When I was younger, I never entertained the thought of being a nurse. The thought of seeing all that blood made me sick to my stomach. When I was younger, I would often pass out when I got my vaccinations or
bloodwork. In junior high, I passed out on the floor when the health teacher talked about eye surgery. I had a very weak stomach for anything that involved the health field. I thought perhaps I would be a lawyer or a teacher.
I still had a very big respect for nurses in my youth. It seemed that they had healing powers. I also thought that they must be very wise to know how to take care of sick people. It had never occurred to me that this would be my destination.
In 1997, I became pregnant. I had two children from a previous marriage, so this was not a new experience for me. What was new, however, was the horrible sickness I was experiencing. It soon became very obvious to me that this was not a normal pregnancy. I was unable to eat anything without vomiting, I was shaky, and I felt fatigue worse than I could ever imagine. I was losing weight. I knew something was not right. I found the cause when my doctor hospitalized me for hyperemesis. My sonogram confirmed that I was carrying triplets. From that point on , my life would never be the same.
I was frequently hospitalized during my pregnancy, and dealt with many nurses. I did not have much of a medical background, but I could definitely tell differences in my nurses and my care. Some nurses were patient and took a great deal of time explaing things to me. Others had one foot out the door, and acted as if my questions were a major inconvenience. I would spend the majority of my pregnancy hospitalized, leaving me feeling helpless. My husband and two children were at home. When I was home, I was on an intravenous drip to keep me hydrated. I had nurses coming to my house frequently. Some were monitoring my IV, others were tring to find something that I could eat, teaching me relaxation techniques, and assessing me. As I became more and more sick, the doctor’s discussed performing selective reduction to try and save me. This was definitely not an option for me. I remember spending long hours talking over this with a nurse. She was patient and kind, and allowed me the opportunity to vent my fears and frustrations.
My pregnancy took a turn when my labor could not be stopped at 23 weeks. I became septic and developed pulmonary edema. I felt as though I was drowning. I was anxious, restless, and scared. My worst nightmare was a nurse who forced the non-rebreather on my face and became very abrupt with me. She did not explain or address my fears. In my fit of anxiety, I kept removing the mask. She just angrily told me to keep it on. My anxiety level only increased.
My nightmare got worse as I lost two of my girls, Hanna and Amanda. My survivor, Jenna, was fighting for her life. She was very tiny and frail. When she was born she was intubated immediately. My husband and I marveled that these nurses were starting Ivs on our daughter. She was 1 pound, six ounces. Her veins were the size of dental floss. The nurses were our only link to any hope for our daughter. We barraged them with questions and looked to them for guidance. We really had no medical background, but we quickly learned. They taught us about apnea, bradycardia, necrotized bowel, and hydrocephalous. When we were home, we would call them and ask about these episodes. Although we really could not do anything ourselves to change the situation, it gave us a form of control. We needed some of that as parents to keep our sanity.
Among all these nurses, my husband and I marveled over a nurse named Beth. She was patient and taught us how to care for our daughter. She gave us autonomy. I remember thinking she was amazing. She put in many, many hours with our daughter, and still smiled. She helped our journey become a little more tolerable.
When Jenna did come home, we had more obstacles. She was hooked to an apnea monitor that would frequently alarm. She was hospitalized often. As I cared for my daughter, I became obsessed with knowing everything I could to help her. I felt that if we were not going to be her advocate, no one would. It gave me a sense of control. I was always reading and asking questions. I thought that if I knew as much as I could possibly know, I would know the right questions to ask. I would know how to make informed decisions. I began to do critical thinking as I helped her overcome emergency situations. I began working as a team member in her care with healthcare providers. I was in fact, becoming a nurse.
After Jenna came home, I remember several times that I needed to exercise critical thinking. One time in particular involved driving her to a Dr. appointment in Syracuse. As I was driving down the thruway, her apnea monitor sounded. I looked in the rear view mirror, and her skin color was cyanotic. I was alone with her, and frightened out of my mind. Something in me snapped, and I stepped out of my role as a parent. The teaching the nurses had done with my husband and I came back into my head. I quickly began the steps to CPR. Fortunately, Jenna’s color returned quickly, and she bagan to cry. After feeling the immediate relief, I began to think to myself. I thought, I can do this! I began looking into nursing schools, and eventually applied to St. Elizabeth’s College of Nursing. I felt it was my calling.
What I Have Become
Initially, my goal was to become a neonatal nurse. I thought that perhaps this could justify why so many horrible things had befallen us. Perhaps, the purpose was to educate me to help others in the same situation. Sadly, that was not to be. While in nursing school, I was put in an awkward position while doing a labor and delivery rotation. A nurse who had been in the field for many years handed me a stillborn baby. I buckled to my knees and began to sob uncontrollably. It brought many painful memories rushing back to me. It was just too much. I made the decision that I would pursue another avenue of nursing.
I found I was very drawn to the field of palliative care. In my daughter’s experience, I exercised both caring and a strong need to be her advocate. This was also the case in the world of palliative care. While both the family members and the patient were scared and searching for answers, in many cases the doctors could not fill that void. Just as I had turned to the nurses vs. the doctors, I found my patients doing the same. Many times the doctors would give horrible news, and leave the room. The nurse is there to explain, comfort, and teach. I began working in palliative care at a nursing home, and then began working in oncology for Faxton-St. Lukes. I still remain there today. In truth, a new life had changed my life.