Don’t want to wear a helmet? Sign up as an organ donor.

Originally published on KevinMD

I walk out my front door today to do my obligatory walk around the block with my pups.

Two police cars with blue lights flashing, lead a caravan of over 100 motorcyclists to a funeral for one of their fallen brothers. They revved up their motors in the procession, I guess, as a sign of love, of brotherhood, of kindred spirits in the motorcycle world.

I choked up. I was ready to cry. It reminded me of that 23-year-old male I once had while I worked surgical-trauma ICU.

A young man riding his motorcycle with no helmet, no protection, flying freely down the highway. Superman. “I’m going to live forever.” Not a care in the world with angel dust (PCP) in his system. Feelings of freedom and forgetting any troubles.

No troubles — until it happened. He crossed the line. Killed an innocent man in a car — a deadly collision.

He came to us from the emergency department. He was paralyzed from the neck down and on the ventilator with chest tubes, fractures to legs, ribs, arms — eyes wide open. But he couldn’t blink. He couldn’t track, his pupils were irregular.

His poor mother called me every morning at 6 a.m. with a crackle in her voice.

A motherly voice of sad surrender.

“Is he any better?” she would ask.

And sadly, I would have to tell her no. He wasn’t better; he was worse.

Eventually, a conference was called with the intensive care trauma team physicians and the mother. We would withdraw life support.

And that was it.

Maybe he would have been saved had he not done drugs. Maybe he would have been saved if he had a helmet on.

Maybe.

An emergency department physician once gave us ED and ICU trauma nurses a seminar. I’ll never forget.

Don’t wear your helmet — then make sure you register as an organ donor.

In the U.S. 19 states do not require a motorcycle helmet.

Motorcycle helmets reduce the rate of head injuries by 69 percent and reduce the risk of death by 42 percent.

According to the CDC, close to 2000 lives were saved due to helmet wearing in 2016.

The blue lights passed by me. His buddies of over 100 in single file, revving their motors … and not one with a helmet.

Denial and rationalization will not save you from a heart attack

Originally published on KevinMD

Smoking was cool. And he started smoking at the age of 15. Two packs a day — every day.

When he was 32 years old, we had our first-born son. And he decided to quit cold turkey.

But the damage was done.

Somehow, someway, it would catch up with him in devastating ways.

By the time my husband was 66 years old, he developed shortness of breath and chest pain. With exertion and without exertion.

Greg, my husband, was a health educator. A computer guru. A real “cerebral.”

And he knew “everything.”

Sometimes it’s not good to think you know everything.

Even when I — his wife, an ICU nurse of over 30 years — said to him, “You’re having a heart attack,” his response to me was not to cause trouble, and he would handle this.

He called his internal medicine doctor and was put on nitroglycerin. And the medical office said: “See you next Wednesday.”

I mentioned to him that no medical office tells you to come to their office the next week when you are actively having symptoms of a heart attack.

I was hushed and silenced by my husband.

I knew nothing. He knew everything.

As he ate his nitroglycerin like candy.

After a few days, he decided he couldn’t stand the pain any longer.

The medics picked him up in the middle of the night. His 12 lead EKG was perfect, but his troponin blood level was sky-high.

The cath lab team was called in, and my husband received his diagnosis: 95% LAD, the “widowmaker” it’s called.

The cardiac surgeon stated that a 15-minute delay from when he got to the hospital — he would have been dead.

Another heart attack would follow: circumflex 90 percent, RCA next in line and more stents were placed.

His final diagnosis came: liver and pancreatic cancer eventually with mets to his lymph nodes and lungs.

Was it the two-pack-a-day cigarette smoking or the large three glasses of wine a day that led to heart attacks and cancer? Did his cells form irregular cells and mitosis occurred? Maybe.

When you are haphazard in your lifestyle, and you think you are infallible and you will live forever; you slide down that slippery slope.

Denial and rationalization are your enemies.

Look in the mirror at yourself when you smoke those cigarettes or vape those oils into your lungs or drink that bottle of wine or case of beer per day.

It will catch up with you.

But it’s your choice.

Classic symptoms of a heart attack are:

1. Chest discomfort, pain, tightness in the chest
2. Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, stomach pain, may even vomit
3. Pain that spreads to the arms usually the left arm but can be both
4. Feel dizzy or lightheaded
5. Throat or jaw pain
6. Easily exhausted
7. Snoring loud, gasping, choking-sleep apnea
8. Sweating — cold sweat for no obvious reason
9. Cough that won’t quit
10. Your legs, feet, and ankles are swollen
11. Irregular heartbeat

Call 911!

