Be A Nurse

I was a new graduate when I met the baby who would teach me. He was two days old, diagnosed with infantile ALL (leukemia he was born with). He would never go home.


Be A Nurse

Before I ever thought about going to nursing school, I was a paramedic. Paramedics are taught suppress their emotions at all costs. Emotions take time and time is a luxury when one has a maximum of 15 minutes on scene time to stabilize a patient and rush them to the hospital. The "golden hour" is the absolute gold standard of care. Emotions become easier and easier to suppress when there is no time to bond to the patient; there is always another...and another...and another. And never, ever enough time.

Just once, as a paramedic, I cried for a patient. I waited until the doctor called time of death and then cried for the 15 year old drowning victim that I couldn't save. My preceptor told me if he ever saw me cry again, I was finished in EMS.

Fast forward 10 years. I graduated from nursing school and found myself working on the oncology unit of a major children's hospital. Nursing is the very essence of caring. On our unit, nursing meant administering medications and holding hands. Hugging parents when their child's blood count is bad--and when it is good. Caring for a child with brain cancer night after night, knowing that their chance of survival is less than 5 percent--and holding that child while the parents take a much needed break. But, first and foremost I was a paramedic. I could perform the functions of a good nurse, but I hadn't yet learned to feel. I hadn't learned to be a nurse.

I was a new graduate when I met the baby who would teach me. He was two days old, diagnosed with infantile ALL (leukemia he was born with). He would never go home.

For seven months we cared for him. The unit adopted him. On Halloween we dressed him in his pumpkin costume. He learned to smile when we came into his room. He tried to roll over. He gained weight and grew. But still we could not get him into remission. On Christmas we dressed him in his Santa suit. He was chubby and able to sit up and grin when we came in the room. More often than not a nurse would be holding him at the desk, or pulling him around the unit in his cart. He learned to babble and wave.

He got sicker and was intubated and sent to the PICU. His parents wanted us to do everything for him, so we went to the PICU to give him his chemotherapy. Still we couldn't get him into remission.

I completed my preceptorship and became independent with patients of my own. The more experienced nurses took care of him, but I visited him every day I worked. I became attached.

Just after Christmas, his parents decided to take him off of life support. They bundled him up in blankets and took him up to our unit to wait for him to die. He was gone before they got off of the elevator, but they sat in the palliative care suite on our unit for hours while we went in to say good-bye, to give his parents a hug and to cry. To cry for a baby whose entire life was needles and medicine, vomiting and fevers, and still he learned to smile.

His funeral was on a Saturday. I couldn't go because I had to work. I had to be a nurse.

1 Article   4 Posts

Share this post

SarahLovesNovember, BSN, RN

1 Article; 106 Posts

Specializes in Still a medic at heart but ICU, M/S, SVU. Has 6 years experience.

There are so many amazing cases that have touched us all. That baby sounded beautiful.