I am NOT a political person. And this is NOT about to be a political post. This is, however, a reply to a statement made by a politician. Rather than reply with my first thoughts, I have let myself stew for a couple of days. My mind has run the full gamet of my thoughts and I have come back to the fact that this woman must be incredibly lucky. Yup. She’d have to be. To have never once had a need for a nurse to care for her. But if in fact, she has only ever encountered the .001% of nurses that don’t care about their patients, then she is perhaps the most UNlucky person in the world. She’s one or the other. Because I can’t believe that someone who had encountered the 99.999% of nurses who are absolutely phenominal could ever make the kind of stupid and extremely callous and painful statements she has made. I have decided to mail her the following letter. It will go in the mail this week. (Again, keep in mind- I don’t DO politics, people.)
Dear Ms Walsh,
Hello. I’d like to introduce myself. I’m a mom of three from San Antonio, Texas. I’m a preschool teacher. I just wanted to send you a letter and say that right now I’m sure you’re receiving a ton of mail from all over the country. Probably a lot of craziness. Who knew the words you said could cause so much nationwide commotion, right? Well, I just wanted to encourage you. Lift you up a bit through all of the nastiness you may be hearing, by sharing a miracle with you.
I wanted to tell you my story. Well, it’s not really mine- it’s my daughter’s. It’s a pretty long one, but I’ll summarize somewhat. Our little Mirielle (“Elle”) was born last February, right on time and perfectly healthy. When she was 10 1/2 weeks old, she got RSV. She ended up in our Children’s Hospital here- CHOSA. She just kept struggling, and after a couple of weeks ended up with a staph infection from her feeding tube (through no fault of the hospital staff). Her lungs were super, super weak. When the highly trained staff went to intubate her, her lungs collapsed, and she “coded.” They were able to bring her back. She ended up needing six chest tubes, and the team of highly trained medical personnel determined that she needed to be placed on ECMO life support. (It’s a machine that basically acted as her lungs for her- her blood was pumped by her heart through tubes into the machine, where it was oxygenated, then pumped back into her tiny little body, circulated back to her heart, and then the process started all over again. Constantly. For eight and a half days.)
During that time, she had not one but TWO nurses by her side- CONSTANTLY. One was managing the computer for the pump, monitoring every number and never waivering from the screen- for a full twelve hour shift- and the other was managing Elle’s every personal need. And she had a lot. She was receiving a LOT of medications through various IVs and ports and there were many numbers to monitor on her screens, not to mention she needed diapers changed, and her eyes didn’t always stay closed because she was so heavily sedated, so she needed eye gels applied and her lips would get very dry so she needed cream on them, and lotion to keep her skin from cracking. Plus, she had to be rotated every couple of hours to keep her tiny body from getting bed sores. So they attended her every need. Constantly. And they sang to her. And they played her music and talked to her, and made beautiful artwork by painting her hands and feet- subtly telling us as parents that they realized fully that the bloated tiny little blob on their table wasn’t just some doll, but actually there really was a little girl trapped inside. Our little girl. Our precious baby.
They loved her and they cared for her. At the same time, next door, a little guy passed away. He never had any visitors that I had seen. He had his sweet nurses. When they weren’t doing their nine million tasks, one of them would be just sitting by his side, holding his hand. Or singing to him. And then he was gone. When I saw the gurney come to get him, I wept. Not for his parents, wherever they were. No, not for them, but rather, for his nurses. Because they loved him when he had noone. Just as they loved Elle, who had us, they loved him. He didn’t go alone. Because that’s what nurses do.
I would venture to say that if a nurse happens to have a spare minute, they might be found playing cards, sure- with a patient whose parents had to step out and that little girl just needed to not be alone when she woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep. Because even twelve year olds get scared. Or maybe they might be found playing cards with the elderly veteran down the hall whose wife passed away two years ago, and his kids can’t stay at night because they have kids of their own, and he just can’t sleep. Or maybe you might even find a nurse in a hospital room playing a quick round of go fish with a little boy whose mommy is sick and he’s scared and daddy just had to take a minute to himself. Because trust me, if you can find a nurse anywhere in this country playing cards, he or she probably hasn’t eaten lunch, or gone to the bathroom, because that game of cards is more important than his or her own personal needs.
You see, one day I happened to overhear a conversation that one of Elle’s nurses hadn’t had lunch the day before, and I realized that was because she had never left Elle’s side. So I made a mention to the Sister who was present and helping our family to please make sure that the sweet nurse had someone to cover her break so she could eat lunch that day. She was so concerned with my baby’s health that she didn’t even think to eat lunch. And that’s the NORM, Ms Walsh, not the exception. Nurses all over this country, every single day, they fight hard… and yes, they lose some. But then some, like Elle, get better! They go home and they become the reminder to those nurses of why they do what they do. They help patients on the brink of death. And they care!! They get so close emotionally to each and every single one.
Elle is a miracle story- she shouldn’t have made it. But she did!!! And she had so many nurses along the way who fought for her health. I encourage my older kids to pursue their interests, and I will with her as well, but I sure hope she grows up wanting to be a nurse. Because I don’t think there is any nobler career choice she could ever make, and what better way for her to pay back the life she’s been given than by helping others- by being a nurse.
So please, Ms Walsh, as you face backlash from all over the country, take this letter as the encouragement it is meant to be!!! Your statement was NOT entirely wrong. Nurses might play cards. You just were entirely wrong in your implication that they sit around and play cards with each other and place bets and have tons of free time. Because free time isn’t in their vocabulary. There aren’t enough nurses to properly care for everyone in most places. And they have so much to do they can’t possibly get it all done during their shift and frequently work way over just to get everything done. But be encouraged – if you or one of your loved ones is ever in the hospital, you don’t have to worry about the level of care you/they will receive! And if you want to bring a deck of cards, one of your nurses might just skip lunch to play a quick game with you.
Please look at the photos I’m including and smile. Know that nurses here in Texas did more than just their jobs, and that actually one of her nurses has since moved on and is now serving the citizens of your great state! That’s right- you’re blessed right now with one of the most fabulous people Texas could send to you! Treat her kindly, and with respect, I beg you. Here are some pictures from when Elle was in the hospital, and then here she is now- thanks to nurses.
May God bless you to never have to experience having a loved one being cared for our nation’s finest. But if you do face the inevitable, I pray you experience a change of heart as you see their dedication and their love. God Bless.
Mom of Mirielle