In Our Voices-Rebekah Nesbitt
A four-year-old girl lies in the hospital bed, pigtails in place, still asleep from the anesthesia for her heart surgery. Her small-framed body lies there peacefully, breathing tube in place, with a fresh scar across her chest. Monitors beep and three nurses are at work settling her in after surgery. The doctors have come by, done their assessments and left, and the work is now left to the nurses. Each works on a separate task, knowing what needs to be accomplished, and all are aware, subconsciously, of the monitors as they work.
We monitor her vitals closely and get her into a clean bed, then straighten her pigtails, and let her parents come in to see her. They enter the room frightened, but relieved expressions soon emerge in their tired eyes. They go to separate sides of the bed, each holding a hand and speaking sweet words to their little girl. They look gratefully at the nurses who have been working—their thanks an unspoken expression on their faces. As the afternoon passes and the parents become more certain that, “yes, surgery has gone well”, and their daughter is doing fine, more family come in, bringing balloons and stuffed animals, and a pink princess blanket to fill her bed. The room livens up and the parents begin telling stories of what their little girl is like; she loves to play with her baby sister, she enjoys being read to, she has learned how to “cook” as she says, and had proudly served her mom Special K and orange juice for Mother’s Day recently, wearing a flowered apron. She likes to wear red cowboy boots everywhere. The stories continue to flow. The nurse smiles as she continues taking care of the patient, monitoring everything closely, post-operatively.
As the days pass and the little girl recovers more, the breathing tube and other lines and tubes are removed. For the first time, the nursing staff begin to see the girl about whom we have been hearing emerge. They are there—the red cowboy boots, the flowered apron, and all.
For all of the ups and downs that nurses endure, as we work in so many different capacities, this is why we do it—to be a part of the miracle of giving children a second chance or helping a mother make it to her son’s thirty-fifth birthday, or helping a baby born too early, learn how to feed and thrive. Though it can be sad and stressful at times, we are privileged to enter into so many lives, and to share compassion and love as we work to help patients and their families, heal and cope. It is a call to service, but one that comes with many rewards and joys, and one that can be filled with stories of little girls with aprons who will be able to continue living their four-year-old dreams.<