Lessons From Michael

A few months into my first nursing job, I met Michael, the patient who put me on the road to true nursing. Still limping down the painful road from enjoying success in nursing school to putting it into practice, I drove home most days thinking, “I can’t go back tomorrow. I can’t go back tomorrow.” I lived in terror of getting caught alone with a patient whose survival depended on all that “nursing magic” that had so far eluded me.  Orienting on an acute dialysis unit, my only useful skills were a pretty good nursing vocabulary, understanding of aseptic technique, and the complete understanding that there was no question too stupid for me to ask. I would have never have made it if my supervisor had been one of those who “ate her young.” (terrorized new nurses)

I was assigned to care for Michael. Though I didn’t voice it, I thought Michael’s family ought to think twice before subjecting him to dialysis. He was thirty-six years old with Down’s Syndrome and its many cardiac complications, diabetic, had hepatitis B, and now needed dialysis. I worried about how he would deal with it at his three-year-old functional level.  Selfishly, I dreaded caring for him, thinking he would challenge my meager nursing skills.

I could have saved my worry. Michael stole every heart in the dialysis unit. He was smiling when his mother brought him in, did everything he was asked, dealt with his pain, and was the kindest patient I ever had the privilege of caring for. I loved him dearly, and treasured every moment I got to spend with him over the short three years I had the gift of being his nurse. Thanks to Michael, I learned compassion and humility. Every soul has value and something to share.

“Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!”

Help! I've fallen and I can't get up.

Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.

Please don’t read if you are easily offended.  This is nursing humor.

My husband I are both retired RNs so we frequently spot errors in commercials.  The other evening, one of those frequent “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” commercials came on.

Bud watched the poor woman intently for a moment and said, “I know damn good and well she didn’t fall.  She didn’t piss her pants.”

He knows whereof he speaks, having worked on a physical rehab floor for more than twenty years.

True Love

imageJerry and JoEllen had been childhood sweethearts.  He had Cystic Fibrosis but did really well. He and JoEllen drifted apart while he was in college. JoElllen had left an abusive husband and was struggling to raise two toddlers on her own by the time they reconnected.   He was well-established at his engineering firm and anxious to offer JoEllen and her boys a solid life.

Things were going well for them.  They were buying a house and planning a wedding when Jerry became jaundiced.  He was found to be in acute liver failure as a result of his long and complicated medical history.   I met them when it was my privilege to be  his nurse.  JoEllen never left his side if she didn’t have to. They were such a loving couple.  It was heartbreaking to know their future together couldn’t be too long.

When it was obvious Jerry was becoming rapidly worse, they made arrangements to get a marriage license so they could marry before his death.  They were married just a day or so before Jerry died, but not before he was able to make sure JoEllen and “his” boys would be well taken care of.