These past couple of days I just keeping thinking about all of the nurses and staff at SickKids – and the ones we met a few times at Children’s Hospital in London too. We are eternally grateful for the care they showed Ava and our family and for the compassionate and brave way they supported our family through her death.
I was trying to find the words to acknowledge all the things their job involves when I stumbled upon this… an article written by a SickKids nurse that was published in the Star. She was very kind and gave me her permission to reprint it here.
By Jacqueline Hanley
I’ve had a few moments at work, recently, that really made me think about what it means to be a paediatric nurse. I was reflecting on a particular patient and I wondered, when I got home and my husband asked me, “How was your day?”, how could I possibly ever share with him what it was really like? How could I share the conversation I had that day with a six-year-old, mature beyond her years? Or the feeling I had when she told me she hates her scars? Or how weary I felt at the end of the day, a day that wasn’t even particularly busy?
I wish that when asked how my day was, I knew how to give a truthful answer.
I wish I could really express what a shift is like, and know I would be understood.
If I really answered truthfully, I might start off with how many times I saw a child smile. I might tell you about the tears I wiped. I could tell stories about the kids I made laugh. I could tell you about the kids I made cry.
I might tell you about the parents I consoled, reassured, encouraged.
I might tell you about the family that thanked me, and the family that pushed me away.
I might tell you how many times I grew frustrated. Or how many times I felt annoyed. I might tell you about how many times I thought my headache couldn’t get any worse.
I might tell you how I taught a new nurse and how I learned from an old colleague.
I might tell you about the stickers I stuck, the pages I coloured and the teddy bears I tucked into bed.
I could tell you about the call bells that rang, the IV pumps that beeped, the monitors that alarmed.
I could tell you all about the blood product reactions, the worrisome fluid balances, or the child who was fine and, then, suddenly, wasn’t.
I could tell you how many gloves I put on, basins I emptied and faces I wiped.
I could tell you about the tricks I use to sneak in an assessment on a three-year-old; the games we play so they will take their meds, and how, in order to auscultate a five-year-old’s chest, I have to pretend I’m listening for monsters.
If I were to tell you what my day was like, I might tell you that my hands will always feel sticky from hand sanitizer, and no matter how much I wash, “that smell” won’t seem to go away.
I could tell you how funny it is to hear a two-year-old say “stethoscope,” and how heart-breaking it is to hear a child whisper, “I just want to go home.”
I might tell you that today I heard a child’s first word. Or saw his first steps. Or watched a preemie finish her first whole bottle. I might tell you about the father who fed her, who took this small victory as a sign of hope.
I might tell you how the bravest person I know is an eight-year-old. Or the happiest person I know is a two-year-old with a medical history as old as she is.
I might tell you about a moment of joy, shared with a family, a patient, a colleague.
I might tell you how many times I felt my heart break.
I can tell you about the steps I walked, the hands I held, the songs I sang to put them to sleep.
If I could really talk about how my day was, I might tell you about the decisions I made, the priorities I set. Or about my “nurse’s intuition” that told me when I should start being concerned.
I could tell you about the orders I questioned. The orders I should have questioned. The split-second decision I made. The carefully calculated words I chose.
I could tell you how I fought for my patient. I could tell you how my patient fought me.
I could talk about how I taught a parent to be the nurse to their child that they never wanted to have to be.
I could tell you how that parent taught me about hope.
I could tell you about the moments of panic. The moments of empowered confidence. How smoothly our team functioned. How resourceful we can be.
I’d want to tell you about the breaths we gave, the lives we saved, the lives we couldn’t save.
I might share with you those moments when I just didn’t know what to say. Or the times I realized there was nothing I could say.
I could tell you how often we see a child and family suffering and think that maybe enough is enough. I could tell you about all the times we think that everything will never be enough. I would struggle to tell you how hard it is to say goodbye; I’d have a harder time telling you how sometimes saying goodbye can be a relief.
I might tell you how many times I thought, “This isn’t easy.”
I could tell you about the times I feared that when I decide to have children, that they might not be healthy. I could tell you about how every time I have that thought, I wonder how my husband and I would cope; would we be like the families I meet here every day? How would we make it through?
I could tell you how hard it is to be a paediatric nurse. I could tell you how rewarding it is. I could tell you how I know I probably won’t spend my career at the bedside, but how much I know I’ll miss the bedside when I finally walk away.
I could talk about these things, if I thought I might be understood.
Instead, I’ll say, “It was good,” with a smile; “I’m tired,” with a yawn.
At the end of the day, being a nurse is one of the hardest things I’ve ever chosen to do. It challenges me. It inspires me. It exhausts me. It empowers me. I love it.
It may sound clichéd, but when I’m tired and worn, I try to remember these things. And I try to gather the strength and bravery of that eight-year-old, and the happiness of that two-year-old.
And maybe next time, when someone asks, “How was your day?”, I’ll smile, and yawn, and say, “It was . . . indescribable.”
It makes me cry every time I read it…. partly because I know that even though it’s not easy caring for children and their families, our nurses did their jobs so well. No nurse on 4D was ever unkind to us and when I wasn’t able to be with Ava, they were there for her and filled in those gaps.
But it also makes me cry, because they knew and understood that last year at this time enough was really enough. And because they knew all that Ava had endured, they could truly understand the relief there was at finally being able to let Ava go so that she wouldn’t suffer anymore.
So for everything they did for Ava and our family they will forever be in our hearts and I’ll always have hugs for them whenever I see them.
God bless you our nurses!