Compiling this has been a while in coming and is long overdue, but here we go. As probably most people who know me are aware, my mum (or mom in US lingo) had a very serious accident just before Christmas (2010). After we understood the situation it worked out that I could go back to Australia for three weeks right after New Year.
My life was enriched just weeks before the accident when I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend with an amazing bunch of people loosely known as “Outlaw Preachers”. To feel so connected to 30-40 people, none of whom I had ever met face to face before is an amazing testament to their lives. Perhaps I will have more to say on that another day. In any event, when I am away from home, I tend not to broadcast it widely on Face Book and the like. I’m not paranoid about it and things get posted which is fine, but I just don’t say a lot that way. Other than some rushed direct communication then with various friends before I left for Australia, many were unaware of the whole situation.
There is a very effective bush telegraph however amongst the Outlaw Preachers (whose number is far greater than the 30-40 I met) so along with the ourpouring from my long time friends who were aware of the situation, the love and support from these folk was something I cherished during my weeks in Australia. One of the Outlaws, Rebekah is a nurse, and I was moved by something she posted on my wall and my experiences spending hours at the hospital. So I penned a note and distributed it mostly to Outlaw friends via Face Book message rather than a more public broadcast.
While no doubt there are other nurses I have known who are also very special people, my mind sometimes forgets these details but I will single out longtime friends Kristen and Nancy whom we met in our sojourn in New Mexico, and Debbie whose whole extended family were like a second family to me when I first moved to Colorado so many years ago. This then is a somewhat tidied up version of that message written a day or so after my mum came out of ICU, with a few of the amazingly touching responses tied in.
I wanted simply to share how impressed I had been by the nursing and other care giving staff in the hospital. I’m not real good at knowing how which type of Christian prays particularly – I’ve wandered through many parts of Christianity and have shied away from identifying with anything smacking of denominationalism (wow that is long, is it even a word?). But it occurs to me I’ve heard much prayer asking for God to guide the doctors, which often occurs to me in more cynical moments as “God I’m really not sure You are up to the healing I just asked for, but at least lend a hand would You”.
Apologies if that is sacrilegious or offends, sometimes I try not to be, but you just have to get used to me. Sometimes the nurses get tacked on, but mostly it’s the doctors. So don’t get me wrong, the doctors are vitally important, but I’ve probably seen / spoken to a doctor less than 5% of the now many hours I’ve spent in hospital, and while I haven’t spent a lot of time in hospitals recently, that would be consistent when visiting friends and such in for one reason or another.
But the nurses and other care givers, they are there a lot, and they have to take care of all sorts of things, some apparently trivial, many are routine, some to me at least anything but pleasant. It would appear from some of Bek’s posts / tweets that they see and hear some pretty amazing things as well – requests to “slap the shit out of me” must fit into some special category.
I am convinced of a few things then. God does heal. Sometimes it is out and out miraculous, and often it is through the care of the medical profession. The doctors (mum now seeing in addition to “regular” doctors a bevy of physios, speech pathologists and occupational therapists) have an amazing ability to step into the breach and do incredible things to save a life, reverse the damage of some injury or other and set a person on a course for healing.
But the nurses and other care givers I suspect have the major role in bring a person back to wholeness, especially in an extended hospital stay. I don’t know how many hours I and others in my family have spent at mums bedside these past weeks. It’s a lot for sure and this too is important for her healing, but it pales I am certain compared to the hours put in by the nurses, especially in the ICU where they seemed to have one per patient at times, no worse than one per two patients, but that may just have been when things were “stable” to cover breaks and the like. The nurses love the patients back to wholeness. I suppose there is a whole spectrum of emotion attached to the notion of loving the patient, but I will stand by that statement.
They love them with their constant attention. No detail or request it appears is not worth their efforts.
They love them by genuinely caring for their well being.
They love them in the tenderness with which they attend to them.
They love them by doing their best to give them dignity, no matter what their circumstance.
They love them with tough love, firmly but insistent about doing the things that promote their recovery, or not doing the things that hinder it.
They love them by talking to them about a million unimportant things.
They love them by coming by and gushing over the beautiful roses that came from a garden only recently under their care, their beautiful grandchildren and the like.
They love them in countless other ways I have not begun to think of or realize
To Bek and all the other nurses and caregivers in hospitals here and around the world, a huge and heartfelt thank you.
I was tempted to try and weave excerpts from some of the responses mostly in the form of additional tributes to nurses into my original note, but I’m just not that creative, and it would probably take away from both, so a selection follow:
Sometimes I get really discouraged in my job, and you don't know how much it means to me to hear this.
I can attest to every one of those "love statements". When I was recovering from quadruple bypass surgery, it was the nurses that made all the difference in the world in my recovery. I have a "heart pillow" (used for rehab) that I had them all sign and I will treasure it as long as I live. Rebekah: you and those in your profession are the TRUE "pastors". Bless you all.
In the time I have spent in hospitals and nursing homes, the nurses have been such a source of genuine love in the middle of very difficult situations, as well. I'm sorry for the way that gets taken for granted or ignored as hurting people vent anger at them directly.
Although not a nurse by trade, your words illuminate so beautifully the particularities of this valued (& oft under-noticed) profession. Thank you, Bek & others, for what you do!
And, Peter, your words further highlight how the simplest things can have such profound impact on others' lives... May we each, in various aspects of the caring professions, minister well in the small & large moments given to us.
I have had 4 surgeries in my life...and the nurses kept me sane and saw to my recovery.
It was a tough as nails and loving as all get out nurse who dealt with me in 2006 when I had my heart attack and helped me grow up and also get out of my funk or tasting mortality..which shook me up.
It was a nurse who firmly protected my wife and kicked an a-hole of a doctor out of the delivery room the day my daughter was born and got a more professional doctor to be in the delivery room who would respect patient rights.
It was a nurse who was my partner in crime in keeping my daughter calm when she had to have 7 staples in her head after a gym class injury.
In each of these there is a longer story...but your story is too lovely and heart wrenching...I just wanted to add to the appreciation and love and admiration for the heroes.
And so to wrap up the story…
My mum continues to recover. Shortly after I returned from Australia she was released from hospital to a rehab facility where she has continued to recover. As I understand it (and I don’t know all the exact details) she will soon be released from rehab to home. She had an overnight “home visit” last weekend as an interim step in that direction.
My mum will be turning 70 later this year, so that now being relatively young, in some ways it is hard to accept the possibility that she will never fully recover. But that while hard, it is a very real possibility. It will probably be hardest for my dad, for he has always been both driven and tormented by knowing just how things needed to be, and yet, they may never again be as he had expected. I am more my mother’s son in that regard. As I shared with a friend this morning, “There is a God, and I am not Him”. Perhaps the “serenity prayer” sums that up better for others. That does not mean I do not cry out to God, but I do know that one day, all things will be restored – whether in this life or the next is up to Him.