Denial and rationalization will not save you.

My husband died on September 11, 2017, due to liver and pancreatic cancer with mets to lymph nodes and lungs.

His ashes were spread over a mountain top.

He was a father, a husband, a brother, a son, an uncle, a grandfather.

He was 68 years old.

It’s your decision.

That’s why I became a nurse

Originally published on KevinMD

My anger rises when I see the TV “nurse” with her short white dress and her breasts spilling over her pronounced cleavage and her submissive voice speaking to this muscular male MD.

Her quick giggle and pretentious demeanor is a stereotype portrayed across the land. And the reality of what we really do goes unnoticed.

We have people shouting:

“Bring me a coke!”

“A blanket, hurry up!”

“The food is too cold … the food is too hot.”

“Hold my penis in the urinal because I can’t find it.”

“I’m allergic to everything but Dilaudid.”

Disrespect. Spitting. Yelling. Scratching. Hitting. Cussing.

And the waitress-like image comes across the screen and blends into reality — into our hospitals and emergency departments and intensive care units. And the degrading and harassment and the intimidation tactics and workplace violence scream at us.

And you want to end this incredible vicious cycle.

And you wonder why in the hell did you ever go into nursing?

And then there is that one person. That one patient. He’s old but not too old. And he’s just been given the death sentence.

And you want to hug him and hold his hand. Cancer ravaged his body, and he doesn’t have a chance. And he knows it, and you know it. But he’s thankful and appreciative and asks for forgiveness for “bothering” you.

And I want to give him a new lease on life — new body — because he is one in a million.

One in a million that makes you stop and think and cry

And say out loud:

“Oh, that’s why I became a nurse.”

The patient with a pocketful of IDs

Originally published on KevinMD

All of us nurses and physicians in the ED and ICU knew him well.

He was a young, 21-year-old. A smart, articulate guy who kept going from one hospital to the next. He had a system down … almost.

This young man was a drug seeker. He knew all about seizures and how an Ativan IV push felt during the “seizures” he allegedly was having.

Even though he had several identities and different names, we knew exactly who he was. He would wait for an ICU nurse to assess him at the beginning of the shift.

After the nurse assessed this seemingly charming man, she’d exit his room but wouldn’t get too far from the door when she’d hear shaking from “Randy’s” bed. When she’d turn around, she’d see Randy in a full grand mal seizure. A chaotic quiver, clenched teeth, followed by rigid body and blank stare.

Damn. He was good!

His physicians were fooled for quite some time. They’d give him the EEG, the CT scan, and then the Ativan IV push … and the old standbys Dilantin and phenobarb, too. But “Randy” preferred the combo of Ativan and attention the most.

Eventually, he was diagnosed with “pseudoseizures,” which are not the same as a seizure. There are only two types of seizures: epileptic and nonepileptic.

We knew him well.

Epileptic seizures occur when a sudden electrical disturbance in the nerve cells in the brain causes the person to lose control of their body.
Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES), are seizures that occur as a result of psychological causes such as severe mental stress.

Pseudoseizures may be caused by: anxiety, OCD, panic attack’s, ADHD, traumatic injuries, ongoing family conflict, substance abuse, PTSD or physical or sexual abuse.

How do we treat of pseudoseizures?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

There was a conference: Randy and the intensivist. The doctor explained to Randy that his seizures were not from a neurological disorder. But the seizures he had developed were after multiple or acute stressors that overwhelmed his coping ability.

Randy was angry. Though he had many stressors in life, homelessness, non-compliant with his antidepressant medications, no-shows with therapy, Randy refused to listen to the doctor.

And so he continued aimlessly jumping from one hospital to the next — a new name for each hospital. No family. No home. An aimless wanderer.

Police found a young man in a fetal position at a bus stop. A tourniquet wrapped tightly around his arm. An empty syringe in his hand. Heroin.

Dead.

And with a pocketful of IDs:

Randy, Scott, Jeremy, Michael, Tim, Ryan.

We knew him well.

Perfect nurse. Perfect manager. Perfect puppet.

Originally published on KevinMD

Perfect nurse.

Perfect manager.

Perfect puppet.

An ICU physician once told me: Nurse managers have a life cycle of a mosquito.

Fast and furious.

And then gone.

Deleted until the next one shows up.

It was the perfect ICU.

Twenty-five beds.

Dynamic intensivists. Phenomenal.

And they respected us nurses and collaborated with us. We had perfect cerebral perfusion together.

Experienced ICU nurses who knew what to do like clockwork — teaching the younger new nurses. Teaching them the facts of ICU. The intricate signs of organ failures and how to have a second sense when things went wrong.

