Shortly after sunset, the dance began.
We hovered together, huddled in clusters around the floor. In a quick, steady, tempo, we recited the day’s events, and the things to come. A murmur, slightly above a whisper, so patients and families walking by could not hear the secret exchange- our passing off from one nurse to another, during shift change. With too much to do and too little time, we spoke in acronyms, in voice and dance.
“Sixty-five year old male, DNR/DNI, on Contact for MRSA, with a history of HTN, DM, COPD, and…” my coworker threw his hand in the air, palm facing me, his fingers extending straight up, like he was about to give me a high-five.
I nodded, without a word. The high-five was the informal gesture indicating he had HIV, meaning we’d continue to give compassionate care, but had to be cautious to avoid needle stick injuries.
Shortly after, I tiptoed into Mr.A’s room. Raising the level of the bed to my height, I simultaneously dropped the bedrail. “I’m going to restart your IV,” I explained.
Tying the tourniquet, my index finger traced the spongy vessels running along his thin forearm.
His brows furrowed, his eyes followed my every move.
I wiped his arm with alcohol and positioned the catheter, ready to aim…
Be careful. No mistakes.
You got this.
Do it just like you’ve done it…
hundreds of times.
Guided by intuition, my index finger glided the needle into the vein.
I paused. Blood flashed back into the catheter.
Phew! I’m in.
Withdrawing the needle, I advanced the catheter, and secured the IV.
~ ~ ~
As nurses, it is our duty, our calling, to care for our patients. Recently, I was stunned to learn the identity of the 2nd person in the U.S. to contract ebola. She’s a young, Texan, nurse. (And fortunately, she just tested negative for the virus after receiving treatment.)
For her, it was a seemingly routine day, when a patient with ebola walked through her hospital’s door.
It could’ve been me.
Although I have no experience caring for ebola patients, I’ve cared for hundreds of patients with all types of infectious diseases. If nurses and doctors do not step up, who will?
Who will battle ebola on the front lines?
Who will care for our fellow healthcare workers, who risked their own lives, to save others?
(And upon their return, if they do not carry the virus, why do we isolate them like prisoners?)
How my heart aches.
~ ~ ~
Years have passed, from those nights which I tangoed between life and death, caring for really sick HIV/AIDS patients. I have since traded my nights for days, and the hospital hustle for the clinic’s shuffle. Nevertheless, whether giving injections, or preparing for possible ebola exposure, risks (for healthcare workers) always remain.
At the the end of each day, begins a new sunrise. I’ll don my scrubs, lace up my tread worn Asics, and embrace the unforeseen. Do whatever it takes to care for my patients.
‘Cause no one can keep me from dancin’.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Interesting read, and props for you to sticking with your job despite the risks to your health. Nursing sounds like a very hectic job – you’ve got to take note of who exactly are your patients, what’s going on with their bodies and be prepared for any emergency. I have a good friend in Singapore who works as a nurse. She does the job because she genuinely cares for others and their well-being. But it’s not an easy job, that’s what she tells me: there are long shifts, low pay and sometimes the doctors don’t treat you too well – but she says the thankfulness in the patients’ eyes makes the job worth it 🙂
your nurse friend is right..the shifts are long, the pay could always be better, and sometimes we are mistreated by both staff and colleagues..
but it’s for the patients. it’s worth it for me too. =) thanks so much for your encouragement!
You are making a difference. Keep doing great work!
some days it doesn’t feel that way, but your comment is a necessary reminder. thank you, stacie. =)
I was a cancer patient 16 years ago. Believe me, the nurses were the ones who made a difference!
whoa. if you are open to it, would love to read/hear your story sometime. =)
thanks stacie… your words mean so much to me. =)
I would imagine it’s a careful balancing act at times – minimizing personal risk while still providing much needed care.
indeed, you summed it up so well -it’s a careful balancing act between those 2 very things. sometimes difficult, but not impossible. =)
Brilliant. I love it. Your heart and way of seeing your profession, calling and life. It’s great Soapie. And I love the quote. It reminds me of an Albert Einstein quote: “Only a life lived for others is a life worth living”. So yes, there is great joy in service.
that’s a great quote from einstein, i’ll have to remember it! =D
thank you for your sweet words and continued friendship, staci. =)
my mom was a nurse. i love you all. you really put your heart in your hands to care for people.
your mom was a nurse? your mom is/was cool. =) even though i didn’t get to meet her, i’m sure she touched many lives, and i’m glad to get to know glimpses of her through your writing (like on your last post for yeah write. a lovely and thought provoking tribute).
thank you so much for your encouragement, lisa.
Such a great insider perspective on this whole issue. You took me with you on the handover, and there was definitely a lump in my throat as you spoke of the catheter and of the young Texan nurse. AND you quoted Tagore, whose writing I love with some passion.
thank you asha for your kind words.
the quote from tagore was actually quoted on a bookmark i received when graduating school ; i haven’t read any of his work yet but am definitely interested -are there certain poems,short stories, novels of his that you recommend?
Start with Gitanjali. It’s billed as a collection of his poems and probably the most accessible (most translated into other languages). Actually, it reads more like an epic poem (one that reads as a story) … hang on, I’ll see if I can find it online…
Here we go, http://www.eldritchpress.org/rt/git.htm
We need compassion and understanding like yours. My daughter has just been accepted to nursing school. I hope she dances like you.
aww. thanks so much. it’s a difficult, but humbling, rewarding, challenging, dynamic profession that pushes me to work harder and love more selflessly everyday.
congrats to your daughter! that must be very exciting for her and also a proud moment for you as a dad. you can warn her that nursing school is tough but she can do it!! =D i’m always encouraged when i hear about students pursuing nursing, because it’s my passion. i bet she will be an awesome nurse. =)
Thought provoking post. It’s clear we can’t allow blind fear and ignorance to rule the day when it comes to dealing with those with deadly infections, and especially those selfless, brave, and caring enough to administer treatment to them.
Those on the front lines should be treated a heroes rather than lepers.
i have much respect for what you do. and for your work ethics. and your genuine caring nature. i do hope this ebola situation will not reach to a crises level in the united states, and that this problem will not reach to any other countries. it seems to be it is deadlier and spreads faster than HIV/AIDS. for the sake of human kind, let’s hope they find a solution soon, and eradicate the virus once and for all.