A Tribute to Good Nurses Everywhere

Dec 23, 2019


The other day, Aaron said, "Remember when I was in the hospital?" He said it almost like it was a distant memory. It's amazing how quickly such a big experience can fade away into the normalcy of daily life.

The truth is, I actually think about our time in the hospital almost every day--or rather, I think about the people in the hospital. If it's Tuesday, I know Kathy is probably there. If it's Friday night, then Mariah. If it's Sunday, Dave.

We're still at the hospital a lot--at least twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays, but most of our favorite nurses work in the inpatient unit, and we no longer have an easy pass to those hallways. I often wish that I'll bump into one of them on the stairs or in the lobby, just so I can say hello and ask them how they're doing.

To them, I realize that Aaron was just another patient (and, from what I could gather, a pretty easy one at that). Their days (or nights) followed a very typical routine. The patients in the rooms changed, but the tasks stayed the same.

But to us, these nurses meant everything. They were in and out of Aaron's room all day--switching out medications, checking vitals, drawing labs. We learned about their families and interests. They told us funny stories. They helped break up the monotony of those long days.

We would anticipate the changing of the guard every morning and night, wondering if we would get a favorite nurse or if we would be meeting someone new. During the four weeks we were there, I can honestly say we didn't dislike any of our nurses. Each one was capable and professional. Aside from a couple of very rare exceptions, it always felt like Aaron was in good hands.

But we definitely had a few that we liked best, and those are the ones I think about frequently. They were the ones I felt like we could have been friends with in real life, even without an IV pole to help break the ice. But when we left the hospital, our goodbyes carried a note of finality. We knew the only way to see them again would be to be admitted, and we certainly didn't want that.

So even though they'll never see this post, a round of thank yous is still in order:

To Ashlyn, who, on our first day at the hospital, noticed my silent tears and asked if we wanted her to pull the curtain for some privacy. I said no, it was fine, I just couldn't seem to quell my emotions, and she looked right at me with a look of sincere compassion and said, "It's okay. It's hard." She has remained our favorite nurse in the clinic, and she is one of the only ones on this list that we still get to see on a regular basis. (She also taught me how to pop a heparin flush--a little trick that cannot be overemphasized.)


To Chelsea, who took Aaron to get a chest x-ray but got more than she bargained for when his knees suddenly buckled and he fainted onto the floor. She was Aaron's tech several times over the course of his hospital stay, and she was always so cheerful and friendly. But the best thing was when she walked into his room, saw the photos of him and his brothers on the wall, and said, "Oh, my heart."


To Tracie, Aaron's nurse on the first day of his long, extended stay. I asked her a question when she came in for the first time, and she made sure to explain every single thing after that. She brought ice for Aaron with his first dose of chemo. She flew into quick action when he had a bad reaction to the ATG. And she said that adolescent boys were usually her least favorite patients, but she'd never had one like Aaron. She couldn't believe he was for real. (I'll love her forever for that.) (And because we had her right at the beginning, I wasn't in my picture-taking rhythm yet, so I don't have one with her.)

To Mariah, who helped with an elaborate setup to accommodate a huge board game. This involved removing the foot board from the bed and bringing in another table. She persevered with a solution even after Mike gave up. She was a stealthy night nurse, entering the room on tiptoe and showing the utmost consideration for Aaron's sleep. She told me she liked working nights because she had "lots of time to do research." She also called and yelled at the pharmacy when they were late with Aaron's tacro.


To Callie, the only child life specialist Aaron liked--a true BYU fan through and through. She helped us decorate his room, asked him silly questions, had him out of bed playing basketball, and threw an awesome going-away party. It was unusual for Aaron to express any sort of fondness for anyone, but he was quick to tell people about Callie and how she was the best child life specialist ever. He always lit up when she came into his room.


To Rai, Aaron's nurse on transplant day. The day before, she sat down beside me and went over every single medication on Aaron's long list, explaining why it was being given, what it was for, and how often he was getting it. She also ate a piece of pie with the rest of our family to celebrate Aaron's transplant while Aaron snoozed away, oblivious to the world.