We taught them how to alert the doctors when a patient’s vital signs and lab work was showing signs of pending failure. We taught them to keep their cup half empty but to never fill their cup with overconfidence and arrogance. The nurse that “knows it all” becomes the most dangerous nurse.

We were a proud ICU. We earned our stripes.

We were the best.

Stephanie had three years of cardiac nursing under her belt. She glowed with knowledge, and she wanted everyone to know that she knew everything.

Her eyes were on the prize: management.

That’s all she ever wanted — to be the top dog. So she pushed her way to the top.

To the vintage nurses, she made us second guess ourselves. To the younger nurses, she increased their insecurities.

And to management … she was a dream.

She was their “yes girl,” and she played the part well.

No matter what she reported any situation that may have gone wrong to management, instead of confronting the nurse and the situation.

She was energetic and positive to management and anything they wanted or asked for she was right there to help.

She already had her BSN and was actively working on her MSN in administration/management.

Stephanie shadowed the manager while achieving her master’s degree.

She learned all of the “top secrets” of management and had them embedded in her brain. Her plan was to become the next manager. She was ready to implement all that she knew.

It wasn’t long after, that our manager of many years, Patty, had retired. And so with all of the bells and whistles, we sent her off with love and affection in our hearts.

She was our mama bear. She was the one that remembered our children’s birthdays, graduations and grandma’s funeral. She was the one that bonded us together and taught us how vital respect for one another was. She was the one that made this unit as our other family.

We worked hard, but we loved every minute.

Stephanie became the new manager, and we immediately saw a change.

During our daily huddle, she was frantic. We always did something wrong. Sometimes she appeared near hysteria. When the bullies joined our unit and degraded the older and new nurses, Stephanie closed her eyes to the truth. Mistrust and bickering and disrespect was a common everyday occurrence. And our ICU became like walking on eggshells.

We first saw the secretaries lose their jobs. The secretaries who watched non-stop 25 EKG monitors. They were given a two-week notice and were dismissed.

One by one, we saw the experienced nurses leave. And the unit was left with inexperienced nurses who were young and bright and jumped on being the new charge nurse and the new “rapid response nurse” (RRT. Code Blue nurse).

And they wore their name badges with pride. They were new and sparkly.

But they didn’t even know what they didn’t know.

And the awesome ICU that we once knew crumbled and lost its glow.

The air was thick and negative.

Our spirits were broken.

And we all moved on towards a more positive environment.

I miss that group of nurses and doctors.

We were family. It was as if we grew up together.

Memories. That’s what we have now.

We at least knew that no matter what, we were there for each other. We were there for the patient.

We could care less about how many degrees you had or didn’t have.

What we did care about was each other.

We knew we had each other.

Remembering a physician, suddenly taken away

Originally published on KevinMD

Our 20-bed ICU finally captured 10 intensivists — all board-certified in critical care medicine. We were fortunate enough to have one of these doctors in our ICU 24-7.

Of course, they all practiced professionally with expertise.

But I remembered this one the most: Dr. Jason McKenzie (name changed for privacy).

He easily became our friend and “go-to” person.

Clocking in at night and finding out that Dr. J was our doc, would give me great joy.

He was fun-loving and our safety net.

One minute, I’d rap a part of an Eminem tune to him, and he’d automatically complete it. Or I’d switch to a Led Zeppelin tune, and he’d stay right on track.

If we needed a central line, he would be there to insert one. During Code Blues, he’d rattle off what meds were required next.

He wasn’t just a clock-in doctor. He was here for the patients and their family, but he was also here for us nurses too.

He respected and acknowledged us, and we knew we could go to him for anything.

We’d laugh with him, hear one of his stories or jokes, and within an instant, switch gears and run a code.

One of the most important values for a nurse is to know that doctors listen to them and respect them. Dr. J was the whole package.

He talked about his wife and their two adorable children. He had love in his eyes when he spoke of them. We knew they were one lucky family!

After several years, he moved to a different city in a different state and flourished. He became the director of ICU at a large teaching hospital.

He mentored and taught many residents and interns and nurses alike. They all loved him too.

And then we got the news — news that couldn’t be true.

He was a “no-show” at the hospital for morning rounds. This wasn’t his norm.

Some of his buddies went to his house, knocked on his door … no answer.

They called the police to let them in.

And there he was.

Face down.

No pulse. No respirations.

Cold.

At the age of 47, our dear Dr. J was dead.

We found out later that he was scheduled for a stress test two months after he died.

LAD: 100 percent occluded. The widow-maker.

