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Daddy... I want to...
By Harold F. Hester
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Many of us owe much to nurses...
Dedication of nurses (RNs)…. reg•is•tered nurse (rĕj'ĭ-stərd) n.
(Abbr. RN, R.N.) A nurse who has graduated from an accredited school of nursing and has been registered and licensed to practice by a state authority.
Korea is known as “The Land of the Morning Calm.”
This morning as I stood in my back yard, coffee in hand, watching the Eastern sky turn from black to gray to misty grays to streaks of burnt orange to red back to orange to finally streaks of grays to blues I pictured myself back in the Far East. The cool morning was void of all sounds and as my coffee cooled the far shore tree line began to take shape against a clearing horizon. A huge Blue Heron flew past me at eye level; neck extended looking more pre-historic then modern day hungry and looking for breakfast.
For no apparent reason, I was thinking about Linda.
When your body needs mending or a part repaired, an SNU sometimes comes to mind. Survivability is mostly 100% but it all depends on your attitude and your nurse.
Recently an article on the Internet said of a newly opened medical unit, “The new 14-bed Skilled Nursing-Care Unit (SNU) provides post-hospital care and a full range of rehabilitative services for patients who are not yet able to care for themselves at home. The focus is to help patients regain their strength so that they can return to their own homes quickly and be self-sufficient.” Those are seemingly cold words that convey a message of need and where to find it and what is available. The message may be chilly but the nursing you receive is warm-hearted and professional.
If you have ever had the opportunity or necessity to be an SNU patient I am sure you are silently nodding your head remembering the experiences.
If not and you are still very young, healthy and have all your parts in working order, sit back with your older friends that have been there, and enjoy this ride.
Three short years ago I experienced chemotherapy, radiations, an array of experimental drugs, several surgeries and some fairly rough emotional times when I was looking at my own mortality. “You have cancer.” The words still rattle around in my subconscious during the wee hours of cold mornings as lights flash in heavy REM or lying awake looking at a dark ceiling trying to make sense of what my body was doing. This mortality-thing is not the kind of demise you have any control over like when facing an enemy in a World War, a Vietnam, Panama, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Watts’s district in LA or politicians in Washington DC but “Natures Mortality”. In a war zone there are certain things you can do to stay alive. Duck, cover, shoot first, have more ammo then the bad guys comes to mind. Nature is not that exact, pristine or predictable. Nature, like science has its own set of rules. ‘All living things will die’ comes to mind as does ‘you can’t fool mother nature’, but when you are young and indestructible bullets and shrapnel can be avoided but with each passing birthday Nature gets a better foot-hold on your body parts.
‘What, me worry?’ That kind of thing always happens ‘to the other guy’ so I never gave it serious thought until folks started calling me “Sir” but when my doctor used the word “hospice”, my blood turned icy cold.
But, death and dying is not what my mind is telling me this morning. It is telling me about life and the many people that help us keep the life we have, and even make it better; a wife/husband/friend to share a smile; your worries; and how best to enjoy broccoli; a baby(s) to love and rear and spends your life’s saving. Some children make our life a bit better, some not, but the fact is for better or worse and whether the car is running smoothly, the bank account is anemic or the garden needs weeding, we keep breathing and it’s all because of medicine and…:
“God bless um…”
Nurses come in all ages, sizes, shapes, sex, age groups, ethic backgrounds and personalities. I once had one tell me she was ‘in shape’… “Pear is a shape.”
When you have to spend time as an in-patient of any hospital you see nursing is not just waking you at 0400 to give you a sleeping pill or someone putting a few gallons of your blood in those little-bitty glass tubes or scheduling an appointment after decrypting a doctor’s scroll or garbled verbal instructions. Nursing is hard work and hustling from one blinking call-light to others and normally in a fast gait.
Laying in your uncomfortable rubber protected hospital bed, your drugs wearing off and your back-side exposed, you see; nursing is not a 9 to 5 job; is not a profession where you can function by rote; or nursing is many times not a safe in-door, air-conditioned profession.
My sister was a mother, homemaker and a nurse (RN) that specialized working the psychiatric patients and drug dependent. She died from an overdose of drugs at the age of 48 alone in a one bed-room Houston apartment and wasn’t missed for two weeks.
A cousin had just graduated nursing school and was into her second week carrying bed pans when she was strangled to death by a patient recovering from a simple gall-bladder procedure one early morning. It was learned later Mr. Gall bladder had been hallucinating from excess pain contributed by a two-week on-slaught of hic-cups.
My mother’s sister was a mother, homemaker and a surgical nurse. She was approaching retirement age when she tripped on artificial grass breaking her neck falling into a six-foot deep hole while attending her husband’s funeral.
Then there was my dad’s sister who was a mother, homemaker and nurse that specialized in Skilled Nursing Units. As of yesterday morning she is 93, spry and from what we hear from the household handyman, “….active”.
Of the 2,909,467 active nurses we have in just these Unites States, I’m sure there are close to 3 Million stories of love, hate, violence, compassion and sacrifice. This is but one of those stories.
One thing I do know about nurses is they do not go into the profession for the money or job security. If those were the only goals all you have to do is work for the U.S. Government, show up for work, sometimes, and that would put you into the $85k to $100k pay bracket and… it takes an act of congress to be fired.
