Thursday, May 3, 2012

To be or not to be . . . a nurse.

I decided to become a nurse in eighth grade.  I was inspired by the story of a refugee camp nurse that I read in a magazine while I waited in the eye doctor's office.  What an adventuresome career, and practical, too!  Pretty much an economy proof job, as there will always be sick people.  In the back of my mind niggled the idea of doing something more creative . . . but I didn't know what exactly, and those types of things (interior decorating, clothing design, and acting were at the top of my list) were just not practical.

So off to nursing school I went.  After a wonderfully fun four years I graduated and got to work.  And after a few years of paperwork, paperwork, a little patient care, bureaucracy, and more paperwork, I burnt out.  I kept plugging along as John was in grad school and we needed my income, but as soon as he graduated and Sophia arrived, I quit.  When she was sleeping thru the night I went back to work a night a week in a tiny ICU a couple miles down the road, but then quit again when Jude came along.  Now I have plans to go back sometime . . . in a few months . . . or this fall . . . sometime.

Now having learned the real side of nursing (the paperwork up to your eyeballs and more poop than either of my children have ever produced combined) I have wondered off and on if basing my career on being "practical" was the best thing to do.  Friends have told me they wished they had my skillset so they could contribute to their family income, but I've still wondered if it was best for me.

Enter Sophia.

Having the Snuggler go thru pyelonephritis (a kidney infection), be labeled "failure to thrive," and then diagnosed with severe asthma was the most stressful set of circumstances I have ever faced.  I know there are parents out there dealing with children who have far worse illnesses, like cancer or other life-threatening diseases, and I don't know how they do it.  As a nurse, I have the know how to mange her daily meds, decide when to start her on her "sick time" meds, and help her avoid situations that exacerbate her asthma.  And I have never been more grateful to be a nurse than when she is sick . . . having the extra knowledge then is worth any amount of burnout.


Last Friday's asthma exacerbation pharmacy pickup.

But being a nurse doesn't erase the fact that you are scared to death when your kid is wheezing and can't stop coughing to catch her breath in the middle of the night, or make you 100% sure when it is the right time to head to the ER, or help you stop second guessing your decisions.  There is a good reason that medical personnel are not supposed to take care of loved ones.  You are too emotionally invested to make unbiased decisions!

I still remember when a friend's sister was in my ICU, so so so very sick.  I came in one day and saw my name next to hers . . . she was to be my patient that day.  My only patient.  And I thought I could handle it, being pretty good at staying calm in a crisis.  Nope.  I have never been so scared while taking care of someone as I was that day.  She took a turn for the worse, and despite all of our best efforts I knew that she was going to die, and I was going to have to tell my friend.  I think I looked outwardly calm, but I'm pretty sure my heart rate didn't dip below 150 all day.  Thank God, she didn't die that day (and is in fact miraculously alive and thriving!), but I will never again take care of someone I know.

Except Sophia.


And that is a little different, of course, but some days it really does feel like I am back at work, managing a patient's medication schedule and trying to get some nutrition into her and getting her to the bathroom . . . the plus side is no paperwork!  Except her medication record I keep on the fridge, but that's just because I have no memory anymore.

Nowadays I am not so intimidated by her asthma exacerbations, unlike a year and a half ago when she was diagnosed.  Sophia herself sees her meds and inhalers as normal.  She insists on helping with her nebulizer treatments, squeezing the albuterol into the chamber, putting her mask on, turning on the machine, and then holding the mask in place just so.  And really, while she is on a daily maintenance drug and inhaler, most of the time we don't even think about her asthma.  It's just part of our routine now . . . but it is a routine that has me firmly settled on the side of being glad to be a nurse.


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You may be wondering where John fits into this picture . . . as he works four days a week I am obviously home with the kids more, so it is natural for me to make the call on most asthma management "stuff" . . . I'm the one at home doing it, and John is good with that.  He is supportive and does his share (more than!) when he is home, and doesn't mind that I have a routine that we follow.

Lately he has initiated a SUPER important contribution to our routine . . . when he heads to work he leaves me a cup of coffee with a note written in Sharpie on a Domino's (yes, we might eat their pizza too often) napkin.  My favorite, after being up with Sophia much of the night last Thursday, was "You need this."


1 comment:

swedisheik said...

The new pic on your blog - the kids have switched! Jude looks more like you, and Sophia is dead on John.

I am sometimes glad I'm a nurse outside of work, but I am hovering on the edge of burnout, too....

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