A small cot was placed next to her bed, so I could sleep beside her. In the middle of the night, my mother's small voice called for me to get the nurses (no call button then), the foul smell invaded the room and it hit me hard enough to wake me out of my stupor, I walked down the hall and shyly called the nurses.
As my mother wailed and cried in pain the nurses worked quickly cleaning the mess that would mercilessly come out of my mom's body. I sat in my little cot, not knowing what to do, I decided shortly after to go back to sleep with the confidence that the nurses would take care of my mom. This scene would repeat itself for what it seemed 2 or 3 times more that night, with me always falling asleep with the image of the nurses surrounding my mom. I vaguely remember the nurses commenting on the pointlessness of me being there, I don't really remember how many days we were there either. All I know is that my mom got better and nursing was the last thing I ever wanted to do.
Flash forward 16 years; there I was lying on the hospital bed having my first child, 11 hours of labor and my baby refused to descend. Terrified of a C-section the only person keeping my family and me from losing all hope of vaginal delivery was Sandy.
I am sure I wasn't her only patient that morning, but I felt like I was. She kept a close eye on my baby and I and her kind and warm demeanor compensated for the OBGYN's cold manner. My mom's face was full of anguish as well as my dad's, my husband feeling powerless to do anything for me. But there was Sandy giving me confidence, I saw concern in her face yet she seemed more in control than anyone else and that gave me peace in the middle of the chaos. I asked her if she had any children, she admitted to having 4, which made me feel even more at ease, unlike my doctor, she actually knew what I was going through, how I was feeling in that moment. She successfully convinced the doctor to give me more time to labor, thanks to this and the help of my husband and the medical team I was able to deliver a 9Lbs 8 oz baby girl who we named Isabella.
I don't remember being so in awe of someone, I have never felt so vulnerable and safe at the same time and it was mostly due to Sandy's care. I left the hospital wishing I could be like Sandy someday and be able to give people the gift of compassion.
The dream of being a nurse lingered on for a few years. My daughter Isabella had grown to be a beautiful and energetic 3-year-old, who out of the blue started throwing up uncontrollably, she had not urinated for about 12 hours when we decided to rush to the urgent care. Little did we know that for the following 12 hours the only one who would eat would be our six-month-old son Daniel who I was nursing at the time. After spending all morning in the urgent care, 4 hours in the E.R waiting area and 2 more in the E.R a resident told us Isabella needed to be catherized to rule out a UTI, we reluctantly agreed, after all, she still had not urinated after having gotten 500 cc saline that morning.
A nurse and two aides came into the room to hold my daughter down, I leaned over her holding her chest and arms, whispering -it's going to be O.K, over and over again, our tears rolled down together as she fought and screamed, they inserted the catheter and took the sample. My daughter sat on her bed crying and shaking trying to make sense of what happened to her. Unable to console her, I ran to the nurse and asked for Motrin or something, anything to make my baby feel better. I must have seemed like desperate and overprotective mom, but the nurse did give her the Motrin, Isabella felt better and so did I. They sent us home with a prescription and instructions to come back if she continued to vomit. My husband and I agreed we would do everything in our power to keep her home.
Hungry and exhausted I realized I could never be a nurse I could not put a catheter in a child, draw his/her blood, I just would not be able to do it.
Fortunately, Isabella quickly forgot about that day. Today after many tears, screams, diapers and the execution of a lot of painful but necessary procedures on my children here I am 33 years old suffering from emotional amnesia and contemplating nursing again. Thinking I am insane for wanting to put myself through something like that. I have read book after book, story after story, blog post after blog post, riveted and disturbed, moved to tears and scared to death by what nurses and nursing students do every day. Yet the persistence of this desire is inexplicable to me and to anyone that has ever known me. Delusions of a desperate housewife? Calling? I don't know.
I know that as a daughter I could not understand or value the work that nurses do, as a patient I felt blessed beyond measure, as a mother I could not deal with the reality of what it implies, as a woman my heart is drawn to it, even as my mind keeps telling me, I'm not kind enough, smart enough or strong enough to witness other people's pain without falling apart. I know there is nothing I can do now or in nursing school to be like Sandy. I can strive for it, in the same way, I strive to be a better wife and mother.
Because what she had was not something she learned from a book or a class, it was something deeper harder to define, something that comes from experience, from life, from a heart that is unafraid of pain yet does not dismiss it. That is the kind of heart I want, even if it's only for one day that is why I think I want to be a nurse. Despite my fear, despite my weakness, despite the pain that is yet to come.