A Time to Laugh, a Time to Cry!
I didn’t cry when his breathing stopped and I was the only one in the room. I didn’t leave him alone. I didn’t cry when she desperately clutched my hand as they got ready to intubate her. I was her rock. I didn’t cry when my fellow nurse wept out of exhaustion during a 15 minutes break I insisted that she took. She had tested COVID positive and had been cleared to work. I was her comfort. I didn’t cry when his eyes swam with tears when I gently spooned a small ice chip through his dry cracked lips. I was his family. I didn’t cry when my coworker wept about how much she missed her boyfriend who was only 58 and has crossed over. I was her sounding board.
I remained calm and reassuring while my heart broke into a million pieces inside me.
I gave comfort, teased a smile out of a reluctant grumpy patient, sang Amazing Grace holding the silent 85-year-old lady’s hands as she mouthed the words along and got the recipe for chicken masala from my 75-year-old patient who had been a renounced cook. Exhorting patients to drink hot tea with lime, encouraging them to take baby steps to strengthen their weak legs and getting a promised twirl from my patient who could now stand without being short of breath every second. Worried as my patient coughed all over me as I tied her shoelaces so she would not trip and fall, afraid that I would infect my 14-year-old teen with asthma, missing my husband’s hugs and reassuring his 80-year-old worried parents in India that we are perfectly safe! This is my life on the front line as a Registered Nurse at Montefiore hospital in NYC.
I find myself grateful. Grateful for my expertise as an ER nurse while assessing my crashing patient and telling the doctor that we need to increase the rate of the levophed. My patient is only 25. I am grateful that I am able to put my iPhone to another patient’s ear so he can hear his sister’s voice one last time and tell her that he loves her. I am grateful that my coworker helps me clean the 600lb patient as we talk to him about his best friend and his twin brother. I am grateful that I can advocate for a patient whose heart rate is 126 and is clearly in distress even though her saturation is fine—-for the moment. I am grateful that I can alert the primary nurse that her patient’s glucose fingerstick was 55 and he needed Dextrose50 now! I am grateful that I was able to tell the primary nurse that the last set of vitals I did on the discharged patient showed that she was unsafe to go home and that she could not complete a sentence. I am grateful and laugh when I see the absurd advertisement for “Clorox tablets”. I am grateful when my 94-year-old neighbor waves at me through her window and when I see all the parked cars on my street as everyone’s home quarantined. I am grateful when the nerdy MacDonald worker whispers a shy thank you at the drive thru counter as I go to pick up a free lunch box. I have a lot to be grateful for.
Today was a perfect day! As I walked down my street enjoying the spring flowers and warm sunlight, I wept. It was good to be alive and I will live and dream on for many who have gone so suddenly. Today in the safety of my home, I wept again for all of us. Tomorrow I will be back at work in scrubs ready to use my brains and heart to help the next patient in need!