Many of us over the years have had terrible experiences with doctors, nurses and/or hospitals. I have too but I have also had some incredible experiences as well and I have to tell you, I am very thankful that I have also had some wonderful doctors and nurses in my corner.
I remember my first consultation with the surgeon after I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in December 2007. A nurse named Barb introduced herself before leading my husband and I back to a consultation room. The first thing I noticed about this room was that in addition to several comfortable chairs, it also had a loveseat and a coffee table with a box of Kleenex sitting on it. My husband and I sank into the loveseat and once seated, he reached for my hand and with my other hand, I reached for the box of tissues. I was going to need them.
Most of the time, when you go to the doctor due to illness, a treatment is prescribed and you simply follow it. At least you are supposed to follow it. Some of us do not follow directions very well. When it comes to cancer, things are a bit different. You are given a lot of information about your disease, your prognosis, different types of treatments and then you decide what you are going to do. When it comes to cancer, nothing is a sure thing, therefore it is important that you are the one to make the final decision in regards to what course of treatment you are going to take.
In theory, that might sound like a good idea but the reality is, you are usually ill-equipped to make such a decision, unless perhaps, you are a medical professional. The average person, myself included, is quickly overwhelmed by all of the information thrown at them and does not know if they are coming or going.
This nurse who escorted my husband and myself to the consultation room, smiled and looked at me with compassionate eyes. She then told me that she was my nurse navigator. I had never heard that term before but I did not need to ask Barb to explain what that was. She already was. She was my liason, my navigator who would guide me through the stormy waters of cancer. She would answer my questions, calm my fears, educate me, and let me cry on her shoulder when necessary. I remember one occasion when I had a melt-down in the car. My husband dialed Barb's private number, told her what was happening and put the phone up to my ear so she could talk to me and calm me down. Since we were in the area, she then instructed my husband to bring me in so she and I could talk some more face to face.
On the day I had surgery, I did not report to the same day surgery desk. I reported to Barb who personally prepped me for surgery. Then with Barb at my side, I was taken upstairs and admitted. She made sure everything was in order and that I would be taken care of. Barb was like a mother hen when it came to her "girls" and we loved her for it.
Then there is my oncology nurse, Lori. Her warm smile fills the room every time I see her. While I was on chemo, I could always call Lori when I freaked out about something. Later when I would get a strange ache or pain and when I had a cancer scare, Lori was always there to listen, answer my questions, give advice and even calm my fears. I only see her once a year nowadays, but we always chat awhile and she rejoices that I am still cancer-free AND survived a brain aneurysm.
I do not remember their names but there were several nurses who cared for me while I was in chemo. Being a chemo nurse is not easy. Many people cannot handle dealing with patients who very well may be dying. Nurses are supposed to bring aid and comfort, administering medications that make you feel better, not administer medication that can make you sick and can even be extremely toxic. What I remember about the chemo nurses was their tenderness and their incredible compassion. They gave me something that I craved. They treated me like I was normal and they understood my need to be touched by other human beings. Most chemo patients really do crave human touch, especially since we generally feel like and perhaps even look like a toxic waste dump.
I remember how they would wrap me up in warm blankets as you can become quite cold during chemo infusions. My infusions along with the labs I had to have before my oncologist could approve my treatment that day, could take most of the day. Though they were busy, the nurses took the time to chat with each patient, getting to know them.
One of my medications could not be administered via a drip. The chemo nurse had to stand behind me for over an hour and manually push it into my port. I am sure it was a very tedious job but they used that time to get to know me better as a person. We had some great discussions while I was getting "the red devil" pushed into me.
I recall my radiation nurses. I remember their tenderness as they would carefully examine me for radiation burns. Knowing that it is horrible to lie there in the room all alone, feeling like you are the prisoner in a bad science fiction movie, they would put me at ease before leaving the room and then talk to me at intervals during the treatment. Whew!
Then of course, I can't forget the nurses I had when I was in ICU for the second time after my brain aneurysm. Those poor nurses were not used to patients who would jump up out of bed and prowl about and were talking a mile a minute, demanding Coke Zeroes. What can I say? I had been silent for more than a week so I was making up for lost time. I pestered them to death but they bore it all with good grace. Though they were busy, they would pull up a chair and let me chatter away for awhile. They laughed at my jokes and we reached a compromise. I could roam around as much as I liked, provided I stayed in my own room.
The list goes on and on. There is my primary doctor who keeps a sharp eye on me, my oncologist calms my fears over and over again, my radiation oncologist, my radiologist, all people who do not merely see a patient, they see a human being and treat me accordingly.
Eight days after my brain aneurysm ruptured, I was wheeled down for a scan early in the morning. The orderly who took me down, did not speak to me and at that time, I really was not initiating speech either. He took me down a dimly-lit corridor in the basement, rang a bell, threw a clipboard on my stomach and left me there, alone. I remember my eyes suddenly filled with tears in that lonely place and I was glad of the cheerful face that soon came to my rescue.
A different orderly came to take me back. He leaned over me and grinned as he introduced himself. On the way back, he talked to me, even though he got very little response. He stopped to greet co-workers and introduced me to them. He made me feel like I was person as opposed to a sack of potatoes in the corner or a number.
I started out this blog by basically saying that I realize there are many people that have absolutely no business caring for the sick and the injured. I think it is horrible how going into health care is pushed as a way to get a half-way decent job. Like teaching, people in health care professions need to do it because their desire to help people outweighs their desire to earn money.
However, I have also met some incredible individuals who went into health care because they truly desired to help people and it shows. They work long hours, often with poor compensation but they have managed to maintain their heart as they care for the sick and the injured.
Image courtsey of LittleSister at flickr.com
You certainly had wonderful caring people throughout your scary ordeals, which from my experience of nurses in my many times in hospital is the norm and which one expects. My issues tend to be with the systems that hospitals have introduced along with the very real probability of picking up a hospital bug; which I have and therefore needed to be re admitted to cure the bug. Generally I try to avoid hospitals if I can.
K, your story reminds me of the palliative care nurses who came to our home to care for my grandparents when they were dying of cancer. We had set up a ward in the living room, so that they would not be stuck in hospital for any longer than absolutely necessary, because of a few let-downs from the caring profession on occasions when they stayed there. The nurses who came to our home brought love and laughter and dignity to two people who were dying, as well as lifting up the spirits of the rest of the family. I don't remember their faces, just the beauty of their kindness and how they seemed to put everyone at ease and in comfort ... so naturally, without any fuss.
Most hospital failings, in my opinion, come from short-staffing, bad procedures, and people being forced to work with inadequate resources and inadequate rest breaks. They themselves are hardly cared for - how can they care? I remember, immediately after having my first baby, seeing a young doctor walking the ward who looked so exhausted, miserable and sick compared with the new mothers. I felt awful for her, it was truly horrible to see. She needed to lie down in bed and have tea and toast more than anyone else in that room!
I am glad that you had a good experience with your nurses, and that you wrote this blog of gratitude for the medical professionals who untiringly, diligently care for those depending on them for help. And glad that our Heavenly Father sees all the unseen good they do every day for so many.
God bless - and thank you again
As terrible as my second hospital stay was, the first hospital was wonderful. The difference was found in not only the level of care but the compassion manifested by those providing the care. When the "care" was just a job, influenced by moods, prejudice and general bad attitudes; the care was rotten and the patient suffered. When the care was a mission and everything was directed toward helping in the healing process; the care was amazing and in my case, saved my life.
Some of the most caring and compassionate people work in oncology and hospice. It is a shame the same level of compassion is not found in all areas of medical treatment.