To Megan, a night nurse we only had one time, but it happened to be on Aaron's hardest night in the hospital. I wasn't there, but Mike said she was so kind to him, even as he was wailing inconsolably. She came back several nights later, even though she wasn't assigned to Aaron, to cheer him on when he shaved his head.

To Kathy, who charmed me from the beginning with her Boston accent (I may have covertly recorded her talking, just so I could listen to it again). She had worked at Primary's for over 25 years and was there for the inception of the bone marrow transplant program. She was a wealth of knowledge, and I consulted her about things even on days when she wasn't our nurse. She was always very interested in whatever Aaron was doing, cheered him on when he was playing hospital trivia or bingo, and congratulated him on every calorie he ate. She also told the best stories. Oh, and did I mention that she played roller derby, traveled all over the world, and was also a knitter???


To Dave, who had the heart of a teacher. He explained every cell count and metabolic number--printing out labs, pointing out trends, and circling important numbers. He used data to relieve my fear and anxiety. He taught me how to do a dressing and clave change. He also didn't get offended when my kids were puzzled (but mesmerized) by a "boy nurse."


To Emily, Mike's favorite night nurse: practical, efficient, and nice. Oh, and she provided the clippers (and moral support) when Aaron's hair was falling out and it was time to shave it off.


To Amanda, our very favorite tech, who was just weeks away from graduating from nursing school and being hired as a nurse at Primary's. When I told Mike that she was almost a nurse, he was not one bit surprised. She handled all of her tasks with so much confidence and skill but never seemed like she was above the most menial tasks. She is going to be the best nurse.


To Allison, our nurse on our last two days at the hospital. I still remember the text Mike sent me on the morning she was assigned to us: "You are going to like our nurse today." And I did. She was very thorough in all of the discharge instructions, coached me through another dressing and clave change,  and made sure we were well-prepared to go home. I think we had pretty similar personalities and actually could have been friends in real life.


To Brooke, who has come to our home nearly every week in the last two-and-a-half months. Because, in spite of all the training I had from Dave and Allison on caring for Aaron's central line, I  still feel more at ease when a nurse does it. It's pretty amazing that a nurse will just come to your home. Before this happened, I never knew that such services existed. (It's really too bad that they won't let the home health nurses draw labs too--Brooke told me today that they can for every other patient except for bone marrow transplant kids.)


Although I have mentioned specific people in this post (and felt a little emotional seeing all of these pictures in one place), it is really meant to be a tribute to good nurses (and other medical professionals) everywhere. My gratitude knows no bounds.

4 comments:

  1. This is such a sweet post! As the wife of a nurse, your post went straight to my heart! Being a nurse can be a thankless job for days on end. Nurses are usually there because at heart they are passionate about what they do and they genuinely care about their patients, but the job is stressful and no matter what happens, you take it home with you. My husband has a box where he's kept every note a patient or their family has left for him, having someone recognize your care means the world. I encourage everyone to take the time to leave a quick note of thanks for their providers. Merry Christmas to your family!

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    1. I am so glad you commented because this brought me a lot of comfort. Somehow hearing about your husband's experience made me feel like maybe we won't be forgotten and that maybe we meant something to them like they meant something to us!

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  2. Nurses are the heart of a hospital, and I'm so glad (but not surprised) that you got so many great ones.

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  3. That was such a wonderful tribute to the BMT nurses, I hope some of them have a chance to read your kind words! I still think of some patients I had 25 years ago (when I worked with Kathy) and wonder how they are doing now that they are adults- probably married and have children of their own.
    We used to say that half of our time was caring for the parents because of their high stress/anxiety level. Little children are unaware of the gravity of the situation, however for parents it's their child's last chance of survival. Parents share a very intimate/spiritual experience with us and I think that's why we become so close. I can attest that there are angels looking over those patients. I can't tell you how many times I felt impressed to go check on a child's IV or respiratory status, esp. on night shift when the patient was unattended-alone behind those thick doors. I have had 3 or 4 mothers of previous patients recognize me years later and come and give me a big hug, esp. in the temple! The Lord is looking over all of us!! Love you!

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