Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

tearsJoy brings people together. Fear heightens awareness. Grief, more times than not, isolates us and covers us with a heavy blanket difficult to pull off. Some are never able.

Then there are some that go through incredible loss and proceed to find ways to comfort others undergoing similar suffering.

I met a patient a couple of weeks ago that shared her role in our city’s chapter of a national nonprofit called The TEARS Foundation. Founded in 2002 by Sarah Slack after experiencing the stillbirth of her son Jessie Curtis Slack, this agency provides emotional and financial support for families who have lost a child.

This patient of mine shared her own story of loss and how it led her to her involvement with TEARS. She graciously offered me the opportunity to follow up with her through the agency if I wanted to learn more about The TEARS Foundation.

I left work that day thinking about it. The heartache of  this kind of loss, I understood it. Years ago, my first pregnancy ended at the twenty-two week mark on an evening filled with physical and emotional pain.

A couple of weeks later, I had an opportunity to learn more about the kind of people that donate their time and fund raising efforts for TEARS.

People that do this kind of work are angels with broad shoulders and hearts made strong by not letting grief pull them to a dark impenetrable place. On the surface they might look like petite blonds just getting vegetables at the local market. Look closer. You can see the endless abundance of compassion in their eyes. 


The Mask

She came in for a port.

It’s a small round device, hard polyethelene rubber center, with a catheter centered at the bottom base. It’s placed under the skin close to a large vein, typically on the outer edge of the left or right chest.

The most common reason for getting a port is to begin chemotherapy.

She had wide set eyes, thick wavy  brunette hair that grazed her shoulders, and, what I thought unusual – pale blue eyes. Not your combination of traits. Blonds and redheads always get the blue eyes. Us brown haired girls, hazel, green, or brown eyes – freckles in them if your lucky.  The man next to her stood a foot taller than her. He wore his Polo un-tucked and on his feet the most broken in deck shoes I’d ever seen.

When I met the two, they had just  walked through the doors to our department. Together they stood hand in hand outside the curtained area while I confirmed her demographic sheet and spelling of her name.

Attentive to the explanation of my role and the limited space in the pre op rooms, the husband stepped over to the waiting area in our department for the short time it took me to get her ready.

She  hadn’t slept well and admitted to being anxious. Making sure all consents were signed, I got an order to give her some Versed to help relax her. I called her husband back over to sit with her then went and pulled the medicine from the Accudose system.

Within minutes after the medicine hit her vein, her eyelids began to flutter, her jaw slackened and she drifted in and out of sleep.

His face changed too.

The smile became a grim set expression and his forehead creased with worry. I don’t think he blinked while she slept. With his chair wedged close to her stretcher and his elbows on the rail, he watched her sleep. I watched him watch her sleep and wondered how he kept all his emotions from bursting from his body.

Their love was apparent. When he stroked her face, I turned the wall mounted computer so it wasn’t facing them and I could keep working. Their moment of intimacy needed to be respected.

The arrival of the surgeon and the OR team lifted some of the heaviness in the air.

And I’d swear that when she went off to surgery, he’d aged a year.


Leaving New York on September 11th

fullsizerenderI watched the Manhattan skyline disappear as we advanced over 10,000 feet and turned south. All I could think of was that fifteen years ago today over four hundred people also got on a plane thinking they too were returning home to loved ones. Another three thousand plus people thought they were just beginning another normal day at work.

I don’t know how to describe the feeling.

Alongside the joy of seeing my grown daughter for three days was an ache in my soul that was slowly building since Saturday afternoon as we passed a small cluster of fire fighters and later heard sirens as we walked down  Prince street.  I knew there were ceremonies happening over the weekend. I saw people in large groups leaving St. Patrick’s cathedral Sunday morning, most in Dress Blues.

The angst of going back home distracted me for the last four hours I was in Manhattan. (I only have one child I’ve raised  mostly on my own – some of you single moms surely understand.)

It wasn’t until I reached the terminal that I noticed some differences. Sunday is usually a busy airport day. Not today. Getting through security to have my carry on scanned took only five minutes. Here’s the catch – any, and I mean any abnormality on the  walk  through scanner resulted in a “pat down”. The only thing that helped minimize the awkwardness of it was seeing two other people also getting “checked”, one person looked like someone’s grandmother and the other was a woman about my age. The airport is doing their job – that’s all that mattered.

The humor of my first official “frisking” was ellipsed by hearing Taps being played off in the distance as I seated myself by my gate.

I questioned whether I was going to post tonight until a few minutes after I found my sear on the plane,  11D. A gentleman in dark  pressed pants, a white dress shirt with stripes on the arm and airport badge sat next  to me.

I couldn’t help myself. I turned to him.

” Is there anything special done today to help the people  that work for the airport?”

He looked at me quizzically. I added more.

“I mean, um, spiritually, emotionally.”

He looked straight ahead at the T.V. in front of him. Fox T.V. was beginning a special on the anniversary of 9/11. In the background was a picture of the first plane hitting one of the Twin Towers.


He said it slowly and never looked at me again for the 2 1/2 hour flight home.


Heartfelt prayers to the families and friends that have suffered a loss of a loved one and don’t get to make more memories with them.




From Orlando


You’d think a nurse would have no problem writing about grief yet I’ve created and collected three un-posted drafts in the last seven days. I thought to myself, oh, post about something else, but that felt wrong. Forty-nine people dead and more than that injured here in my home town — it’s on my mind — a lot.

My thoughts and emotions, spurred by the horrific shooting at Pulse, have no boundaries. They extend from rage toward the killer to heartfelt compassion for the families losses. There is also fear, fear that I am just as vulnerable. Within days after the shooting, I was going to get on a plane and taking my daughter to New York where she would settle and work. Planes are targets. New York — no need to explain its history with terrorism.  Worrying about myself — selfish — add guilt as one of the random thoughts.

The three drafts sitting in Word sound nonsensical when read over, but then, what happened was nonsensical. For any individual or group to believe that killing people elevates their belief system is insane. I could ramble on about this, but then I’d have four drafts…

There is pride.

I am proud of how our city is reaching out to the families and agencies of the LGBT community. I am proud of the business community’s generous donations. And, I am proud to call ORMC part of my work family. The perioperative and surgical teams worked endlessly until all the received victims were treated.

As it has been said:

Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.





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