Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nurses

Last post:                                      My Story:                                         Next One:

You see it all the time on those medical shows on TV. 

You see a doctor, who could probably earn millions modelling on the side, running through hallways and corridors, hanging IV drips, getting patients food, finding time to sit down and talk patients through all their fears and concerns - basically doing anything and everything to help the patients through all of their troubles. 

I guess that's what I'd expected would happen when I was told I had cancer.

My first week in hospital, however, would turn out to be a shock to my system. Even on the day I was diagnosed, I saw my doctors for no more than thirty minutes. 30 minutes! And that would turn out to be the longest single session I'd see a doctor in a day, outside of emergencies... well... ever. 

In the end, it was the nurses who did the REAL work. I'd been brought up, maybe through the media, maybe through cultural perceptions - probably through ignorance - thinking that a nurse was just an over-hyped house-maid. 

As it turned out, it was a nurse who placed my first canula in emergency. A nurse who took my bloods every morning. A nurse who'd be in charge of injecting chemotherapy through my central line - a long plastic tube that pumps medicines from the veins in your neck to your heart. Hell, it was a nurse who put that in too!  

If it wasn't for their badges and uniforms, I wouldn't have known the difference between them and the doctors. 
In fact, I would've thought that they were the doctors. 

Because the thing I found most astounding was that despite all their work on top of these vital responsibilites, despite taking care of, at times, half a ward-full of critical patients... despite their unreasonable shifts and rosters, they still managed to find the time to do all those I thought doctors would be doing.

Yeah, it was a doctor first gave me the bad news. Yeah, he was the one who prescribed all my medications. Yeah, he was the one whose knowledge and experience I could trust.

But it was a nurse who sat down and hugged me with my parents that day after I'd been told I had leukemia. A nurse who told me that my journey would be hard, but reminded me that I could survive nonetheless. A nurse who would sit down and just chat when I just couldn't find it in me to sleep for the pain and worry. 

And no matter how many cards we gave them in thanks, no matter how many chocolates or donuts we brought in - the true testament to their generous, giving souls, was the fact that they ALWAYS shared them with all the staff on duty. 


Personally, for me, they've always been the balm that eased the sore of treatment. The girls and guys who'd go beyond their strict professional duty and hold my hand in emergencies, keep me calm during procedures and just keep me cheerful through their words and their, at times, crazy antics.
And if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be the man I am today.


I remember the day I came back in for my second round of chemotherapy. My heart was racing, pulse rising from my usual 60 beats per minute to well over double that, and it stayed that way for most of the day. 

I was back in that damn place, stuck in the tiny confines of that room for what would end up being fifty-six consecutive, bed-ridden days. And the crazy thing was, I didn't even realise I was in trouble. I hadn't felt apprehensive or anxious about all this... I'd unconsciously bottled it all up. 

But then, as I walked around the corridors and glimpsed the door of my last room, I saw this. 


They'd known that I was a fishing tragic and that that was exactly what I'd be doing in my 2 week break. No matter how tiring, risky and stupid.

And, just realising that the next few weeks of pain and torture would be eased by these people, these amazing souls who made their job a profession dropped my heart rate back down to normal. 


They're angels, all of them. The humblest, most devoted, most under-appreciated, yet most vital aspect of hospital life. And in my eyes, they're the lynchpin of our medical system.

So I hope after reading this, that next time a nurse tells you that you'll have to wait another half-hour in emergency, you'll understand it's probably because there's somebody who's going through haemolytic shock due to blood loss just behind that ED door. Next time a nurse insists that you leave a friend or family members bedside, after initially getting upset, you'll see that it's because if they didn't, other patients' rest may be in jeopardy. Next time you're about to berate a nurse for getting the bloods done a little late that morning, it's probably because they had six other patients to medicate before they'd even gotten the chance to pull bloods out of a line.

And I hope that you'll forgive them. If not for their compassion, dedication or graciousness, for the fact that you'd expect the same of them if you were the one on that bed.


