Sunday Bliss

Yesterday I was feeling a little down. The sky was cloudy and gray. Blah. We got a late start to our day and I didn’t get as much done around the house as I wanted to. I was reading an emotionally draining book and I had housework to do. I slacked on some things I was trying to accomplish last week and annoyed with myself for it. My daughter was on her final day of an opportunity that posed itself as being beneficial to her but ended up having some negative aspects. Blah.

Today I woke up with the intention of setting positive vibes for myself for the week. The sky is a gorgeous clear blue and that was already a positive. As I was getting showered and dressed to go to eleven o’clock Mass, I decided to try enhance my spiritual experience in church with some essential oils and healing crystals.

In September, after a series of signs from the universe and at the encouragement of a new friend in the “Oily Community”, I joined the Young Living Essential Oil community. Essential oils have been used by many cultures around the world for centuries for healing the sick and spiritual use. As a nurse, I’m fascinated by the benefits that the essential oils provide for us. As time goes by I’m learning more and more about all the things these oils can be used for and pleased at their benefits to my health. More posts about essential oils in the future.

A few weeks ago, I saw something on social media that sparked my interest in healing crystals and stones and I purchased three healing stones. I have a Citrine stone to cultivate energy that is fertile for growth and abundance. I have a Hematite stone to help feel grounded and balanced. I have a Clear Quartz stone to bring clarity to the mind. Although I researched these particular stones before and after I purchased them to learn about their uses, I know I have much to learn and look forward to more.

So I put my healing stones in my pocket and I anointed my third eye with Frankincense oil, rubbed Envision oil behind my ears and neck, placed Joy oil on my feet (I don’t care for the smell of the Joy oil but I do love it’s effects) and out the door I went to the eleven o’clock Contemporary Mass at my church.

I sat in the front pew on the right side of the church because that’s the side where the Youth Band is placed when they play in mass once a month. My daughter is a member of our parish youth band and today they were playing. The church was not yet full, the youth band was setting up and I decided that moment was a perfect time to meditate with my crystals. While I repeated the affirmations I’d designated for the stones, I pictured myself, surrounded in Christ’s white light of love and protection and focused my eyes on Jesus on the cross on the alter. I held each stone in my right hand and rolled it around so all of my fingers could feel it as I went through the ritual.

As the youth band began to play and the Mass was underway felt so grateful and so much at peace. I was completely present and in a state of spiritual bliss as I listened intently to each reading, the gospel, the homily and sang along with the uplifting contemporary music that youth band was playing. In the background I could hear the gentle and refined notes my daughter was playing on her trumpet. She’s always careful not to play too loud, I think she plays perfectly.

Mass ended and we were told to go in peace to serve the Lord. I left the church with a heart filled with joy and I realized that between today’s use of oils and crystals during an uplifting mass, I once again feel centered, balanced and courageous to serve the Lord and endure what challenges life throws my way.

 

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Nurses and the Bigger Picture

Yesterday, as I was finishing prepping my patient for surgery, he looked at me and asked, “Have you ever had those days when something set you off early in the morning and it threw you off for the day”. I smiled, snickered and replied, “All the time”.  He told me that a night shift staff member had come into his room in the wee hours of the morning to do a quick procedure, one that he does for himself at home. He said the staff member really hurt him and that when he told her so and tried to explain to her how he does it at home so it doesn’t hurt but she was insensitive about it and didn’t want to listen to him. He went on to tell me that when he was filling out his menu order for yesterday, he ordered blueberry pancakes for yesterday’s breakfast. He knew he wouldn’t be able to eat breakfast because he was going in for surgery but said he’d look forward to warming up the blueberry pancakes when he returned to his room after surgery. He said while he was in the bathroom, a member of the kitchen staff came and took his tray, uneaten without waiting for him to come out of the bathroom to ask if he wanted to save the tray for later. He expressed to me how disappointed he was that he wasn’t going to get those blueberry pancakes. He also described to me on another occasion, during a treatment, he had to repeatedly remind a member of his health care team multiple times to be careful with a tube that was in his body.

This patient was an admitted inpatient that had come to my unit to be prepped for surgery. I’d taken care of him several times recently as he had developed a problem that required multiple surgical procedures. He always opened up to me about different aspects of his life. I liked him and I knew he’d been through a lot recently. Today, I could see it in his eyes. He was down in the dump and my heart ached for him.

