March 31, 2008 was the worst day of my life. My grandmother, who helped raise me, died. I will never forget that day. Every little detail is burned in my brain. What I wore, who was there, the smell in the room, I know it all. I hate that day.
The doctor wanted to see us in a small room just off the Intensive Care Unit where my grandmother was staying after her by-pass surgery. I knew walking down the hall what we were all about to hear. She was gone. My mother, sister and great-aunt crowded into the room.
“…we did what we could…”
“….she was very sick…”
“…I’m so sorry…”
They cried. Wailed. I didn’t. Maybe because I wasn’t surprised by the news. Maybe because I am not much of a crier, but I do come from a long line of dramatic women. The doctor led them to my grandmother’s bedside. I stayed behind, stone-faced, but I could see them in her room, hugging one another and crying openly. It was at that moment a nurse entered the tiny office, and I will never forget what she said to me, “I want you to know I am very sorry for the loss of your grandmother. I know you don’t want a hug, and that’s okay. I wont touch you. But I want you to know, if you need one, I am here for you, honey.”
It crushed me. I cry now thinking about it, though I didn’t then. This woman who had never met me, saw me. She saw my dynamic and understood how I deal with things, enough to know that a hug would make me feel worse, not better. She didn’t shame me for not displaying emotion because she knew that not showing what I was feeling is not the same as not feeling. My family still doesn’t understand that. This stranger saved me that day. She took the worst day of my life and made it better. She made me feel loved and supported. I will never, ever forget her. My only regret is not looking at her name tag, because I would love so much to thank her. She is my hero.
Yesterday I met another incredible nurse. I had to get blood drawn and I am absolutely terrified of needles. The last time I had to get a vaccine, I cried. I hate it and I have been putting off getting blood drawn for years, but without getting into details, my doctor made it very clear that I needed to have this done. After work I went to the lab where I was led straight into an area where they would take my blood. The nurse, Meghan, walked in and was about to get right to it. This was obviously a place where needles and blood-letting were run of the mill. I warned her that I was really nervous. My voice was shaking. She asked me when the last time I had blood drawn and I told her I was 17. She asked me to sit down, and my eyes filled with tears.
“I’m sorry, but I’m really scared”
I expected her to laugh, or to inwardly roll her eyes. I am after all a 32-year-old grown woman. I was dressed in my work clothes, a corporate woman, carrying a laptop.
“It’s okay. We are going to do this together, and promise it won’t be that bad. I hate needles too, but I promise, this will be okay”
And it was. I hid my eyes, but she walked me through everything in a soft calming voice, telling me I was doing great and that it was only going to be a few more seconds. It really was no big deal. I was terrified, but she was so understanding and calm that it helped calm me down. Really, I know that being afraid to have a few vials of blood drawn is ridiculous, but she never made me feel ridiculous and that is completely awesome.
Nursing has to be an incredibly difficult, taxing, disgusting, demanding job. I could never do it. To think that there are nurses in this world that manage to do all they have to and still have time to comfort those in need and indulge crazy women with needle phobias blows my mind. I don’t know how nurses do what they do, but I am so thankful they do.