As a race we Americans are self-centered, we can not see passed our incomes, our family, and our own mortality. I often thought I was one of those storied ugly-Americans, until I met nurse Linda.
Linda is your average American woman. B’s and C’s in high school, mostly 2.3 to 2.6 in college before switching to the School of Nursing and a 3.8 GPA.
During her third semester in college a reading assignment about nurse and fore-bearer Florence Nightingale was profound. Linda described Ms. Nightingale as her 'calling' of hearing the voice of God calling her to do his work. For Linda, she must have heard the same words as they became the lynch-pin that rattled around in her head ever time she saw posters or ads calling for or describing “Nursing”.
Linda may have inherited come of her nursing genes. Marie, Linda’s mother had a World War II recruiting poster in her attic that she would unroll sometimes and tell stories about her military service in France in field hospitals during the last years of the war in 1944-45 and occupied German two years after V-E Day. Marie had been a beautiful young lady, married a young medical captain shortly after the war when she was stationed at occupied Landstuhl. Marie had been one of only six WWII nurses to have been awarded the Bronze Star for Valor. Marie never talked about it to Linda but the blue military awards box that is home to the bright red, white and blue striped ribbon with attached golden star is nestled in the attic trunk under now yellowed and brittle rolled paper wall posters.
Sometimes after a few cocktails Marie would talk about nursing and ‘back then’ when RNs worn pristine white uniforms, white starched caps bobby-pined on the back of freshly combed and managed hair and always smiling. In the military a ‘rank’ or ‘pay-grade’ is shown as sleeve chevrons for the enlisted and bars, leafs, eagles or stars for officials. Nurse’s caps use to have black bands of ribbon on their caps with differently widths to show ‘rank’ or seniority. Multicolored and multi pin-ed smocks have taken the place of all-whites and the starched caps are next to WWII posters. Now the all visible stethoscope hangs on necks designating medical person.
Times have changed a bit as we now have PCs that can fit into your pocket, automobiles without fins and cell phones stuck in every ear incurring instant and constant communication. I can’t remember the last public pay phone I saw, but I will always remember Linda.
June 1985 Linda’s parent’s home in Houston was the reunion site for the WWII 352nd Field Hospital staff, and what a reunion it was. The 40th reunion’s rank and file showed signs of thinning as only 33 original war staff members show up but 214 “past patients” were front-N-center. The partying patients had lost limbs, sight, had suffered severe mental problems but the 352nd and it medical staff had kept them alive. Many are now productive politicians (now that is an oxymoron if there ever was one), professional people, family members and a few writers. Young Linda would be 16 come that October and this reunion would be remembered in her early college days. At sweet and innocent 16 Theories and Concepts of Nursing, Pharmacology, mental health, Pediatric, Clinical decision making and Pathophysiologic Process’s were the furthest thing from her mind.
Boys and pajama parties were the order of the day, but that was yesterday.
Today Linda and all the ‘Linda’s’ that care are professionals that have dedicated their lives to others and their well being. Linda is now sick and looking at her own mortality, but still works 12-14 days in a SNU. Less then 100 yards from her SNU duty-station is her treatment station were ever 21 days she reports for chemotherapy. On her way home after exhausting days she stops at a wig store before stopping at Wal-Mart and her favorite butcher shop for a deserved filet.
Tomorrow is another day, the same but different.
I have been Linda’s patient for the last few days and it is because of Linda, her constant smile and positive attitude I was released to go home - early.
You see, Linda is special. She is close to middle-aged, nice looking, a nurse and she is bald.
Chemotherapy kills white blood cells, ‘all’ hair follicles and hopefully the bad cancerous rogue cancer cells.
Linda has stomach cancer.
As I was walking out of the SNU last evening my five-year old grand-daughter looking at the stars and full moon said in the hospital parking lot, “Daddy… when I grow up I want to be a nurse just like Ms. Linda.”
There was a tear in my eye as my emotions squeezed my heart.
1. The highest level of preparation for an estimated 17.5 percent of RNs (510,209) is a diploma; for an estimated 33.7 percent (981,238) the highest preparation is an associate degree; for 34.2 percent (994,240) it is a baccalaureate degree; and for 13.0 percent (377,046) it is a master’s or doctoral degree.
2. 5.7% are male.
3. 81.8 percent of the RN are white or non-Hispanic
4. The actual average annual earnings of RNs employed full-time in 2006 were $57,784 which appears to be an increase from average earnings in 2000 ($46,782).
5. Nursing has high burnout and dropout rates. Nearly 20 percent of all licensed registered nurses have left active nursing. For nurses trying to combine working and raising a family, the widespread hospital practice of mandatory overtime imposes a particular burden.
6. America's hospitals are hurting for nurses—a fact of life, new studies warn, that may have deadly consequences for some of their patients. Nationwide, more than 126,000 hospital nursing positions are unfilled (one of every eight), placing patients at a higher risk
For further information on these wonderful people log into: http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/reports/rnpopulation/preliminaryfindings.htm
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|Reviewed by Chrissy McVay
|Wonderful dedication/story to nursing.