When I was a kid, my mom was a home health nurse. There were times when she had no choice but to take my brothers and me with her to visit a patient. Most of the time we stayed in the car and waited on her, but on occasion she would say a particular patient wouldn't mind if we came inside. I have vivid memories of those homes. We lived in a small mountain town, and my mom visited people who lived, literally, on the side of the mountain. I remember dirty trailers, scrawny dogs, dirty dishes, and bugs. But most of all, I remember the first time I watched my mom clean someone's tracheostomy. The time I saw her clean someone who had an "accident." The first time I saw her help someone out of a wheelchair and even when I helped her brush a lady's long hair. You might think this is why I'd like to be a nurse now, but in fact, these are the very reasons why I decided not to go into nursing in college. (In all fairness, the number of chemistry classes turned me off to the idea just as much!) Honestly, I said I would never be okay with cleaning up vomit and poop or touching infected pussy wounds. No thanks! What is that old cliche? Right, never say never.
Finding my calling wasn't so easy. Finding my calling meant I had to survive my son's death. As excruciating as losing Isaac was, it brought me here. I believe the reason I came to this decision and can see it so clearly now is due to my time spent with my counselor. Don't ask me how because it was a process. A long, long process. But when I started thinking that I'd like to do something else with my life, I knew rather quickly that nursing was calling. When I began looking at programs and classes, the pieces fit.
I've always respected nurses, and I've always spoken highly of them. I'm always proud to say that my mother's a nurse. The truth was that it took losing my son to realize what it meant to be a nurse. When I recounted the story with my counselor (in the way only a counselor can make you pull out details and thread them together one by one), one thing always stood out: the nurses. The NICU nurses. My labor and delivery nurse. The nurse who cried as I spoke of Isaac. My neighbor, who has been a NICU nurse for more than 20 years, came to the hospital when she was supposed to be on vacation simply because I asked that she be there to take out Isaac's breathing tube. She didn't have to be there, but she was. My L&D nurse came to my room the day after Isaac's birth and told me she couldn't sleep thinking about us and Isaac. She cried with us.
I have so many stories of those nurses who cared for Isaac. They mourned with us and made us feel as if our child, our situation, was just as difficult for them as it was for us. They were patient and sincere. These experiences completed the picture that began with my mother so many years ago. The part I couldn't grasp as a child, I can understand now. My mother was first and foremost caring for people. Her priority was always their well-being. Spending the most difficult time of my life with so many wonderful nurses made it clear. A nurse will clean up vomit. She will bathe smelly people and wipe poop. But that isn't what completes the nurse. The real nurse is there for you, for your mom, your brother, or your child when your emotions are overwhelming. When you're not even sure if you'll breath again, a nurse will show you how. A nurse can hold your hand and cry for you and give you strength you didn't know you had. What an honorable profession. What an amazing way to change someone's life.
In the midst of all my pain, this is how nursing chose me. I just didn't know it until now.