ICU nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists crowded the funeral parlor.

His two small children touched his casket. His wife with her head bowed, dressed in black. It was too early, too soon to be dressed in black.

Disbelief and not a dry eye.

I cried uncontrollably. I just lost my friend. My buddy. My fellow rapper.

We all lost him.

But I’ll never forget his kindness. His wit.

His expertise.

Goodbye, Dr. J.

You were one of us.

You live forever in our hearts.

You were the best.

A love-hate relationship with nursing

Originally published on KevinMD

If you went to go to a museum in New York City and saw a live heart encased in glass, still pumping and pulsating — it would be my heart, shredded into a thousand pieces all in disarray. But it still would be pulsating. This describes my life as a nurse.

Nursing was a vacuum that sucked me dry and left me dangling with nothing more to give. Three years left until retirement, and I count the days.

I wanted to be a journalist for the New York Times or become a teacher. I was so excited to go away to college, but I should have known better.

Dad was an IBM executive but eventually drowned himself with alcohol. My mother was a true “Mommie dearest” who exhibited no warmth to us, her three kids. She neglected us, and we were essentially on our own.

Mom ruled with an iron fist. Was she miserable because dad drank and had many affairs? Or was it her newborn son who died three days later after he was born? She saw his stark black hair, but they didn’t let her cuddle her dead baby. He was buried in a massive grave along with several unnamed dead babies.

I had already seen JFK assassinated on our black-and-white TV. I was in second grade. Then came the other cruel realities in life: Nixon resigning after the big Watergate scandal. Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, RFK, Medgar Evers — all gunned down in our America. When I graduated from Catholic school, I became aware that our bishop ran off with his secretary.

So I grew up knowing that life was not full of happiness. That it was full of sadness and hate and cruelty and darkness.

And beyond the dreams of escaping our large house to go away to college, I was stopped dead in my tracts. Mommie dearest said I would not go away to college, I would go to a local college and become a nurse. And from that moment, my life was dictated into the world of nursing.

I first became an LPN. I couldn’t concentrate in nursing school for my RN, and so I failed. I was always a failure — dumb and stupid and fat. Dad yelled at me when I dropped out and screamed: “You’re a failure, nothing but a failure.” I climbed through LPN school and graduated. Mom and dad took me out to eat for graduation. Mom announced that if I had become an RN, I would have been sent on a cruise. Instead, I got filet mignon. Years later, when I did get my RN, my parents were a “no show” for my graduation.

It seemed that my career in nursing was much like the life I had already led. My first job as an LPN was on psychiatry. And within two years, I saw how people did not get better with their mental illness. It was theirs to keep forever. My stories are forever, but the worst story on psychiatry was searching for a missing 50-year-old female patient on our unit. We searched everywhere until we found an isolated bathroom locked. The male techs plowed down the door, and there she was. Her jugular had been chiseled down and exposed. She was crying as blood dripped down her neck. Starring in the mirror, she couldn’t take the final cut. One more slice of her exposed jugular, and she would have been dead. I was 22 years old.

After several years, I began working on my RN. And I landed a job in a small southern town in the ED. I had lots of energy, and I loved the smorgasbord of the ED. Gunshot wounds, stab wounds, heart attacks, respiratory arrests, delivering babies.

But the worst: That 6-year-old girl brought into the ED. Eyes hollow and black as coal. Catatonic. She did not move. She had just been sexually assaulted by her momma’s boyfriend. To this day, I am still haunted by this little girl’s eyes. This little girl who had the magic of being young and happy, taken away from her forever.

I graduated to the ICU with my RN in hand. And that’s what became my true love. I loved the multi-system organ failure. I loved putting the puzzle pieces together. I loved being dynamic and energetic and attempting to save lives and problem solve and critically think. Thirty-plus years in ICUs and surgical trauma ICUs, and I considered myself a good nurse. I loved what I did.

But after 30 years in ICU, it became apparent that the general public had decided that their loved ones would live forever. With these ventilators and cardiac drugs and dialysis and balloon pumps and extracorporeal organ support (ECOS) and code cools and code blues and code strokes — everyone was going to live forever. Even the 92-year-old man who was in the ICU in a fetal position with brain stem damage was going to live forever as his daughter insisted on him being a full code.

And so we did. Full code, CPR, ribs crunching, daughter watching, doctors begging the family to let us stop And they refused. And we kept assaulting his body until his straight line on the EKG monitor announced for another 15 minutes that he was dead. Dead, despite compressions, despite code meds.

Assault. Disrespect. Denial.

And my heart grew tired and cold.