Many things went through my mind as I listened to this man. First, my heart was filled with gratitude that he chose me to vent his frustrations to. To me it meant we had made a connection somewhere in the care I provided for him. From that point, I was determined to help him as best I could in this situation.

I thought about my own experience as an inpatient in the hospital and similar things that bothered me about that hospital stay. My son was born six weeks prematurely via emergency c-section because I was critically ill. Things happened quickly to deliver my son and it saved our lives. I remembered that my husband told me he could hear me screaming “Ouch you mother fuckers” from where he was standing in the hallway outside the operating room when they rammed the epidural needle in my back without numbing my skin or giving me any warning. I remembered throwing a terrible terrible phlebotomist out of my room in the middle of the night because his skills sucked and he was too rough with me. The morning after my son was born, residents coming into my room and ripping my bandage off my c-section incision, and then rolling me over, ripped the epidural bandage off and removed the epidural.

On that same day, my sickest day, I had a nurse that was a bitch from hell. There were many instances that day where she clearly lacked compassion when I needed it the most. I was sick and afraid. I was on a stretcher for 36 hours in a holding area outside of the operating room in case they had to wheel me back in to do an emergency hysterectomy. I couldn’t figure out what was more uncomfortable, my c-section incision or my neck and back from that stretcher. I tried so hard to keep my mind focused because the medication they were giving me made me feel so foggy. I can still see the look of disgust on the night nurse’s face when she relieved bitch from hell nurse and saw that I was still on the stretcher coming up on 36 hours postpartum. She put me on an egg crate mattress and in a bed and I slept six hours. It was the best sleep I’d had in days and that egg crate mattress act of kindness that will never be forgotten.

I was an RN for four years when my son was born so I understood everything that they were doing but that doesn’t matter when you are 28 with a premature newborn and both of your lives had been in danger. I had such a textbook case of Pre-Eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome, that every resident and student nurse wanted to get their hands on me. I felt like a slab of meat in a butcher shop. I knew exactly where my patient was coming from. That egg crate mattress for me was like the blueberry pancakes he was looking forward to.

I told my patient briefly about my experience with my son’s birth but more about a lecture we had in nursing school that I never forgot. My instructor was trying to teach us about giving patients a little bit of control of their care while in the hospital and making sure we remember to do the little things that are so appreciated. She expressed the importance as a psychological aspect of care and always advised us to look at “the bigger picture” when providing patient care. She shared with us that once she had a spider bite, developed cellulitis and had to be admitted to the hospital. She said the moment she put the hospital gown on, she flipped out because she knew she was relinquishing control of her body to the health care providers at the hospital and that was difficult for her.

I never forgot that lecture and after I returned from maternity leave I made sure that my care reflected remembering to give them some form of control over their care and to do the little things for my patients that made them human. Every patient deserves that. As for my patient yesterday, I gave him some suggestions as to how he can verbalize his needs for his care. After he was taken into surgery I called the nurse that was taking care of him on the floor. I filled her in on some of his frustrations, a little background information on him, enlightened her on his “bigger picture”  and encouraged her to give him a little more TLC. I hope she listened.

The moral to this story is, don’t forget to look at the bigger picture. We get so tied up with completing tasks because we are busy and many times in a time crunch, we overlook the simplest things that would put a smile on someone’s face, make their day just a little better and their situation just a little more tolerable.

Pressing On

In case you are new to this blog, I am a Pre-Op nurse. I am assigned on average 7 patients during my nine hour shift. My job is to do a physical assessment, a medication reconciliation, a health assessment and comb through their medical history with a fine tooth comb to find anything about their health history that may indicate the patient is not safe to go under anesthesia. I also educate patient and families, comfort them, medicate as needed, place IV access and give IV fluids. It’s fast paced and mental. Some patients come for elective surgery. Some come because their lives depend on it. Lots of sick people for me this week. Today was particularly difficult. Everyone’s life depended on their surgery today. To top it off, in the middle of the day, one of my coworkers was notified of a death in her family. She had to leave immediately. Those of us that remained just pushed on as if we were soldiers on a battlefield, pulling our own casualties to safety and pressing on to fight the terrible war against death. The day dragged on and on with hard IV sticks, complicated medical histories, and unexpected additional tasks.

