Every once in awhile something happens and my world shifts. Sometime it’s big, like having a baby, a missions trip. Other times small, a blog post an encounter. Whatever it is I come out the other side of it a different person. Suddenly things that seemed to matter don’t. It’s almost as if each day is spent going through the list of things in my life demanding attention and reevaluating them. I feel like I see the world differently.
My world shifted this week. A patient of mine almost died. It’s hard to believe in 7yrs of nursing this is the first time this has happened to me. I’m sure there have been patients who were close, but I never knew it, whether it be after my shift or because of my inexperience. This one I knew. She bled out in front of me. I watched her lips go white as her consciousness faded. The expression “life blood” I know what it means now. I’ve see it leave a person. I had death in the room with me and fought it with every fibre.
I learned things about myself. That I can be calm and start IV’s in really high pressured situations. That I can pray with all my heart while I stand outside pharmacy waiting for med. “God save her please.” I didn’t want her last thought on this earth to be me taking her new baby out of her arms as she slipped from us. I learned that I can’t “leave work at work.” I have been haunted daily by the experience. I’ve learned I don’t know how to talk about how I feel as well as I can write it. I’ve learned that I know more than I though and that there is so much I don’t know. I now know what it feels like to really crash after an adrenalin rush. I’ve never been so close to vomiting in the parking lot.
I’ve been shocked by the conflicting desire to go back to work because “wow, I can do this.” and daily searching other career options because I can’t stomach the thought of going back. I’ve learned that baby tigers tumbling around under their mother’s close supervision can be worship and therapy. That pumpkin spice lattes can be self care and that’s ok.
I’ve realized that nurses often can’t just “talk about it”. There is confidentiality and a big huge “too much” factor. Too much blood. Too close to home. Too much reality. Too much to stomach. This is when I appreciate my nurse friends. The ones I can be in near tears with in line for the penguin exhibit. The ones who talk even after a long night shift. The ones who listen and share the load. The fear. It dulls with time but every once in awhile I”m reminded that daily I hold life in my hands and where there is life, death lurks not far behind. I’ve held death too. It’s too much. This time though death didn’t win. Not completely, but the fear is there.
I ‘ve doubted my stomach for Labour and Delivery which invokes my deepest fear. The one where I don’t actually have what it takes to be a midwife. In true mother fashion I shove the emotions and create beautifully crafted lunches for first days of kindergarten. I pretend I have something left to do the homeschool part of our blended kindergarten program. I create fiction to work through the reality. Who knew writing fiction was so therapeutic? Then I take a moment and sit. I listen to good music and I write because I can’t keep it inside me anymore. There is relief in the sharing, freeing the emotions from the dark recesses of my mind. They seem less intimidating somehow in the light of admittance.
Deep Breath. Music. Dinner. A glass of wine. Maybe I will make it back, but I won’t be the same person or the same nurse.