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.

…..

Organdonor.gov
(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.
1-800-662-4357
(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

The Christmas Miracle and the Music Box

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

She was 82 years old. Sweet, frail, and maybe 4ft 8 inches tall.
She had tons of grandchildren,
a few great-grand children and her beloved children.

They all grew up knowing that family was their core. Their base, their home where love resided.
It was only a few days before Christmas and Mrs. Mary entered our ICU.
COPD. She lived with this for a long time…but this time it crippled her.
O2 nasal cannula, small amounts of morphine IVP for comfort to help her breathe, and to help her relax.

The family gathered around and while in ICU they decided on a group session. Which included her ICU physician, a nurse (me), and the respiratory therapist.
We discussed DNR, DNI and Comfort Care measures.

And behind the tears that welled up in Mrs Mary’s eyes, she spoke to all of us:
“I have lived a wonderful and fruitful life. My beloved husband passed away 10 years ago. I still love him and I still miss him.
I will miss you here on earth, but please know that my spirit will always be with you. I’m ready to go be at peace with my Maker and with my husband. I will be your guardian Angel and look after all of you.”

We all had tears in our eyes.
It was a defining moment.
This 82 year old dear soul, totally cognizant , totally alert and oriented, and she made her decision. No CPR. No crushing of her ribs. No ventilator. Just her wish to be with her family and die in peace.

Her little 5 year old granddaughter…. Walked up to her “memaw” and presented her with a Christmas present that she picked out herself!!
Little Amelia had a music box with an Angel on top. As Mrs. Mary wound up the music box, Out softly came the music: The first Noel the angels did say….🎶

They hugged each other and promised to be with her the next Christmas morning.

That next day, Christmas morning, a light snow filled the hospital canvas. It was a quiet day. A peaceful day.
Her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren had just arrived to wish their “Memaw” a Merry Christmas.
As they walked into her room, they noticed Mrs Mary had her eyes closed. Agonal breathing.

Mrs. Mary let out her last breath.
She died with a peaceful smile.
And in her lap, between her hands, she held to the final moment the Angel music box.
We all held hands, hugged each other in this tender moment.

It was Mrs Mary’s first Noel in heaven.
“The first Noel the angels did say….”
And her family realized that she was the Angel. Their forever Angel.
Easily singing with her husband now and surrounded by many other angels.

Me and “The Music Man” and oh the memories

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

I know every word to every Broadway musical play from back in the 1950’s through the 1960’s and beyond. Daddy would buy the vinyl records of the latest musicals.

Our sad lives filled with anguish, anger and neglect from our mother would diminish for another shining moment with daddy and his music.

It was our moment of infused happiness with my two sisters as the music would play as dad would put another vinyl record on his record player.

The Music Man was special. We’d run around in our pajamas as we sang “Shipoopi”…. We thought this may be a naughty word but we were allowed to sing it.

We’d hold hands and dance in circles with endless giggles to the music.
We became the imaginary orchestral band with pretend trombones….. “76 trombones led the big parade.”🎶

It was those magical moments I remembered as I watched recently “The Music Man” in NYC.

I found myself tearing up with each song.
Each song that brought back those sweet memories of our innocent youth.

Eventually, dad moved up the corporate ladder with IBM and we transferred from New Jersey to the Carolinas. Away from his mom and dad who came straight from Ireland.
Far away from my mom’s parents who had landed in America from Italy.

Dad was a computer director expert. When with the birth of computers they stood as tall as a washing machine or refrigerator. With each promotion, came the bigger house on the right side of town, the private school we went to, the lake house with the matching boat. The infidelities, the gambling, and then the endless drinking.

As a teenager I watched my dad walk into the walls from too much drinking. Our so called fairy tale life had come to an end and came crashing down on us.

We were called to the kitchen table for a “family meeting”. Dad had taken an “early retirement” at 45 years old. It was just another fabrication. Because my parents lived off of lies. Dad was terminated from his big corporate job. That was the truth. Alcoholism. But that was hush hush.
The large house was just a facade as the inside told the truth. Curtains closed dark inside… and that became our life as we painfully grew up into awareness.

