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Some people

I remember the first patient that I liked that died.  Really liked.  James was a 16 year old boy with Cystic Fibrosis.  He was surly, uncooperative, and mouthy.  He never wanted to take any medicines or do any therapy.  A lot of my co-workers would rather not have him as a patient, but whenever he was on the unit, I volunteered to take care of him.

One day, James said “you think I am sexy. . . that’s why you always want to have me.’  I replied ‘1. You’re jailbait, little boy. 2.  You’re scrawny, and you can’t even cough without getting short of breath.  Let’s do your breathing treatments and CPT.’  And he would let me.  Every.Single. Time.  For whatever reason, he responded to me not treating him like he was sick.  I always give him a choice–“do this… you know what your other options are–get intubated, put on a ventilator, and we can suck the goo out of your lungs all day long or do the CPT, take the treatments, and cough.”  He always chose to take the treatments.  He knew that if he ever went on the ventilator chances of coming off were not good.

One day, he asked me if it hurt… does being on the ventilator hurt?… does being intubated hurt?  My answer was truthful–whether it does or doesn’t, I can’t say because I’ve never been in that situation, but I do know you would be on pain meds and meds that will make you not remember.  He said OK then asked if I wanted to play chair basketball with him.  And we did.  Because that’s what you do in peds.

The next day was the Duke-UNC basketball game [James was a big Duke fan].  He asked me if I would watch it with him, and I said I would with the understanding that if I got paged, I’d have to go.  He said OK.

I got through first rounds, saving him for last, and we did his therapies while watching the game.  Duke won and after the game he told me he was ready to be intubated because it was just too much of a struggle to breathe.  I asked him if he was sure and he said he was.  I found the resident and told him what James had said.  He went to talk to him and James called his parents.  They came and it was decided that they he would be transferred to PICU and started on the ventilator later that night.

I stopped by to see him later that night.  He was still awake, had his blue, fuzzy Blue Devils blanket on his bed.  James said, “I know I can be a pain in the ass.  I know I’m probably not going to survive this, but thank you for not treating me like a kid.”  What do you say to that?  ‘You’re welcome’.  My pager went off and I was saved by the bell.  ‘I gotta run but you know you’re awesome, right?’  In typical teenage fashion he said ‘Yeah, I  know.  See you in my dreams.’  My last words to him was ‘Hush your mouth, jail-bait.’

James was right; he didn’t come off the ventilator, and died a few days later.  It sucked, but it’s life.  He knew he had a terminal disease.  He knew that most people with CF as severe as his didn’t survive much past 20.  He accepted life and a death with grace and dignity.  He may have been just a teenager, but James had a wise soul.

Nursing Lesson #1:  Some people.  The memory of some people stick with you forever.

Jul 6, 2015 - Life    No Comments

The makings of a nurse: part 1

A little introduction…

One of the nifty things about losing, then recovering snippets of a blog, is that I can look back on parts of my life with the voice-of-God narration.  ‘They’ say hindsight is 20/20 and I can definitely look back on this time with insight. And as I sit around patiently and wait for the school and the board of nursing to get their proverbial ducks in a row so that I can become an actual registered nurse instead of just a nursing school graduate, I thought now would be a good time to look back at how I got here.

I have always struggled with career direction.  I struggled with where to go for college (that decision was actually a non decision), what to major in (another non decision), what to do after college, and really, just about all adult life decisions.  I have a tremendous fear of commitment that manifests itself in me not being able to make a firm decision about much of anything.

I knew that when I took my career break back in 2010-2011, I wanted to change careers when I came back. But to what?  Ah…that is the question

So how’d I end up in nursing school anyway? Because let me tell you, becoming a RN was the last thing I had planned to do with my life.

November 2012– I was preparing for my one and only medical school interview.  I had had an interview for PA school in October, and found out I was wait listed.  [I violated every ‘rule’ about applying for graduate school possible including casting a wide net and knowing really why you want to go to this particular school.  I don’t want to move so I applied to PA school, medical school, an accelerated BSN school that also has NP program, and for good measure a Speech-Language Pathologist school.  I was accepted to 2 programs and wait listed to one and rejected to one.  I took the GRE and MCAT within the same week.  Yeah, that sucked].

The one question I was really having difficulty with was ‘Why do you want to be a physician?’ [or PA or SLP or NP for that matter] because my truthful answer probably isn’t the best answer.  The truthful answer is…’I love taking care of patients.  I love working in health care.  I don’t love my current job. I want to do something else…anything else…where I can use my brain cells so they don’t atrophy from non-use.’

I came up with something better for the actual interview and on December 5, 2012 I received my acceptance letter to medical school.  A week later, I received an acceptance to the AccelBSN program and at the end of February, I was notified that I was accepted off the wait-list for PA school.  And all the schools had the same deadline of Friday, March 15, 2013 [Beware of the Ides of March and all].  I had hoped to get into ONE school and be on my merry way.  This decision caused major stress in my world which I dealt with by working ALL. THE. TIME. [Really. 18 12-hour shifts in a row…one day off, then 17 more]  Around the time I was working every day, I caught fifths disease [most likely from a patient].  While fifths disease itself isn’t all that serious, for me, it led to some pretty severe complications.

I put in a deposit at the medical college and the PA school.  That extended my time to make a decision as it was refundable until May 15 and PA school started May 27.

On May 11, 2013, while at work dealing with a patient that required my hands to be physically on her for 3+ hours and after the ambulance picked her up, I very nearly passed out.  I’m not squeamish so I knew it wasn’t due to I was up to my elbows in my patient’s blood.

Long story made short, I had developed a blood disorder as a complication to the fifths disease.  It needed serious and immediate treatment.  I called up the PA school and explained my circumstances.  They gave me my deposit back, but in exchange I had to give up my space.  I also called up medical school to explain the circumstances and was granted a one year deferment.  During my medical treatment I had a lot of time to think.  I decided that I didn’t want to do critical care anymore.  Or at least not now.  While I love medicine, I really couldn’t see spending the next ten years studying medicine and doing a residency. [I really, really wanted to do Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, a 3+3 residency, but life is short and time is precious and all].

And so that is how I ended up in nursing school.  They had a seat.  I accepted. My health cooperated. Classes start in May.