He takes time to explain so many foreign medical terms to you and your husband, and then he explains them again and again and again because you just don’t understand. He becomes instant family because he’s a friend of a friend of yours, a touch of the familiar in such an unfamiliar place. He checks in on your daughter whenever he gets a short break from his job because he loves seeing her sweet smile. Before his shift starts, he also comes to hold her and help feed her.
She takes an interest in your entire family and remembers everyone‘s names. She chats with your boys and makes them laugh because she knows it’s hard for them to spend another weekend at this hospital with their ailing sister. She brings you a Mass schedule, a map of the area, a list of weekend activities for the family. She does the pickle dance for your daughter and the bacon dance with your son. She talks college football with your husband, and she takes all of your gentle kidding because she knows it’s all in good fun. She prays over your baby and for you and your family because she knows that it’s been incredibly tough. She teaches your boys the important life skill of making fart sounds with just a straw and an armpit. She hugs you because it’s obvious that you NEED a hug, and she accepts a hug from you on a rough day because she understands that sometimes human touch is the best medicine.
They buy your little girl a sweet Halloween outfit because when they see it, they think of her and just know she’ll be the most adorable lady bug in town. They bring in clothes, both brand new and hand-me-down, because every little girl should be stylishly dressed and pretty in pink. They get pit bull fierce while advocating for your child’s care, and they have your baby’s best interests at heart. They comfort you when you’re scared out of your mind, and they joke around with you when you‘re about to crack from the tension.
They come to the hospital in in the middle of the night on their day off because they’ve heard the horrible, heartbreaking news. After taking care of your baby for months and months, they can’t help but cry over her with you, anointing her head with their tears and kissing her one last time. They mourn with you because your sweet daughter stole their hearts in such a short time. They make a mold of your daughter’s hand and of her foot because they know you’ll need to see them and touch them again one day.
He helps you bathe your sweet girl for the last agonizing time. He makes sure you have a lock of her hair, and then he doesn’t leave your daughter’s side when she’s wheeled away for the final time.
She texts you just to see how you’re doing, to make sure you know she’s there if you need her, to say she’s still praying for you. She helps organize meals for your family during your time of need. They leave messages on your FB wall and write emails to say they’re thinking of you. So many of them send cards and private messages. They visit you on their days off. They attend your baby’s wake and funeral Mass, and they come from one hour away, two hours away, five states away to be there.
And though life goes on and there are others to care for, they take time to hang your daughter’s picture in the nurses’ lounge because they miss her sweet smile and will never forget her.
They are nurses.
They don’t just have a job; they have a vocation, a calling that many of us are unwilling or unable to answer. Being a nurse isn’t just what they do. It is who they are. They don’t leave their work at the office at the end of the day because so many of them carry their work home in their hearts. They mourn the gut-wrenching losses as deeply as they celebrate the heartwarming triumphs. They work so hard every day for people they’ve just met, for people who probably don‘t know how hard the work really is, for people they may only see for one 12-hour shift. They further their educations because they know that there’s more for them to learn. They want to know all there is to know so that they’ll be better able to help their patients.
My daughter lived for eight months and one week. She spent a total of five months and three weeks of her life in the PICU, so that meant that I spent five months and three weeks in the PICU. The nurses we encountered during that time were without a doubt the kindest, most compassionate, most professional people I have ever met. They were genuine and caring - truly the salt of the earth - and they became my friends and my family. I knew that if I left for the night to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, my sweet baby girl was in the best hands - hands that loved her, cared for her and did their best for her. Because of those nurses, my boys will know that, after G-o-d, m-o-m and d-a-d, some of the most important letters in the alphabet are RN.
I can’t speak for all nurses when I say this - heck, I can’t speak for any nurses because I’m not one - but I truly believe that to the best nurses out there, all patients are heart patients, no matter what ails them. The best nurses, like the ones who cared for my daughter, don’t just mend the booboos you can see or treat the illnesses you can diagnose. The best nurses truly tend to the hearts and souls of all of their patients and their patients’ families, and they do so with their own open hearts and with their own caring and compassionate souls. At least, that’s what they did for me, and I know that that’s what they did for my daughter.
The healing hands and caring hearts of nurses truly do the work of God here on earth. May God watch over all nurses everywhere, and may He bless them always.
St. Ella, pray for us!