With the door ajar, I heard a voice. “Love you, see you in the morning.“
She walked out the room and headed towards the elevator. “If there’s anything, call me,” she waved at me.
“Your mom is so sweet,” I handed over a cup of pills. As a new nurse, I tried to juggle both- caring for my patients, while getting to know my patients. “How are you feeling?”
“Hi Soapie, it’s good to see you again,” she tried to smile. “But my chest feels tight.”
I checked her oxygen level, listened to her lungs, then ran a marathon: rushed to the medication cart, back to my patient to put her on a nebulizer, and reassessed her breathing. I repositioned her, raised the head of the bed, called respiratory and her attending, and gave all the PRN and STAT meds.
But her breaths became more shallow. The pink in her lips disappeared.
Please don’t die… you are too young to die… Before I knew it, my legs pushed her bed out the room and sprinted down a long hall.
“Mrs. A? I’m so sorry to call you this late. Your daughter was struggling to breathe. I had to transfer her to the ICU.”
“Noooooo not my baby!!!”
After a few days in the ICU, my patient bounced back, and recovered enough so she was discharged home. But not long after, she would return. Each time, her mom was beside her. She held her hands, brushed her hair, and brought her favorite foods. Mom was her anchor.
Then came the last time I would see them both.
We walked down a long aisle towards the front of the room. Still in our scrubs, my charge nurse and I had carpooled and attended together after working the night shift.
Mrs. A wore a black suit with a black hat. She clutched a wrinkled tissue in her hands. Seeing us approaching, she introduced us to her family.
“These were her nurses. When they took care of her,
I could go home and sleep at night.
I never had to worry.”
~ ~ ~
Several years later, I stood at the end of a long hospital hallway. The hallway was actually outdoors, open to the hot, tropical air. The Cambodian sun was scorching, and I was sweating like crazy.
She was one of our first patients. She looked a little older than my mom’s age. She looked sick. Really sick. We gathered her daughter, son, and brother aside in that hallway, away from the room.
Your mother is dying, I explained in Khmer.
The family was quiet, with little emotion. The son and brother nodded and walked away.
Then, the floodgates opened. The daughter flung her arms around my waist, and let out a most horrific wail.
“I’m losing my mother……!!!”
In her arms, I crumbled.
My naive self dreamt that one day I’d go to Cambodia, to save lives and bring healthcare to the poor… but it was futile. It was not anything like I’d thought it’d be.
My tears burned in a puddle of defeat.
~ ~ ~
“So YOU are Soapie!” she said.
“Yes I am.” I hesitated as I tried to figure out who this woman was.
“You remember my daughter? She is your patient, she just had her baby. I want to thank you so much for all the care you have given her.”
“OHHHHH! You are her mom? It is so good to meet you!” I never expected this. I usually care for pregnant and postpartum women and their babies; it’s not often that I get to meet my patient’s mothers in person.
“She said, ‘Ma, I am waiting for a call from Soapie today.’ And after she talks to you, she says, ‘Ma, I am so glad I talked to her. She makes me feel so much better.”
I have witnessed so much death and dying in my career. Now that I work in OB, it is such a pleasant surprise to celebrate new life and walk along side women as they face the sometimes daunting, scary, lonely, but exciting journey of motherhood. Inside, my heart was spilling over in thankfulness and hope.
“Yes, thank you so much for caring for my daughter…
Thank you for being her nurse.”
~ ~ ~
Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all the women who are mothers, who long to be mothers, or celebrate or mourn for your mothers.
And Happy Nurse’s Week to my fellow nurses. ❤ It takes a village to raise a child, parents and caregivers cannot do it alone. We nurses find ourselves involved in a family’s life in the most crucial, fragile moments – and often times it can be exhausting, challenging, messy, and all consuming. To my nurse friends who have had the most difficult year due to the pandemic… *hugs* I know you feel unnoticed and under appreciated, but I see you. Thank you for all you do.