Every song I teared up, some tears trickled down as I remembered that once whimsical time in our lives as youngsters.

I’m not angry. I’m not really even sad anymore.
Because I’m thankful that my dad was able to give us a magical time in our youth.

For one brief shining moment…. We were in that band with 76 trombones. We were in that parade with shiny uniforms on and drums and cymbals and clarinets ….

Metaphorically…. Daddy was our music man…who left his mark of joy and spirit for us three children to last us a lifetime!!!

Photo: “The Music Man”
“The Music Man” written by: Meredith Wilson

The Vacuum

By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

I retired from nursing this June of 2022.
I was so happy and relieved that I no longer had to do this.
But even at my age of 66…. I’m still trying to find myself.

The house that once seemed very small with me and my husband and our three children and many neighborhood children laughing and playing and dancing and singing … and climbing into my van to go to the next adventure… the amusement park, roller skating, swimming, a few cruises and Disneyland and the Bahamas and Mexico ….and teaching our children right from wrong. Good from bad.
How to study, how to learn how to be serious and how to have fun and how to be sincere.
And now that house that once seemed so small and so filled with family and friends, is very large to me.
Just me and my 2 dogs.
My husband died 5 years ago. Our children are grown, all college educated with careers and spouses and then some grandchildren.

It’s such a vacuum.

I wanted our children to have the best.
I wanted my children to have fun and enjoy their childhood.
I worked many hours a week. Many times 60 hours a week. So they could have nice clothes. So they wouldn’t be laughed at.

I wanted them to have everything I didn’t have.

We encouraged curiosity and education and music and sports.
Their home plate was love.

And now the quiet still.
I’m not sure if I accomplished enough.
Did I stay on the right path.
Where do I go from here?
Do I die in my sleep?
Do I finally become that author that I’ve always wanted.
Do I hope that I’ll infiltrate my granddaughters with my genetic love?

It’s a vacuum.

It’s a reflection and retracing my steps backwards of what I should have done. What I could have done. And knowing that I broke the cycle of my parents alcoholism, of their negativity, of their ultimate repeated taunts of failure towards myself.

I’m hoping that if there is one more second left in my life…. I will be given the nod of approval.
That I did the best I could to break the cycle I was raised with. To break the cycle of a bad and unfaithful marriage from my husband.

That I can hold my head up and know that I have passed on to generations to come of strong, happy, insightful people.
To pass the torch for the betterment of mankind.

It’s a simple thought but also a sky full of galaxies thought.
I pray I’ve made a mark.
A profound mark…. One day at a time.

KCL IV PUSH

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

He was Ivy League. Med school. His dad was an MD too. They lived not to far from this small cliquish town. Daddy’s house was right around the corner. That “mini” mansion.

After successfully completing his residency, Dr. David became our ER physician. This was a big deal. A big fish in a little pond.
He had an aura. He easily smelt of money. He also had an arrogance about him.
Though he was new to our hospital, he would definitely be the top dog. Anything he told me to do I knew I had to comply.

I loved ER nursing . I was still an LPN working actively on my RN.

Us LPN’s know our place. We know our hierarchy. And I knew my place. I was there to serve, honor and obey.

I couldn’t wait to be an RN. Because as an LPN we were so limited. And I wanted so much more.

It was a Saturday. Around 0230. A young man came stumbling  into the ER. He was obviously intoxicated.
We sat him down on a stretcher. He had that disheveled look. Dehydration.
Dr. David ordered stat labs. The phlebotomist  came in and drew his labs.
The patient had an obvious look of electrolyte imbalance.
Low blood pressure. Heart palpations. Muscle twitching. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The EKG monitor showed ST depression and prolonged PR intervals. A few PVC’s also.

And just as Dr David predicted, this patient had a dangerously low potassium. K+ was less than 2.4.

