Giving thanks…..

November 24, 2011

It’s only been a year since I have been out of the hospital scene. Pediatric Emergency is where I have spent many -a- holiday throughout the past decade. To be honest working the holidays weren’t bad at all. We nurses, doctors, residents, administrative staff and even the environmental services folks were close and it was good to spend that time together.

We knew how holidays flowed and when peak times would be. After noon is when the “face versus wall” lacerations would arrive, nothing more than a few stitches to cap off a game of cousin tag. There would be the times when the trauma bells would sound and a mercy flight would be on the way with a hunting or car accident.

There was the one Thanksgiving where we delivered a baby in the parking lot, baby and mom were fine…. those are the ones you really feel grateful for your role as a nurse. That you are able to be a part of that.

Throughout the years I have seen my fair share of children die, and by children that’s up to age 18. Children of that age in certain populations get tangled up in gang fights. One holiday…. I forget which one it was….. I had a fourteen year old stabbing victim that I took a chance with and asked the honest questions of.  I wanted to know how at the age of fourteen this was his life. He and I might live 15 miles away from one another and at the same time it feels like we lived in two different countries.

“Every day you have to fight for your life.” He told me, “This is the third time I have been stabbed.” I wanted to hug him, in fact I probably did. Stabbed three times at age fourteen. Even though as a nurse I saw that all the time…. I probably took care of him all three times…. it horrified me each time. In essence we did live in two different countries.

Too many times I stood in the trauma bay or the family waiting room with the physicians telling parents we could not save their child. Some collapse, some threw chairs at us….. and trust me we understand. I always shook and sobbed when we delivered that news, our docs themselves took it harder than you could ever imagine.

Being a holiday it’d never get better and never get easier. Too often we’d finish our shifts with heavy hearts and red puffy eyes. Normally we waited for one another and we’d walk out together. No one outside of our world understood what we saw. All we could do was go home at the end of the night and hug our children and pray that since we were the ones who saw it and lived it….  somehow that’d spare us from this kind of life horror. As strange as that sounds it’s what we all believed.

Believe it or not there were some really good times in there. So many smaller injuries came in that required us to be creative. Magnets up the nose on the septum, beads in ears…… you name it…. we saw it. As I look back upon it now it’s like we went to a very crazy college. Many mornings we woke up and thought…. did we just do that??? Yet at this point, I don’t think I could ever go back. I have done more CPR straddling gurneys through CT scanners, been X-rayed so much I probably glow, contaminated so much evidence because we didn’t know it was a homicide or let’s be honest…… when in a code situation it all just gets thrown on the damn floor.

To say we gave 100% to our patients and one another would be the grossest understatement in the world. How many times we stopped when we should have stopped an hour before. How many times did we throw our arms around parents who were told the most unthinkable news….. how many times did we stand in the CT scanner and realize….. that this was a shaken baby.

That was one hell of a team in there…… you think your favorite NFL or NHL team was incredible? They had nothing on us.

At the end of the day we’d wish one another a Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year. We’d walk out together and recap the day. Sometimes we’d still be laughing, more often than not we’d still be crying.

If nothing else it taught us all how damn precious life truly is, and how in an instant….. it can be gone.

Throughout this past year believe it or not, I have struggled a bit on holidays. I think about those I spent so many holidays with and I miss them. There are days I miss the work we did together. It was exciting, dramatic, difficult, enlightening, rewarding and heartbreaking. I got to see and experience all pieces of life and of love.

When people ask why it is, that I am the way that I am….. this is a big part. Spend one day cracking the chest of a seven-year old who walked into your emergency dept 30 minutes earlier…. and you will learn that your biggest problem in the world is not the ugly sweater you have to wear at Christmas.

Experience what it’s like to tell a parent that you are sorry, that you did everything you could…. and you learn that those relatives you dread seeing aren’t so bad after all.

Stand across a gurney awaiting the arrival of a child with CPR in progress…… look your colleague in the eye with fear and faith and declare that  “We can save this one”….. and suddenly the fact that it’s 7am and you still have food to prepare and a house to clean before everyone arrives….. suddenly it becomes not that big a deal.

To me….. life is a big deal. Screw the details, the house might not look perfect, we might burn the turkey….. we might disagree with Aunt Mildred and man we just might have to wear the fugliest sweater on earth so Granny doesn’t feel offended.

All of that is okay. All of those are the small things. Those are the privileges.

So while today we are thankful….. let’s take life by the balls and live every damn second of it.

You don’t know when your time is up and when it is not. You don’t know when. Bottom line. You don’t know when.

So hug Aunt Mildred with all of your might and find her stories of the old days told a hundred times already…… find them exciting just for today. Don’t argue with your sister, because who won Dancing with the Stars is not something to fight about. Help your Mom in the kitchen because of all the times you blew it off as a kid.

Kiss and hug your children. Because we just don’t know.

As for me…..  I will do all of that and at the same time think of all of those kids that have touched my life through the years. I am thankful for how they influenced me and the lessons they taught me. There was no other way I would learn them.

After a little workout this morning to get the blood flowing…. we will be off to the home of my parents. Not too far away. Because at Christmas time my sister will hog the couch I have one big goal for today…. lay on the most comfortable couch on this earth, and just experience the day with my family.

But then again….. since my mother bought the millenium falcon leggo set for Luc’s birthday…. I have a feeling today could get complicated.

Happy Thanksgiving.


One comment

  1. Great post, Mary. We thank God everyday that our kids are healthy and relatively well-adjusted. They have me for a father, so their ability to be well-adjusted can only go so far.

    Um, you said “fugliest,” bwaaaaahahahahahha!

    We have that Lego set. It is kick-ass.

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