Don't worry - I know there are many roles in healthcare that do just as amazing work - social workers, dieticians and the hospitality to give a few examples. I'll be doing them justice in later posts, don't worry about that. 
As for doctors, I do believe they have to up their game in helping the people they care for beyond just their physical condition. Read more about that here
https://www.facebook.com/musingsofamedstudentpatient <-- If you or a loved one needs help or if you enjoy my blogs or if you're interested in medicine, like this page on facebook =]

12 comments:

  1. Always make me smile. I've found in clinical that nurses are often a source of great wisdom, and tends to be very generous with their knowledge. Some of my most productive and useful hospital time has been spent in the company of nurses.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wasn't even a medical student when my nurses started teaching me what to look for when cannulating a vein, what to do in the case of an emergency, how best to do subcut injetions and things like that. Now that I am, they keep on spreading this knowledge.
    They're pretty awesome and probably people you can turn to if a hospital reg wants something done and you have no idea how to do that (or where the equipment is). How they find time to be close to a patient along with all the work they do is beyond me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow. I think I might save this to reread after I've had a rough shift and need a reminder of why I do what I do as a nurse. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I printed this out and gave it to all my nurses in all the wards I'd been in and they still keep it stuck up on their notice board. They stick it to the doctors too (cause I mean, honestly, to all patients, YOU guys are the real doctors =P ).
      Everyone doing what you do is amazing.
      Thank YOU dude =] Keep being awesome!

      Delete
  4. 'A nurse who'd be in charge of injecting chemotherapy through my central line - a long plastic tube that pumps medicines from the veins in your neck to your heart. Hell, it was a nurse who put that in too!'

    Did I misread the above or are you saying that a nurse put in your CVC? O.O

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah he did actually!
      He works in the ICU primarily, where I guess many catheters have to be put in on short notice, and he lectures around the world, educating nurses and doctors to do what he does, at the same quality as he does, with often less resources than many. He's better than any doctor in our region I think.

      Many nurses study further, especially in different fields, like management, business and even finance than we doctors do; that's why often they're well represented in higher hospital administration roles I believe.

      A nurse at my hospital, Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, actually established, expanded and manages the clinical trial facility at our hospital. He set up a fund, funded by him, fellow nurses and doctors (without government help) and it's now self-sustaining and bringing back profit actually. He's helping me get insights into site/sponsor relationships and how clinical trial sites operate on the ground for my book - he's a genius.
      Yet he still managed to take some time to wish me well and share a joke as I was getting a lumbar puncture to rule out relapse today (he does this with many long term/currently suffering patients). The reason for their suspecting relapse I talk about here btw (or in the latest blog post) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEAQ6HjuF5s - but I mean that level of care and competence I see in a few doctors. But none I know also manage a whole clinical trial facility on their own in their spare time...

      Never underestimate nurses/hospital support staff or even junior doctors. Many are truly awesome, but somehow, most nurses manage to be great human beings too.

      Delete
    2. Are you a doctor/med student btw? Just curious =P
      If you are - even if you're not - you may be interested in checking this out - why, and how, I think doctors, and anyone in any profession really, should care more .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7TZe87LLfY

      Delete
  5. Hi Nikhil, we'd like to share this on our Nurse Uncut blog. http://www.nurseuncut.com.au/
    Can you contact us at nurseuncut@nswnma.asn.au?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey there! Happy for you to do that. An email has been sent!

      Delete
  6. Hi Nikhil,

    I've already forwarded this to many of my nursing friends.

    Your story is inspiring, I am an oncology/haem nurse myself.

    Your story especially struck me because it is similar (except the outcome) to a patient we had the honour of caring for. He was also diagnosed with AML at a young age and he had some treatment and a short period of being in remission before relapsing again. He had the works - chemo, transplants, surgeries, multiple blood/platelet transfusions, febrile neutropenic episodes, ICU admissions etc. He spent his 21st birthday with us so us nurses decorated his room as a surprise for when he came in for the days treatment/bloods/IV medication. His mum had cooked all this food to feed each shift of nurses. He was so thrilled because he had spent his last birthday in ICU so he was pretty excited ...What kinda 21 year old thinks like that! That was just the type of person he was.