Dr David knew I was an LPN. But it was just me and him in this 6 bed ER. So whatever I legally couldn’t do, he would have to do it.
He drew up some potassium from a vial. I assumed he was going to mix this in a mini bag.
I was certified to start IV’s. And so I did. LPN’s were never allowed to give any medication IV push though.
Dr. David never put the KCL in a mini bag. He had the KCL in a syringe and he ordered me to give the potassium IVP.
He said as long as he watched me I could do it.

In front of the patient, I told  Dr. David that we could not give this patient KCL IVP (potassium chloride IV push). And he said then he would do it himself.
I became frantic. And in a firm voice I told Dr. David “you can not give a patient KCL IVP. You will kill this patient”. Dr. David got the syringe and put it into the IV port. He was getting ready to inject into this patient. I immediately squeezed the tubing in half. So the KCL couldn’t go through. And I repeated myself “you cannot give the patient KCL IVP.
It will stop the patient’s heart. You will kill the patient”.
Dr. David stopped. Starred at me with his glaring eyes. And said “fine, have him admitted to the medical floor. Let those Doctors deal with this patient”.

This was in the late 1980’s.

I learned a valuable lesson that night.
That whatever hierarchy ladder we stand on in healthcare, we all have a responsibility. A responsibility to ourselves, to fellow healthcare family and most importantly a responsibility to our patients.
Knowing that I was only a rung on this ladder…. But had I not spoken up and bent that IV tubing…. That patient would have most likely died.
Dr. David was angry that I defied his authority.

Arrogance sometimes can be quite dangerous.

Today, 2022, the NC Supreme Court ruled that nurses can be held liable for medical errors or mistakes- even if they were carrying out the Doctor’s orders.

Racial disparities in nursing

By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

I could give you several examples of racism that I have witnessed in my lifetime of nursing.
But there is one incident that always rears its ugly head.
Olisa.
Her name was passed down to her from her great great grandmother.
Her name meant “God’s promise”.

Olisa came from a long line of nurses. Her great great grandmother was a nurse/nanny/slave owned by some wealthy folks on their Southern plantation.
But the torch was passed on in her family for the love of nursing; one generation to the next.

Olisa was bright and funny and the first in her family to earn a BSN.
Tears from the entire family upon her graduation. Nursing cap, diploma, stripes and the Valedictorian of her nursing class.

Growing up, Olisa always knew she would be a nurse one day.
After graduation and passing her NCLEX exams with flying colors, she entered into a Residency program for new nurses who wanted the speciality of Intensive Care Nursing.

This was an aggressive, high acuity ICU at one of the best hospitals in this southern state.
Olisa loved nursing but through her journey in nursing school, it was the ICU that captured her.
Her dream of helping to save lives, to identify, report and implement the warning signs of a crashing patient. Of multi system organ failure.
Olisa was good and caught on immediately. The staff loved her. The ICU physicians loved her. The Respiratory Therapists knew that when she was on duty, it would be a good night even if it was the night from hell!!

After one year, Olisa was asked to be a charge nurse. With that came many responsibilities. Not only was she responsible for the nurses and their patient assignments, she had to be stellar in her skills and in the policies and procedures of this critical care unit.

For three years she was the charge nurse/staff nurse. She carried her name and her profession proudly. In honor of her family filled with generations of nursing.

Olisa decided she was competent and worthy to climb the corporate ladder in ICU and so she applied for an ANM position. (Assistant Nurse Manager).

But there was a new strange aura in this ICU.
New nurses replaced the vintaged experienced nurses. Management had sadly changed hands many times.
And her interviews for the ANM position were being stalled and then cancelled. And Olisa received explanations of “we are looking for someone from the outside.”
Or “we need someone with more experience.”

The excuses came one by one with upper management, and then she noticed her assignments along with her doing charge nurse had changed.
She now was given 2 dangerously high acuity ICU patients. Frequently. Somehow the camaraderie was lost on this team.
And then the whispers came. The degradation. The ethnic name calling. Intimidation.
The snide chants of “Go back to Africa.”

