I was crazy to think that I could afford nurses AND teachers the love they deserve in my usual 1,000 word or less posts, so here’s an addendum to my “Appreciation” entry where I’ll focus the love on the nurses we’ve known.
Over the last 10 years of Ben’s therapy, I can honestly say that there was only one nurse I didn’t care for. She was old school. And she didn’t seem to like children. I found it odd that she was allowed to be on a floor that demanded long-term compassion. Fortunately for us, we only had to endure her negativity for a brief period of time because the majority of the nurses would FIGHT over who got to care for my fine young son. I’m not joking! Ben is such an easy going kid that it was never an issue to find an excellent caregiver.
I’ll never forget landing on the oncology unit back in 2004. Ben’s illness was supposed to be a hip infection, not cancer. People kept bombarding me with information regarding a five-syllable word that I’d never heard of, nor did I care to get to know. But it was evident that given the stage of his disease that we would eventually become quite intimate. Those first few days was a bizarre orientation of sorts. A binder filled with checklists. Staff explaining our new life. Specialists of all sorts poking and prodding. I was in a daze. I didn’t fully accept what we were in for until someone handed me a special parking pass for the garage. Only then did it sink in that we were going to be at the hospital… a lot.
As I started to find my “groove” in this hellish new world, I found that the nurses were more than just caregivers for my son, they became my family. When I would wake up crying in the middle of the night, they would take care of me. When I didn’t understand something, they would explain it to me. When I was scared about a scan, they would console me. When I needed to focus on getting Ben through something, they would take Madeline on a walk. Nursing went beyond my son. They weren’t just taking care of him, they were taking care of all of us. And what I loved the most? They always called me mom. I’m sure this was part of the plan, the patient’s name was on the door – so that was easy to remember – but the parents? It was more difficult to memorize all of the caregiver’s names too. But “mom” was all I needed. It reminded me what my role was. Mom. I’m Ben’s mom. There’s no one more important or more needed than mom. So, when the nurse would come in to take care of Ben, before they headed out into the hall to tend to another kiddo, they would always ask, “Do YOU need anything, Mom?” It often drug me out of the dark corner where I would sit worrying about what was coming next. Mom. I’m Mom. Pull it together, dipshit. You’re needed.
I didn’t know how to care for my son on my own. I needed these nurses to get me through. And eventually, I started watching what they did so I could at least be helpful. I knew how to do the stuff that normal parenting calls for, but changing the dressing on a catheter or giving a shot or finding a (tricky) way to administer medicine was all a gift given to me by extremely skilled nurses.
I remember being asked if there was anything I needed as the nurse started to leave the room. I turned from my usual chore of staring out the window to ask her “How do you do this every day?” She came over to sit next to me and said, “It’s simple. I love your son.” Knowing that my son wasn’t the only patient on the unit really touched me. She loved every single child on that floor. I couldn’t fathom watching these children suffer day after day. Some of them surviving. Many of them dying. How could one not get attached to every single child in such a job? One explained it to me extremely well. She simply stated, “I do get attached to every child. And if they pass away, I mourn. I get angry. I feel deeply. But then I find a place in my heart where they’ll always stay. I keep them with me always.”
I took that bit of advice to my own heart when we started losing our little friends. Love them. Appreciate them for the lessons they’ve given us. Then find a place in my heart where they’ll always stay.
One of the things that always floored me was that many of the nurses on our unit were expecting children of their own. How could they have a baby when they were surrounded by sick children every day? I think that would scare the crap out of me. When I asked one of the nurses if she was afraid, she said no. What she said next would impact me in a way that I still carry with me to this day. She said, “My concern is that I’ll have trouble loving my own child as much as I love your son.” I smiled at her through my teary eyes and told her that her concern would quickly dissipate the moment she held her own baby. Of course, I was right. But I’ve never forgotten her words as they touched me very deeply.
Now, I cannot mention all the nurses we’ve had here as there have been so many. But I want to thank each and every one of you who have ever had anything to do with my son. Thank you for holding my hand. Thank you for making me laugh when I thought I couldn’t. Thanks for encouraging me when I had no idea what I was doing. And a VERY BIG Thank You for caring for my son AND my daughter.
And for calling me Mom.