The Gift of Life.

By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

We lived in the woods. 5 acres of trees. You could barely see the sky. We left the big city, for this piece of heaven. And by chance we met a couple that had a 5 year old daughter. Our son was 4 years old. They became best friends. They’d swing on the swing set, play in the sandbox and they’d splash each other in the little pool we had.
Kayla was this sweet tiny girl. Creative, artistic and smart. Her parents were like us. Pretending to be hippies and so called “living off the land.”
We had play dates, went out to eat together and we all became fast friends.

Kayla had long blonde hair. She was quiet. But she was a smart beauty.

A week passed and we hadn’t seen each other.
We called and called. And finally Kayla’s mother answered the phone. Barely able to speak, she was gasping in between breaths.

Kayla woke up in the middle of the night. Screaming. A blood curdling scream.
“My head hurts, my head hurts”.
Her parents rushed her to the hospital.
They figured an ambulance would never find them out here in the woods. This lost paradise.
Kayla’s brain was scanned.
Diagnosis: AVM. Cerebral arteriovenous malformation.
I was just starting nursing school and I knew very little of what an AVM was.
Arteriovenous malformation. An abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in the brain that usually forms before birth.
Many times it is undetected. With no symptoms. Until their is a rupture of one of the blood vessels in an AVM.

A stat MRI confirmed her AVM.
She was rushed off to surgery.
The neurosurgeon worked on her relentlessly. The risk was high. The prognosis was poor.
All of her long blonde hair shaved off.
All we could do is hope and pray.

But she remained in pediatric ICU.
On the ventilator.
Neurologically she never got better.
Her parents were zombie-like. Their precious Angel. No previous symptoms.
The light of their lives.

And she was pronounced dead after two days in ICU. There was no brain activity.

Somehow we all drifted apart.
We told our son that his little best friend is with the baby Jesus.
He was 4 years old and never quite understood what happened to his best friend.

As tragic as this was, Kayla’s parents chose to donate vital organs to other children.
They found out that little Kayla’s heart was a compatible match transplant to another little girl who had a severe heart defect and only had a few months to live.

We went to the funeral. The sadness was palpable. The little mahogany casket with bright daisy’s on top. Her favorite flowers.

The preacher talked about Kayla. Her love and sweetness. Her very short life.
But he also talked of how Kayla lives on. And her spirit is alive.

How do you lose a child, but choose the most unselfish act of giving life to another?

Sweet Kayla with her long flowing blond hair.
An Angel here on earth for just a short time.
But her spirit lives on.

The gift of life.

(Photo Google stock)

Two for the price of one

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

I wasn’t suppose to hear this. But I did. It sealed the deal for me.
It was one of the reasons I had to finally leave my true love. My passion.
ICU nursing.

After 33 years as an ICU nurse, I sadly knew it was time to go.

I use to feel like I was purposeful. I use to think I was a dynamic part in saving lives in the ICU.
I lived and breathed ICU.
I was a charge nurse, a mentor, a preceptor. I attended the AACN meetings, I was the leader of the Shared Governance Committee, I was on the Rapid Response Team (RRT) and I obtained Level 4 RN which was the highest attribute you could earn as an ICU nurse.

But as the years passed, I watched patients with multi system organ failure come through our doors, usually the aged population, many with their own DNR/DNI papers and listen to the family members scream at us nurses and doctors: “Do everything.”

And unfortunately, the theory was that we had to honor the family members regardless of the legal DNR papers…. Because families can sue, dead people cannot.
And so we did.
We did “everything.”

The vigorous and fast CPR pounding on their brittle chest, hearing and feeling their ribs crack. The inhumanity and brutality I felt as we dishonored these poor souls.
But we were forced to do so.

The patients lay motionless on the ventilator, wrist restrained, turned and repositioned to prevent decubitus ulcers. Their vacant stare of what truly was their hell on earth.
Because this was not living.

This new manager had her masters degree. She had no ICU experience but apparently was a “good fit.”
She knew the “corporate commandments” and she knew them well.
She also rattled off reasons for why the budget was so important.
She slowly eliminated our care techs, secretaries and CNA’s, many times leaving us with skeletal staff.
And then came what I perceived as ageism.
Some of the older nurses with incredible experience were being put under the microscope, upper management second guessing us.

At first I didn’t comprehend what was going on until I overheard: “We can get two inexperienced young nurses for the price of one vintaged experienced nurse”.
It truly was a gasping moment for me.
Like how could any manager be ok with attempting to eliminate the experienced nurses?
But we soon learned that Corporate hospital America had sold their souls.
Not only are the nurses a “number” so are our patients.

Top CEO’s for “for- profit hospitals” can make yearly salaries into the millions even for non-profit hospitals. And their incentive pay and perks which add several millions.

My Grande finale was when we were told we would have a 3:1 assignment in ICU.
We were a high acuity ICU. 25 beds strong. Many patients were on ventilators and life saving IV drips like Nipride, Levophed, Vasopressin, add a central line and an arterial line, maybe a swan ganz line (PA or Pulmonary artery line), CT scans, and Code Cools and proning, ECMO, our duties were endless. And it would be 12-13 grueling hours non-stop without a break.

A 3:1 assignment was the end for me as I truly felt that if I did not protect my nursing license that I worked hard for… than nobody would protect it. Not even my ICU Nurse manager.

So I turned in my resignation.
I said good bye to my true love. ICU Nursing.
I could no longer bare to treat patients with haphazard nursing practice that was forced upon us by management.

