed in a car accident two summers ago. Why did she lose her child while the foster child I raise desperately needs a loving forever home? Why is life so unfair to those completely helpless to fight back? My foster child doesn’t lack for love, but he does lack for a stable home. His parents are caught up in a series of bad choices and it’s not clear yet whether they will improve so he can go back to them or not. ¬†Will I be left with a few artwork pieces and precious pictures and memories ? Or will he need a forever home at our house? There’s no way to know for now. ¬†As for my sweet friend, she doesn’t lack for other children or a loving husband, but that in no way whatsoever takes away the pain and anguish over losing her firstborn child. ¬†Sometimes being a mom is one of the hardest tasks handed to us as human beings.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. ¬†I think of all the moms (biological or otherwise) out there who come together with a common interest on this day. ¬† Whether it’s a year to rejoice over how blessed we are, or to mourn what we have lost or never had, it’s an emotional time. ¬†For some moms on this day, they must visit their kiddos in jail, while others visit theirs at a gravesite. ¬†And yet others rejoice while they hold sticky, cuddly, smiley little ones…and their hearts are full, rightfully so.

To celebrate this Mother’s Day, ¬†I pray for my little ones. ¬†The ones I’ve cared for and sent back to their parents. ¬†The ones I’ve been blessed with biologically (who aren’t so little anymore). ¬†For the current foster child in my care. ¬†And then I pray for moms everywhere. ¬†I pray for my friend who still cries for the loss of her son. ¬†I pray for my friends who have never been blessed with children, despite their most fervent wishes. ¬†And for the moms who need a helping hand up, a better support system, a mother figure in their own lives… Let’s not forget them either. ¬†(May we not forget–as a mother’s path goes, so does that of society). ¬†Today, let’s take time out to be there for each other. ¬†May we be that helping hand, that listening ear, that shoulder to cry on. ¬†Remember–It doesn’t take a mother, it just takes someone who cares.

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Happy Mother’s Day

                               Nurse Ames, RN

 

Do nurses ever truly clock out?

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Ahhhh… Vacation. ¬†Gotta love it. ¬†Nurses tend to joke around about never truly being on vacation. ¬†We make t-shirts about it, send each other funny memes, laugh about it at work. ¬†But really, we do tend to try to avert anything that looks like it might turn into an emergency, because hey, everyone needs a mental break sometimes. ¬†Even nurses. That being said, we also jump in and help without hesitating if the need arises. ¬†Even on vacation.

Last weekend I met up with a girlfriend of mine for a weekend away from home.  We met in St. Louis, which makes the most sense for us while trying to meet halfway.  (I live in Oklahoma, she lives in Ohio.)  We had an awesome weekend just catching up, trying some new restaurants, seeing some great sites and places.  We even managed to get in on opening night of Miss Saigon.  I did not manage to get away from being a nurse for the weekend, however.

We were hiking up the concrete steps of the Gateway Arch when it happened. ¬† I was blazing a trail to the bathroom (which seemed a good half mile off in the distance) when I hear my friend call my name. ¬†I turn around and see her. ¬†One of the sweet little elderly ladies we had just talked to is lying on the ground, clutching her head, groaning softly, a grimace on her face. ¬†My friend later told me “her head sounded like a melon cracking open” when she hit the ground. ¬†She has fallen down the concrete steps onto the equally hard concrete pavement below and taken a direct hit to the back of her head. ¬†My friend motions me over, saying “You gotta help”, and I’m doing a split minute decision on whether my bladder will hold out for this emergency, or if it will become the main emergency itself. ¬†I can’t NOT help her though, so I rush back to her side. ¬†I gently address the elderly group surrounding her–¬†“I’m a nurse, may I help you?” ¬†The look of relief is evident on their faces. ¬†I quickly assess her while someone goes for help. ¬†She hasn’t passed out, and she is talking to me without difficulty, so I know she is okay for the moment. ¬†Soon a physical therapist stops and offers help, and bystanders are quick to help with whatever they can–keeping her shaded from the bright sun shining in her eyes, something to put under her head to pillow it from the concrete ground, ¬†etc. ¬† ¬†Her friends are praying out loud, panicky, scared something terrible has happened. ¬†My training kicks in–regardless of what has happened, calm the patient and those around her. ¬†I quickly point out to her and her friends that she is stable for the moment, and that emergency services will be here shortly for further assessment and to take her to the hospital. ¬†I talk directly with the patient then, discussing her condition and telling her what needs further testing and why. ¬†She insists she doesn’t want to slow down her group of friends, which has not yet gone up in the Arch. ¬†I gently remind her that she might have suffered a brain bleed from the fall, which wouldn’t necessarily be obvious in the few minutes that have passed. ¬†At the very least, she might very well have a concussion. ¬†I convince her to keep from moving until Emergency Services get there to take over. ¬†Once they arrive, I step back and let them do their thing. ¬†We leave after they have taken over and have things well in hand. ¬†I still really¬†need to use the restroom, and it’s almost time for our tour to go up the Arch. ¬†For all I know, that elderly group of visitors may have been slated to go up on the same tour as us. ¬†We’ll never know; neither will we ever know how things turned out for her. ¬†We did ask a park ranger after the tour if they had any updates. ¬†Apparently, she was still refusing further medical care and was not taken to the hospital. ¬†I laid awake that night, worried for her. ¬†Was she okay? Did she eventually get worse as time went on? Was she near help if she did worsen? ¬†As I lay there, I thought of all the things I could have done differently to help her. ¬†Did I miss something? Was there anything else I could have done before EMS arrived? And other thoughts I had…Why are the steps and walkway designed like they are at the Arch? How many people fall on them each year? ¬†How much worse are they when it’s actually wet? ¬†How do they respond to emergencies inside the Arch? Or at the top? How far is it to the nearest hospital? ¬†Where DID¬†those emergency workers come from so quick? Why aren’t there better signs posted around the Arch, directing traffic? ¬†Sometimes I have a hard time shutting down the “what if” questions.¬†

Nurses are trained to look at scenarios to find out what’s wrong and to try to fix it. ¬†I guess that’s something you don’t just turn off when you clock out and walk out the door. ¬†I had a great weekend in St. Louis, but I came away with a few golden nuggets of wisdom. ¬†1) Allow plenty of time to reach your destination, in case something unexpected happens. ¬†2) Never turn down a bathroom break when it’s presented to you, as you may really, really wish you would’ve taken it a little while later. ¬†3) Always be prepared to lend a helping hand to those around you…you’ll be so glad you did. ¬†

To the sweet little lady who fell, I hope you are okay. ¬†I hope you and your friends were able to go see the Arch. ¬†I hope your vacation was all you dreamed of. ¬†And… here’s to many, many more adventures for the both of us.¬†

                   Nurse Ames, RN

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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! ūüôā

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

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 doppelg√§nger. 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? ūüôā 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.

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! ūüôā ¬†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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