And as an accomplished and well respected ICU nurse that she had earned over and over again, suddenly she was being questioned and second guessing by her younger staff and by upper management. Even the patients and family members seemed to express this negatively toward minority nurses.

Olisa knew something was wrong. But she asked some of her other nurses she had known from her mentor program were they experiencing the same?
Interesting enough, there seemed to be a higher percentage of disrespect and disregard to nurses of color and ethnicity. Hispanic, Afro-American, Middle Eastern countries.
It was obvious that these minorities faced discrimination.
Leadership and mentoring promotions were denied.
And though the nurses not only went to upper management, they reported their findings to HR (Human resource department).
A blind eye and disregard was blatant.

Olisa knew it was time to be proactive.
After interviewing at several different hospital systems, she chose a progressive hospital system that encouraged diversity. Equality. And inclusion.
She sadly left what she thought would be her “professional home.”

And within several months at her new institution, her career blossomed. She became her positive and professional nurse that she always was. But because of the moral decay of the previous institution, she almost lost her way.

Olisa. “God’s promise”. She held her head up high. And honored the generations in her family that carried the torch for nursing.
She was proud of her accomplishments. Well earned and well deserved. Stellar.
And that shining star that she was and is could not be dimmed.

Seemingly unimportant acts make a big difference

By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

We were reminiscing recently at a brunch we set up. It had been many years since we had seen each other. Eventually, we went our separate ways. But we reconnected once again.

Anna was one of our night shift nurses. She was bright and articulate. She eventually became a preceptor and mentor to many new ICU nurses.

The “night shifters” are on an island of their own. We form a special family, camaraderie and trust with each other. We are a special team.

Our ICU was a 24-bed, high-acuity unit — all beds full.

Each patient had their own diagnosis. But beyond the diagnosis was a person and beyond that person was a family.

Anna took care of a 42-year-old female. Last ditch efforts were made to save her life. She was young with a husband and two children.
The patient sadly was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

Eventually, the patient had to go on the ventilator. Her BP dropped dangerously. She had a central line inserted and added IV drips of Levophed and vasopressin.

Anna was at her side. And so was the patient’s husband, Jeffrey.

Jeffrey came in every night to be at his wife’s side. He held her hand and talked to her. He read to her. Poetry, the Bible, talked to her about their two small girls. But his wife lay there deteriorating. Jeffrey knew the outcome was dismal.

Faithfully, every night, he slowly walked through that ICU door.

And every night, he was greeted by Anna, RN.

“Hello, Jeffrey,” she’d always be there to say hi to him. She’d stand by his side as he sadly looked at his wife.

It was a slow shuffle every night for two weeks. But Anna was always there to greet Jeffrey and talk to him. And she would smile at him with her caring eyes.

Because we all knew the truth, we all knew this young lady was not going to make it.

Jeffery spoke with the physicians and with Anna. It was futile. With breast cancer that ravaged her body, they made her a DNR. She was extubated, and we all provided her with comfort. We made sure she was not in pain.

Jeffrey knew the time had come. The day he woke up and felt his wife drifting away.

He made his last walk through the ICU to see his wife one more time, to hold her hand one more time.

And there was Anna to greet him. Her smile. Her caring eyes.

Jeffrey said his goodbyes to his wife as she drifted away. Her slow agonal breathing. And then her final breath. The EKG with a straight line. Cancer had taken her life.

Jeffrey sadly walked toward the ICU door to exit. But on his way out, he stopped to talk to Anna.

He said to Anna:

“Every day, I came into this unit, and you said hi and called me by name. There were days when that was the only good thing that happened. I wanted you to know that. Thank you.”

And then he walked away.

Anna burst into tears.

As we drank our coffee at this restaurant, tears rose in Anna’s eyes.

She told me how this defining moment in her ICU career taught her an important lesson about the value of kindness. And how simple, seemingly unimportant acts can hugely affect the people around us.

…..

Also Published at KevinMD.com