When I sat in my car to go home, I realized that I had not yet processed the death of my coworker’s parent. Despite our busy start, we’d spent the beginning of our morning laughing, teasing each other and bickering as we always do when we are assigned in the same area. Now the flow of her life has changed and I am sad for her.

Towards the end of the day I was getting some negative vibes from a patient. I felt like she and her husband didn’t like me. Maybe I just sounded too systematic to her or too routine. Maybe it’s my imagination. Maybe she was too worried about her condition to appear friendly. She was assigned to me as fast as my coworker ran out the door. I was hypoglycemic and in shock over my coworker’s loss. Yet I pressed on as best I could, because I am a nurse.

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.

30 Day Writing Challenge Day 2

Okay cool, the blogger I follow who’s doing a 30 Day Writing Challenge has posted Day 2’s question: Write something that someone told you about yourself that you have never forgotten.

Here we go. Circa 1997 I was a few years out of nursing school and working on a coronary progressive care unit. I was taking care of a little lady who I’d taken care of frequently. I enjoyed taking care of her. Her condition caused her to tire easily and she always needed help with her ADL’s-Activities of Daily Living. Helping patients with their ADL’s was always a perfect time to talk to them, get to know them and tidy up their rooms. So I helped her bathe and afterwards I helped her walk to a chair so she could sit while I made her bed. As I helped her back into bed she looked me in the eyes and said, “I was talking to Jesus about you the other day. We agreed that you have a gift, you don’t know you have. You need to figure it out”.  My little newly wed 27 year old self told her that my husband and I were hoping to soon start a family, maybe the gift was me being a good mother. She said, “you’ll be a mother soon but that’s not it. Think about it”. I couldn’t wait to talk to her about it more but I got busy the rest of the day and I didn’t see her after that. I later learned that she’d passed away at home.

Those moments with that patient and that conversation will live in my memory forever. I remember what the hospital room looked like and I remember what room and bed she was in during that admission. I remember her face. The image of me bathing her, making her bed and talking to her is still there. The image of her looking into my eyes to tell me about my gift still there. For awhile I racked my brains trying to figure out what the gift is. I know in due time it will present itself. If the gift is being a writer, I’ll dedicate my first book to her.

Why Nurses Do What They Do

Several years ago, the week before Christmas, I entered the nurses station at 0700 in the Emergency Department I worked in for morning report. As I did every morning, I scanned  the patient tracking screen to look at how many patients we had and if I recognized any familiar names. I spotted a patient who I’d taken care of multiple times and who I enjoyed taking care of. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to take care of him again. I asked the night shift nurse for report and looked forward to entering his room.

I quickly learned that my patient was not doing well. The doctors suspected that he was now in the terminal phase of his illness. Through the course of the eight hours I took care of him, even after I’d infused over three liters of IV fluid and transfused two units of packed red blood cells, I could not control his pain or keep his blood pressure stable enough to give pain medication and he was beginning to display signs of organ system failure. I spent hours in that room that day not only caring for him, but helping his wife accept what was happening.  After I transported him to intensive care and helped him get comfortable in his bed, I put my hand on his, got close to his face, looked him in the eyes and told him to take care. Our eyes were locked for several seconds. He said thank you and wished me well. He died twelve hours after I transported him to intensive care and I still relive looking into his eyes for the last time.

The holiday season isn’t an easy one for nurses. Not because we work long hours, sacrifice and miss our own holiday gatherings to care for others. Because we see how illness impacts people’s lives. To be present to watch patients and their families experience these things on the holidays leaves a long lasting effect on healthcare workers. Why?  Because we see the look of desperation in our patient’s eyes where we know they are wondering if this illness is going to pass, be chronic or even life threatening. We observe families trying to be brave for their sick loved ones when we know they are afraid. We hear the screams from the room where the cardiac arrest was just pronounced dead. We see the look of fear as our surgical patients are being wheeled to the operating room with all evidence of the human being they are having been stripped away from them and replaced by a hospital gown, colorful footies and a warm blanket. We walk through the surgical waiting area and see the blank stares of families as they wait for a surgeon to come out and tell them if their loved one has cancer. We try to do everything we can to cheer up our inpatients when they are stuck eating hospital turkey on Christmas day or can’t eat at all because they are too sick. We observe our Dementia patients roaming the halls of the long term care facilities and wonder what they were like before Dementia robbed them of their memory. We thank God profusely that our own loved ones are healthy and waiting for us to come home. Our shifts end and we go home, shower and try to shake it off. Deep down inside, over the years memories similar to the one I shared resurface for all of us.

