I got so self-conscious while growing up because my perfect smile was replaced by large, corn kernel-looking discolored teeth! Ah, I thought, I had to do something to reverse whatever curse was cast upon my teeth. I dreamed of becoming a dentist.
After many years, still holding on to my dream of earning a degree in dentistry, I motivated myself to survive high school so I can go to the city for college. Little did I know at that time, that my plan was very different from the one that I was made to fulfill.
That summer after high school graduation, when my 80-year old grandma arrived from abroad (where she lived for over 15 years with my aunt), was the turning point. She was frail and obviously need a great deal of nursing care. She had a number of diseases along with different complications like hypertension, dysarthria (related to a previous stroke), and obstructive sleep apnea. My mom, being the youngest among her siblings, was tasked to care for her. I saw how challenging her responsibilities were and I admired how graceful and systematic she performed each and every bed bath and diaper change knowing that she didn't even have any caregiving training at all! All was purely done as to how she has done it to us when we were little. With my gestures of trying to offer help, mom would say, "grandma needs you to hold her on the other side of the bed so she won't fall, and you are to share her happy memories of how you've been while she's away" thus, was my role: to keep grandma safe, happy, and alert. Never did I notice that as I admire my mom do her morning routines with grandma, I was being inspired to be like her when it will be my turn to take care of her in the future. Suddenly, I seemed to have forgotten how yellow my teeth are and how such a flaw made me feel about myself; I seemed to no longer care if my sister is prettier; nor even if I could still I dream of flashing a perfect white smile to the cutest guy in a campus. I just knew right then that no matter how I look, I got to be the best nurse my mom, grandma, and my family would ever have in their whole lives. (I even have had a silly thought that if I'm going to wear a white nurse's uniform, perhaps my face would glow under the light, and so my teeth would be whiter in the mirror). Come 1997, with the help of my supportive parents and very proud grandma, I took the road less taken (during the time when employment rate in the Philippines among qualified nurses was at the abyss).
How could I be in this course? Why did I enjoy attending the nursing101 class of miss t (for terrorist)? Perhaps, I thought, I was really born to become a nurse, it was just because I got so overwhelmed with frustrations about my imperfections and that I was so selfish not to notice life's clues. After deciding that I wanted to pursue nursing, I realized I was on the right path. My determination to love and finish nursing education peaked when I got to experience my first normal spontaneous delivery assist. I knew as soon as I hand-over that newborn to his teary-eyed father by the door that this is my calling.
As I pursued nursing, I discovered that all the learning in fundamentals would only have meaning as they are applied in practice. As I became a registered nurse, I discovered that those learning are meaningless if the heart is empty and if it is only the brain that dictates what I should do. As I became a staff nurse in an adult care section of a tertiary hospital, I discovered that every learning experience is a speck of sand that gets into an oyster that will soon become a lustrous sphere of pearl. Every encounter with different clients and their families are grains of sand, and will just remain as such if I won't be able to pick something good and worthwhile out of every encounter while doing what is expected of me.
Now, as I struggle through post-graduate study, I discovered that the great personalities behind the profession of nursing still speak of what they taught to our foremothers long before I become a nurse. They are not meant to be silenced under piles of nursing textbooks in college. As I use the nursing process, as I preserve the dignity of my profession, as I accept my limitations as a nurse while honoring the expertise of other allied health professionals, as I respect the dignity of my patients, as the thirst for education lingers in me, and as nursing becomes part of who I am, I believe I am doing my best to live by the teachings of these great theorists to whom I owe my pride as a nurse from. And even should mold and termites consume all the pages of their works in those books, their legacy lives on in each and every nurse who considers nursing as a selfless giving of oneself, a vocation.
Grandma died a year before I finished college, but I was able to apply what I learned from school and be of significant help to my mother especially in taking turns during weekends when grandma was slowly slipping from life to death. She died peacefully and without decubitus ulcers.
While I was preparing for hospital duty, already in my white clinical uniform, mom looked on in the mirror and said to me that she was no longer afraid to grow old and get weak because she has a daughter who will later be in-charge for her and dad. I got even more inspired to go on.
And as for my teeth, well, they remained discolored but I was able to take care of them that for over 20 years, I still have a complete set of teeth. I do not mind grinning with these yellow teeth for if I should have been a dentist, I wouldn't have realized how wonderful it is to become a nurse and I wouldn't be this privileged of touching and making a difference in the lives of my clients. Besides, in no time I can afford to have my teeth bleached (with state-of-the-art technology), it will just really take some time. I know my worth as a person, as a nurse, isn't in my smile but in the smiles of my ailing patients who are pleased that I have become a blessing for them.
This has been my personal journey and how I made it through.
This is my calling.