I don’t know an ICU nurse anywhere who wouldn’t agree that we have a rather depressing job. Rewarding? AbsoLUTEly! But being a participant OFTEN, in the delivery of bad news can get to you after a while. Being the person who the family looks to after the blow has been delivered, is difficult work. It just is. And when we can’t “fix” the bad news, change the prognosis, or reassure them that the physician was wrong, we often become the “bad guy,” and the recipient of their denial, frustration, and at times, even anger. Not always. But often. Most definitely, often! And that’s no easy task!
So, we cling to each other. We laugh about things most people wouldn’t ever talk about, much less understand. And as a great big family of nurses with the broadest possible range of personalities and quirks, we function together, albeit dysfunctionally at times – We are each other’s greatest support system….. Sometimes, it feels like no one else “gets us.”
And every now and then, there’s a GOOD story – The kind everyone talks about for months afterwards. It’s almost as if God knew we needed a morale boost, something so rewarding that if it could make up for all the sadness we watch, it just might…..
I write this with the heart of not only a nurse, but the heart of a mother who was unable, last minute, to donate any organs from my daughter who was born with a severe neural tube defect. I remember all too well the short-lived comfort I experienced during intense labor, when I learned of the possibility of giving LIFE to someone else through my daughter’s death. And, I also remember all too well the despair I felt when I was told they had learned that organs from neural tube defects could not be donated.
But my heartache is not ALL that I remember. I remember the kindness with which all of my heart breaking news was delivered. I remember the nurse who thoughtfully clipped my daughter’s hair for me 24 years ago. I remember the nurse who made foot prints and hand prints of Jacquelyn for me, wrapped her in a blanket, took photos, even held her. I remember the tears of my resident and attending physicians. I remember ALL of their faces. Yes, ALL of their faces. I remember the cleaning lady who peeked in to see my daughter and cried with me. Yes, 24 years later, and I remember every tear, every face, every kind word, every thoughtful action. A mother doesn’t forget things like that. She just doesn’t.
So, I suppose I am writing this as a “thank you” to many. I write this to say thank you to the families who unselfishly, and so generously, give the gift of life when they lose a loved one. I write to say thank you to them not only on behalf of the recipients who go on to live, and know every day that someone had to die in order for them to live. Thank you also on behalf of those who love them. I am quite certain they are heart broken for you, but so very, very thankful each time they get to hug their brother, sister, daughter, son, friend once more.
Thank you also, on behalf of the nurses, techs, nurse aids, docs, and respiratory therapists on the floor. Thank you for sharing your heartache with us, and allowing us to see sooooo much good come from a tragedy. Our hearts ache with yours, but you inspire us to stay put where we are. You inspire us to cling to each other and know that there is often beauty that rises from ashes. Thank you for the stories you share about your loved one, and for the privilege of caring for them.
Thank you to the Gift of Life coordinators and employees (nurses, docs, “angels”) who have the difficult task of approaching families at the most vulnerable and unimaginably painful time in their lives. Thank you for walking alongside of them through the process, and for caring. Trust me. They remember your face forever.
To the recipients of organs, thank you, for helping make sense of a tragedy, and allowing a loved one’s life to go on……
Thank you to the nurses who are kind and thoughtful enough to perhaps even skip a break to spend time cutting hair, making footprints, or clay molds of hands for moms, dads, daughters, sons, and others. Because those cherished items from my daughter sit in the top drawer of my dresser 24 years later, I can PROMISE you, they remember you. They remember what you did for them. They remember your face. They don’t forget.
Thank you, to everyone who was involved in MY daughter’s birth and death, 24 years ago. I remember your kindness. I remember your thoughtfulness. I remember how you comforted me. And yes, I remember your faces.
Thank you to my fellow nurses, with whom we share our patients and their families, our struggles and sadness, and at the end of the day – stories of HOPE!
As a Christian, my faith is deeply woven into every aspect of my life as a nurse, as a mom, and friend. And for that reason, the Gift of LIFE, reminds me so much of the ULTIMATE donor of LIFE – Jesus Christ, who is the donor of ETERNAL LIFE for ANYONE willing to be a recipient!
2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “He died for EVERYONE so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”