The Other Side of the Equation

The operating room staff gave my husband and I paper gowns and allowed us to accompany our daughter into the operating room. I stood aside and watched them take over and prepare her for the procedure. Everyone had their role and they identified what their roles were. They were a well oiled machine. They made sure she was comfortable on the operating room table and explained things as they went along. They placed monitor leads on her chest to monitor her heart during the procedure. The anesthesiologist prepared her equipment and drew up the white medication in the syringe that was going to be used to sedate my daughter. She asked my daughter where she’d be traveling in her dreams today and my daughter replied, “Italy”. Everyone in the room agreed Italy would be an excellent place to go in an anesthesia dream. The anesthesiologist pushed the medication into my daughters iv and placed the mask on her face simultaneously. Within seconds she was asleep and I knew my daughter’s life was now in their hands. I kissed her forehead and backed away from the operating table so I could be escorted out of the room. I remember everything that happened today vividly but the thing I remember most is my daughter’s clear blue eyes, going to sleep with anesthesia.

Fortunately it’s not often, but for once I was on the other side of the health care equation. Instead of someone putting their loved ones life in my hands, I was putting my loved one’s life in someone else’s hands. I was critically ill when I had my son. I was in the hospital for a week during that time. On my sickest day, I absolutely couldn’t stand the nurse that took care of me. She was mean. Thirteen months after he was born I transferred to the Emergency Room. My own experience of being critically ill and being taken care of by a person who had no business in a field where compassion is requirement, not an option, taught me to reassure my critically ill patients that things are going to move quickly but I am here, I will not leave them, I will tell them everything we are going to do and that I will take good care of them.

I am a preop nurse. I knew what to expect today. I wasn’t afraid. I simply knew my baby was going to be well taken care of. The staff demonstrated that to me through their knowledge, skills and compassion immediately. As a preop nurse who’s now just sent their child into surgery under general anesthesia, I can now empathize how my patients and their families are feeling on the day of surgery. It’s beneficial for health care workers to have experiences like this. Being on the other side of the health care equation helps us understand and empathize so we can do our jobs better.

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Walking in Silence

I follow this couple on Instagram that is currently thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. Recently in one of their blog posts, they discussed how they had a decision to make about an aspect of their lives off the trail and how they were having difficulty making the decision. They chose to walk in silence and ultimately the decision came to them. Their practice of silence resonated with me and I couldn’t wait to hit my favorite hiking trail so I could walk in silence.

I am currently studying The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. The first law, The Law of Pure Potentiality is based on the fact that we are in our essential state, pure consciousness. Pure consciousness is pure potentiality, the field of all possibilities and infinite creativity. In order to practice The Law of Pure Potentiality, one must practice silent meditation, commune with nature and perfect non judgement.

Even though I’ve been out walking here and there as the weather gets warmer, today my husband I went hiking for the first time since January 30, 2017. I told my husband that I was going to practice the Law of Pure Potentiality and walk in silence today. We agreed to hike our own hikes at our own pace and meet up later. As I began to walk in silence, I wondered what I would discover during my silent hike. Instinctively, I found myself pausing to look through the tall trees up at the beautiful clear blue, cloudless sky wishing I could stay in the woods all day. There were birds happily chirping. I spotted a butterfly and stopped to observe two deer running across the trail. I witnessed the presence of spring in the woods. There are green buds on trees and in the grass and I came across a patch of pretty little blue flowers. I heard the sounds of my own footsteps; my boots making a crunching sound when I walk on gravel and small rocks or a hollow sound when I walked over dirt. I listened carefully to birds chirping and stopped to sit on a log on top of an elevation so I could look at and listen to the flowing river below me. It was heaven right here on earth.

The winter was hard on my asthma this year. From February through mid March, I completed two rounds of antibiotics and steroids. I’d find myself short of breath walking up steps, walking too fast, walking a block in the cold and wind, or even carrying my patient’s heavy belongings to a locker. It was scary and discouraging and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate hiking again.

Also through my silence I was able to focus on reclaiming my hiking body. I hiked with my new trekking poles for the first time today and the rhythm of walking with two poles came easily. I focused on controlling my breathing. Because I was alone, I stopped when I needed to catch my breath when I hiked on higher elevations and I reassured myself that getting my heart ticking a little faster and becoming winded because of a higher elevation was a good thing. To my surprise, I hiked five miles today and did just fine. I can’t wait to hit the trail again. I was silent for three hours and I cherished every minute of it. 

There is so much to gain through silence. It’s different for everyone. I don’t have to tell you because once you do it, you’ll know. Close your mouth and open your eyes and ears. Turn off your phone. Turn off the television and radio. Close the book. Be with nature. Watch the sunset. Walk in the woods. Be silent. Just be. Try it. You won’t regret it.

Just Jump In

When you were a young adult, do you remember those first few major decisions you had to make? You know, the ones that helped determine your path in life? Where to go to college? What to major in? What kind of job you’d take after college to begin your career? The kind of decision that once you made it you were excited about it, yet it sent chills down your spine at the same time because you couldn’t believe you’ve come this far and made a decision like this. Then reality really hits and you get to live out what was once a dream. Day after day after day.

I had those feelings too. For me, the reality that I was in nursing school didn’t really slap me in the face until I stepped off the elevator on my first clinical day in the hospital. I took a deep cleansing breath, inhaling through my nose and exhaling through my mouth. During the process, I smelled three things; body odor, hospital soap and those disgusting powdered hospital eggs. I gagged, because I’m a gagger when it comes to disgusting smells and then I asked myself what in the world did I get myself into. Not every college student is about to go learn how to clean someone’s ass properly and get graded on it. Eventually though, I got used to those types of things and I knew I was in the right place.

Last summer my son was trying to decide if he wanted to march in his university’s Independence Day Parade with the marching band he was about to join as a freshman when he entered college in the fall. He went back and forth, yes, no, yes, no.  Finally, one of his mentors told him, “Jack, just jump in”. He thought about it and he listened to his mentor. He jumped in. He marched the parade and met some people that would end up becoming some of his close friends. He was happy he did it.

Today my son took another plunge. He declared a major. Biology. He has more questions for his advisor so he’ll be returning to see her in the next few days and will soon choose courses for the fall of his sophomore year. It’s hard to believe I was in that place over twenty-six years ago and now I’m watching my first born experience it. Talk about something that sends chills down your spine as you hope and pray this child gains as much success and happiness in his career as you’ve had in yours. At this moment though, I know how he feels; excited and nervous as he tries to imagine what he’s going to do in the field of Biology. The possibilities are endless Jack, just jump in.