    He also got granted a 'make a wish' which unfortunately the was too unwell to attend the VIP trip to Melbourne with his mates to stay in a apartment with a private pool and the works! So to make up for it us nurses got a wheelchair which we made into a 'plane' with wings and took him into the garden where we had set up a paddle pool (he of course pointed out he would make sure he wouldn't get his central line wet so we wouldn't have to do the dressing!), a piñata to help release some anger and we had set up the lecture room as a private 'movie theatre' got his favourite food, movies and invited his mates and family and he stayed there for hours!

    In the two years I cared for him he rarely complained and if he did it was about the fact he couldn't get KFC or drive his new BMW he had brought, which he promised to take all the nurses for a ride in. He was always positive and lit up the room, it was a joy and honour to be around him and his family.

    Unfortunately, he passed away around Christmas last year and he fought until the very end and had a smile on his face. It obviously had a huge effect on the nursing staff as he was a 'frequent flyer' for two years and everyone that met him loved him! He would usually 'break in' the new interns because if anyone knew his condition it was him so he would be quizzing them about his condition and would always stand up for the nurses if a doctor was giving us a hard time and don't even think about talking in medical lingo in front of him because he spoke the language!

    I was honoured enough to be asked by his mum to make a eulogy at his funeral on behalf of the nurses and reflect on a side many people didn't get to see which was his positive attitude, humour and strength in the darkest moments. We still have a picture of him on the wall on our ward and talk about him often.

    I am only 25 but to watch someone do what he did with his perspective and at his age was truly life changing. And I think I speak on behalf of all nurses when I say meeting people like you and him and everyone in between is why we do what we do, we get to see the raw human spirit and am amazed everyday.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and this article, I think nurses are pretty great too. If anyone is going to make a wonderful doctor it will be you. Good luck with everything you do. I will be printing this article out and putting it up in the tea room so on the days that we work unpaided overtime, don't get our tea breaks, are feeling burnt out and deflated, coping some attitude by some doctors it will be you and your article that will help pick ourselves up and go out and continue doing the worlds greatest job.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. You, Nikhil are the angel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Harriet... First off I just want to say that this comment made me cry. Not just for that poor other man out there who didn't make it, but also for your touching words about how my words can help others and finally, the amazing person YOU are - beyond that of the awesomeness of being a nurse - but one who goes even beyond that and gives patients like me, and him and I'm sure many others, something to smile about in their worst times.

      I'm humbled by how you guys manage to, despite all your workloads, despite all the crap you often put up with, from others in the hospital to your insultingly low pay sometimes, to just assholes in general, make people feel as at home and special as they can. It's not just you guys and gals in your ward - it happens all the time. I just turned 22, and was a little down about spending it in hospital... and this is what my nurses did for me: https://www.facebook.com/nikhil.autar/posts/10204487963154214
      This is how they sparkled up the ward for the poor souls stuck inside during the Christmas season: http://nikhilthegrizzlybear.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/christmas-in-hospital-its-not-great-but.html

      This care, this loving spirit, this pure expression of humanity is present throughout the profession. And you telling me that I've in some way made you guys at some point happy... that's just humbling beyond words. This is one of the most touchign responses I've had on my blog or from my patients or from anyone... ever...

      Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for that.

      Your being you - you being awesome and helping people and going that extra mile - it'll help YOU guys going forward too. Cause when you feel like what you're doing is futile... as doctors and nurses and anyone in the healthcare profession often do after seeing hundreds and hundreds of people go through and not improve, get worse, and often, die; sometimes too early... then those moments when you made someone's life, or day that much brighter will make you realise that you DO make a difference. No matter how bleak everything may seem. You DO - remember that. Here's a video I made that'll remind you of that if it ever happens to you someday https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7TZe87LLfY

      With his loss... I can't begin to imagine how you must have felt. I've gone through losses similar to this. One of a close friend of mine who I met through this blog - a patient just like me - my age, a similar condition getting the same treatment, who died, suddenly... and I was just in shock and went into clinical depression for a while after that
      But after a while of this... after talking about it with dad, and taking a step back and thinking about it... I realised that first of all... I shouldn't blame myself for his loss. There was nothing I could do to change what happened, and in truth, my actions and words and being there made the last of his days happy. This may be something you face at some point in your career.