I have those flashes of memories, the patients that were triumphs, the tragedies and sadness, the nurse camaraderie.
Memories to last me a lifetime.

The corporation. They may never know what we as nurses do relentlessly to save a life.
Would they ever look in the mirror and come to terms with greed becoming their god.
My prayer is to have a mandatory
safe nurse:patient ratio across our America.

Two for the price of one!!

(Photo: Getty Images Stock Photo)

Baby love

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

I always knew my work schedule.
But this time I got it wrong…. Or maybe I got it right.
I clocked in, and reported to ICU for my nightshift to start.
But I wasn’t on the schedule. And strangely enough, they had enough nurses that night.

The nursing supervisor asked me if I would be willing to go to the neonatal ICU (NICU) and rock a baby.
Except for nursing school, I knew nothing about neonatal nursing much less NICU.
But this should be easy. So I said yes.

I entered the NICU and the charge nurse asked me if I could rock this little 5.5 lb premature baby girl.
She was irritable with a frantic shrill cry. Her body trembled.
I immediately thought: “what have I gotten myself into?”
Her tiny self had a nasal cannula attached to her nostrils.
Little Greta was going through withdrawal symptoms.
Her mom did drugs. Opioids.

My heart wept.
Little Greta would tremble. An uncontrollable body tremor.
But I held her close in my arms as I slowly rocked her.
She was perfect. Her tiny fingers wrapped around one of my fingers. We looked into each other’s eyes. Those small brown eyes. And I slowly rocked her, slow and rhythmic. I put her close to my heart. So she could feel my warmth. Feel my heart beating.
Feel my love.

I was told the mother was already discharged. That she was undergoing drug rehabilitation which included methadone treatment.

Social services would make visits to see the progress of Greta and visits to the mom also.
The goal was to eventually return Greta back to her mother, when she was physically able to go home.
DSS would eventually make well visits to the mom and baby Greta when she was returned to her mom.

Within 2 hours of rocking Greta, her breathing slowed to a restful state. Her little eyes closed as she slept peacefully in my arms.
I could have rocked her forever.

I said a prayer for Greta that she would have a happy life. I said a prayer that her mom would be rehabilitated and would never go back to drugs.

This perfect creation. Sleeping quietly in my arms.
And I wished her the best that life and love could give her.

I could only pray a positive prayer.
I did not want to begin to think the dark thoughts that circled my mind.

After two hours of rocking baby Greta, I handed her over to her nurse, I slowly walked out of the hospital. My “assignment” was over with.

Tears slowly fell to my cheeks. Tears I couldn’t hold back.
Tears for baby Greta. Her perfect self, and that peaceful snuggle against my chest as she held her tiny hand tightly wrapped around my finger.


SAMHSA National Helpline
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Confidential free help from public health agencies to find substance use treatment and information.
(Photo: google images)

What have we done to our children?

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

None of us are perfect nor do we live in a perfect world. We all carry some degree of baggage.
But something is wrong.
Terribly wrong.

One of my past jobs was Mental Health/Behavioral Health and I think I’ve seen it all.
From the young to the old.
Deviant behavior, cutters, schizophrenia, psychotics, bipolar, homeless, drug addictions, alcoholism, depression, catatonics, rapists, murderers, kidnappers, mental, physical and sexual abusers and the mentally, physically and sexually abused.
But the ones that tear me apart, the ones that break me down
are the children… and that’s when I begin to wonder.
Is this where the mental illness begins? Our formative years?
What is missing?
In our world of cell phones and social media comes bullying and violence and self-harm and isolation.

She was 14 years old.
She was disheveled, hair in her face… rocking back and forth in her assigned hospital bed.
She was hiding. Hiding from herself. Hiding from her mother and step-father.
Hiding from the world.
Her arms and thighs revealed the sadness.
Multiple superficial cuts down her arms and thighs.
My heart wept.
She was awaiting placement to an adolescent group home. She couldn’t live at home anymore.
Step-dad raped her on multiple occasions. Her screams were disregarded. Disregarded by her mom and muffled by her step-dad.
Neglected, physically, mentally and sexually abused at 14 years old.
Her mom wanted her out of the house.
Momma wanted her out of her life.
Momma didn’t want competition in the house.
So Haley had to go.
The husband, the step-father won over Haley. Or did he?
How do we tell Haley she’s valuable and smart and precious and wanted?
How do we regain her self-confidence, her love for herself?
Or does she end up in society as a deviant, a sociopath, an abuser, a drug abuser?
I sat by her hospital bed and listened to her as she rocked herself.
Her tiny voice barely could be heard.

But I wanted to scream. Moms, dads, parents: your kids need love, consistency, boundaries, respect, shelter, guidance.

Please don’t toss them away.

Check yourself out. Stare yourself in the mirror.
Go to their football and soccer games. Attend their school plays and chorus and ballet.
Cheer them on.
Tell them they are smart and beautiful and kind and good.
Teach them responsibility, teach them to clean up after themselves, please and thank you, respect for themselves and for each other, protect them and guide them.
And love them.

Haley was placed in a group home. She had friends her age that became her “sisters.”
She learned love and guidance and she felt safe and protected.
She excelled in school. I knew she would.
But despite all of her new positive life, deep down there was that tiny black hole in her heart.
That missing basic love from her mom.
That painful tragic raping from her step-father.
Hopefully she will be able to grow and turn her pain into creativity.
We discovered Haley was an artist.
We hope you paint the walls and paint the town and paint your life into a new beginning.

Haley, I send you my love.
You’ve only just begun ….to live.
Paint the world baby love. 💖

📞 988 📞 #Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 24/7