The brightness and warmth of the summer sun replaces the darkness of December and the months fly by. Six months after my patient passed away, I’m at work one summer afternoon and I hear my name being called from across the ER. I turn around an realize it’s my patient’s wife. She quickly walks up the me, hugs me and tells me she’s doing fine. She’d just been the see a chaplain whom she was seeing monthly. She said she’d come down to the ER to specifically find me and tell me how she was doing and to say thank you. I was so moved by that I rushed right up to one of my good buddy coworkers to tell her. Her response was simple, powerful and true, “This is why we do what we do”.

 

Why Adult?

Why adult when you can go hiking? I am hiking as we speak. I am sitting in the woods on a log as I draft this in my journal. A lady and her two dogs just passed by me on the trail. She gave me a puzzled look as if she wondered why I was sitting on a log writing in a notebook. Hasn’t she ever seen a writer trying to get her thoughts on paper?

Aside from a few minor annoyances at work Monday and Tuesday, I’m having a decent week so far. Monday afternoon my surgeon was running two hours behind. As I walked down the hall past my patient’s room on my way to the desk I heard my patient’s simple assed family member summon me. “HEY MISS, she’s hungry when is the surgery”. I froze. I felt as if I was in a torture chamber room listening to someone repeatedly scrape their fingernails down a chalkboard. I despise being called miss really I do. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and turned around to walk into the room. “Nurse, you mean”, I replied. Now I know that woman knows I’m a nurse because I introduced myself as her daughter’s nurse when I went to the waiting room to retrieve her. I apologized to the patient for the delay and explained the situation, which I had no control over. I turned around and left the room having felt like all of the empathy had been sucked out.

Yesterday I was pulled to a preop unit to preop the patients of a surgeon who’s types of patients I simply don’t enjoy taking care of. Unfortunately while I was at lunch, one of my coworkers was screamed at by my patient’s mother, demanding pain medication for her son as he demonstrated drug seeking behavior. So the surgeon came to consent the patient, I got a pain medication order for something “extra stronger” than he takes at home and all was right in their world, but not in mine. Sometimes even something as small as being called “miss” and being yelled at by a drug seeker take their toll on a nurse’s humanity.

So here I am in the woods on my day off. I have adulting to do today but it’s going to have to wait until being in the woods has cleared my head and re-energized me. I’ll be busy this evening and tomorrow evening with something at my daughter’s school. If it doesn’t get done today, it wasn’t meant to be. With one kid in college marching band and the other kid in high school marching band I make it a top priority to hit the trail during my weekdays off because there’s no guarantee I’m going to have time on the weekends in the fall.

My husband and I look forward to hiking longer and different trails in the future but right now it will have to wait. My daughter is a freshman in high school and in her first year of marching band. It has been a thrill to see the experience and all of the firsts through her eyes. Her beautiful clear blue eyes that look as blue as a Caribbean Sea when she puts on that navy blue uniform. She’s so happy and we are at her marching band events, we are there with her, in the now and not on the trail.

The Appalachian Trail continues to call for us and remains part of our subconscious minds though. Whether it be day hike, a section hike or a thru hike, we want it all. We do research, read trail journals and I’ve read several books about people who have thru hiked. Now is not the time for us to thru hike but we will have time to section hike soon. Our kids need us. It’s ok.

On a positive note, I’ve learned a few things about myself as a hiker. I’ve learned that I need to eat and hydrate after each three miles I hike. I’m learning to use a compass. I’ve learned that I can carry more weight on my back than I originally thought I could. I’ve learned to follow a trail alone and how to find the trail again if I wander off trail to look at something. I’ve learned to hike my hike and enjoy my hike. I try so hard to let time limits go when I am in the woods. When I leave the woods my mind is in a much happier place.