      But I also realised that I should have thought about what he would have wanetd for me. And in the end - that was for me to be happy. To move on and live life to the fullest. And finally, I learned that in the end - he still lived on - through us. Through how he's changed the world, and the lives of others around him. And that helped me get through that.

      You may face loss in your career similar to this at some point... and if ever it begins to overwhelm you.. please remember what I wrote in this post about my friend Paul. In a profession like yours and mine... knowing this is necessary. http://nikhilthegrizzlybear.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/dealing-with-loss-survivors-guilt.html

      Please keep being you Harriet. You're awesome =] And if you ever wanan chat - my email is there - my Facebook is www.facebook.com/musingsofamedstudentpatient - I'm here for ya - and any patients of yours too if they want someone to talk to who's been through something similar to them.

      Delete
    2. Harriet... First off I just want to say that this comment made me cry. Not just for that poor other boy out there who didn't make it, but also for your touching words about how my words can help others. And also for how amazing a person YOU are - beyond that of the awesomeness of being a nurse - you're one who goes even beyond and gives patients like me, and him and I'm sure many others, something to smile about in their worst times.

      I'm humbled by how you guys manage to, despite all your workloads, despite all the crap you often put up with (from others in the hospital to your insultingly low pay sometimes, to just assholes in general) make people feel as at home and special as they can. It's not just you guys and gals in your ward - it happens all the time. I just turned 22, and was a little down about spending it in hospital... and this is what my nurses did for me: https://www.facebook.com/nikhil.autar/posts/10204487963154214
      This is how they sparkled up the ward for the poor souls stuck inside during the Christmas season: http://nikhilthegrizzlybear.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/christmas-in-hospital-its-not-great-but.html

      This care, this loving spirit, this pure expression of humanity is present throughout the profession. And you telling me that I've in some way made you guys at some point happy... that's just humbling beyond words. This is one of the most touchign responses I've had on my blog or from my patients or from anyone... ever...

      Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for that.

      Your being you - you being awesome and helping people and going that extra mile - it'll help YOU guys going forward too. Cause when you feel like what you're doing is futile... as doctors and nurses and anyone in the healthcare profession often do after seeing hundreds and hundreds of people go through and not improve, get worse, and often, die; sometimes too early... then those moments when you made someone's life, or day that much brighter will make you realise that you DO make a difference. No matter how bleak everything may seem. You DO - remember that. Here's a video I made that'll remind you of that if it ever happens to you someday https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7TZe87LLfY

      With his loss... I can't begin to imagine how you must have felt. I've gone through losses similar to this. One of a close friend of mine who I met through this blog - a patient just like me - my age, a similar condition getting the same treatment, who died, suddenly... and I was just in shock and went into clinical depression for a while after that
      But after a while of this... after talking about it with dad, and taking a step back and thinking about it... I realised that first of all... I shouldn't blame myself for his loss. There was nothing I could do to change what happened, and in truth, my actions and words and being there made the last of his days happy. This may be something you face at some point in your career.

      But I also realised that I should have thought about what he would have wanetd for me. And in the end - that was for me to be happy. To move on and live life to the fullest. And finally, I learned that in the end - he still lived on - through us. Through how he's changed the world, and the lives of others around him. And that helped me get through that.

      You may face loss in your career similar to this at some point... and if ever it begins to overwhelm you.. please remember what I wrote in this post about my friend Paul. In a profession like yours and mine... knowing this is necessary. http://nikhilthegrizzlybear.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/dealing-with-loss-survivors-guilt.html

      Please keep being you Harriet. You're awesome =] And if you ever wanan chat - my email is there - my Facebook is www.facebook.com/musingsofamedstudentpatient - I'm here for ya - and any patients of yours too if they want someone to talk to who's been through something similar to them.

      Delete

It's your turn!
What are your thoughts? Any similar experiences? Want to talk about something?