Tuesday, January 13, 2015

All I Ask For...is to be Wrong

Many of you have heard my nursing war stories over the years; I hope that the one thing you took away from those is how much I really love being a nurse--even when I say I don't. There are many things I love about it. I love that it's an honorable profession that may require a degree to fulfill, but often healing comes in the most fundamental of personality traits (i.e.: humor, holding a hand, putting off that bathroom break to get that warm blanket). I love that I worked really hard to get where I am, and I'm surrounded by a group of professionals who "get" me. I love that when I leave work, I will most likely go out knowing more than I did when I came in--because I learned it from my patient. 

However, there are also things I don't love. 

Sometimes I wish I didn't have all that knowledge. Sometimes, I wish I hadn't seen some of the things I saw. Sometimes, I wish I didn't have intuition. Because when you see those same things occurring in someone you love, it brings up some ugly feelings. But sometimes, you forget that in addition to being a nurse, you're human and actually allowed to feel those feelings. 

In case you're wondering where all this is coming from, I got a call from my mom last Sunday morning around 11:30. What's the big deal about that? I'll tell you: a) she almost never calls me, and b) at 11:30 am on Sunday she's undoubtedly at church. Sure enough, my mom casually told me she had been in the emergency room the night before. "Okay, big deal," I thought to myself. She went on to tell me her symptoms of severe abdominal pain and a list of other things she'd probably shoot me for sharing. 

Of course, I went into "nurse mode". What did the bloodwork say? Did they do a CT scan? What about an ultrasound? Did they say anything was remarkable? What about LFTs, pancreatic enzymes? I forgot for a second that my mom may not have been accustomed to those questions. Regardless, she basically said "they said they didn't find anything." Honestly, I don't know if I believe her. 

Let me back up a minute and share an ungodly fear I've had for the last few months. My mom recently retired back in October after working ridiculously hard for 40+ years. She called me one day and told me she was retiring in two weeks. You hear these stories about people who retire and something happens that they don't have the chance to enjoy it. My wish for her has been that she really get to enjoy this time. She recently married (okay, it was almost 3 years ago, but I'm told that when you're her age, that's still pretty recent). She and I are finally close. All I've wanted is time for all of us to enjoy that. Now I get this phone call. While it may seem illogical for my mind to immediately go to a dark place, don't forget--as I often do--that I'm human. 

You also have to understand that this has also been the pattern in my family. I grew up with four people in my house: my grandpa, my granny, my mom and me. When my grandpa got sick, it was so sudden between diagnosis (lung cancer) and death (eight weeks) that I'm still getting over the shock (16 years later--half my life). When my granny was diagnosed with cancer, she had been on such a slow decline that it had never occurred to me she was also going to be diagnosed with lung cancer. Diagnosis to death time? Eight weeks. My grandpa died before I finished high school. My granny died before I could finish nursing school. I'm hoping to start grad school in the fall. 

Hopefully, this gives you some insight as to why I might be "freaking out." In the words of Johnny Cash, "the needle tears a hole, that old familiar sting, try to kill it all away, but I remember everything." 

I used to make jokes that the reason I didn't go to "doctor school" was so I could just say, "I don't know, I'm not a doctor. Go ask your doctor." To my doctor friends: I apologize. I know that isn't fair and I'm sorry. However, many other people take the same approach: that doctors--who are also human--know everything. 

What do you do if they don't? 

You pray. You thank God for the people you love and ask Him to guide the hands and minds of those who care for them. Honestly, I'll be begging for my will to be done (even though it may not be). In my case, it's been "Please do not do this to me again", even though I'm fully aware of how it works. And you do everything you can to bat those negative thoughts away. But when the thoughts won't completely go away, you try to remember not to beat yourself up about it, because remember, you're human, too. And sometimes, you hurt. 

And sometimes you're wrong. In this case, that's the one thing I want more than anything else.