The bullies came to our unit. They were young and bright and “knew everything.” They didn’t have the experience or the wisdom that we had. But they carried disrespect for others. And their failure to pay attention and learn and critically think did not become a priority. And suddenly we thrust into: Where’s your hearing aid? Where’s your walker? You’re not retired yet?

I gave it my all until I couldn’t give anymore. Three years left, and I decided to go back to behavioral health. And I know I can’t heal them or cure them. I give meds to the psychotics and schizophrenics. And that’s OK with me.

Because at least now, I don’t have to pound on their chest while their body has decayed. At least I can respect them and not force to assault them. At least I have a management team to work with instead of vindictive or dishonest behavior.

You may think I’m not OK. But I am. I have weathered through a very complicating nursing life. As interesting as it has been, it has equally been sad and tragic. It has been a large portion of my life.

This nursing life.

I have loved you.

And I have hated you.

Nursing’s newest problem: The young eating the old

Originally published on KevinMD

In 1976, we couldn’t wait to be nurses. Our starched white dresses with the nurse caps and stripes symbolized our graduation status as we were called one by one to receive our diploma and a rose.

We took an oath to care for the sick, to be professional, to critically think, to respect doctors and to respect patients and family members.

And to respect each other.

It was the age before computers. We learned how to calculate IV fluids in drops per hour and drops per minute. We had large folders that contained algorithms for sepsis, or myocardial infarctions or code blues. We had a three-fold flow sheet that we would manually document on. Threefold front and back. Blood pressures every 15 minutes and the pressors to coincide with the blood pressure. Everything was manually written from labs to a patient’s chart to MDs handwriting new orders — and endless charting of everything that happened to the patient in the ICU or CCU. We knew everything we charted had to be precise as it was always a potential for legal matters.

The handheld calculator had just come out on the market. It was the newest invention: $85 for a handheld calculator. So we were thrilled that we could now plug in some numbers to get an accurate drip rate for IVs or calculate dosages in an instant.

We were associate-degree and diploma nurses. And only the “elite” would earn a BSN.

We didn’t have breaks; they didn’t exist. We just kept working until it was time to go.

You worked the shifts your manager told you to. There was no compromising. You just did what you were told to do. We were the new pioneers in this field of nursing, and we were quite proud of ourselves.

Some older nurses did not communicate well with younger nurses.

Sometimes it was bullying the young. Or harassing or degrading a younger nurse who was just learning.

And the newly coined phrase appeared:

“The old eating their young.”

And the phrase stuck. Unfortunately.

And there was nowhere to turn. The managers turned their heads away. Sometimes the hazing was so bad that nurses would resign and even find a new career.

The nurses we couldn’t wait to be were riddled with harassment and ridicule.

And instead of holding each other up, we slowly destroyed each other.

Fast forward to the year 2000.

We older nurses are counting the years we can say goodbye to this long, hard, relentless career. This career that afforded our family vacations and a house and car and nice clothes and college for the kids.

This career that challenged us in the gut as we watched people live longer or die faster. As we said our goodbyes to our patients, we grew to love, and we’d gulp buckets of tears when it was over. Our last goodbyes to patients we loved.

We slowly evolved painstakingly learning the computer. And the computer was foreign to us. We were “special” and slow and didn’t adapt as well as the younger nurses did. These younger ones started computers in their home, in kindergarten and throughout the rest of their young lives.

Though they sported lots of energy, they walked faster than us, and they now had medical protocols and procedures right at their fingertips — instant knowledge.

But what the young ones didn’t know was that we were pioneers. We’re the ones with years and years of knowledge and experience and wisdom. And thus, the cycle of bullying was reinvented.

I’ve been a manager of an emergency department, I’ve been first assist to the surgeon, I’ve been a staff nurse and a charge nurse in ICU. And I’ve endured over 30 years in nursing. I have to continue working three more years before I can financially retire.

My sadness comes in when I hear the young men and women in this nursing career start the harassment.

“Where’s your hearing aid?”

“Are you STILL working?”

“Where’s your walker with the tennis balls?”

And then there’s a laugh.

But it’s not funny.

It’s sad and degrading.

It compromises our integrity, worth and our camaraderie.
 And instead of working together — we tear each other apart.

This is the hardest part of nursing.

I know it’s not everywhere, but it does exist.

And so now the coin has flipped.

The young eating the old.

Are we strong enough to stop this?

Are we strong enough to encourage positive work ethics and behaviors and to learn from the new and learn from the old?

Can this profession be saved?

It’s up to us.

All of us.

Respect.

Educate.

Enrich.

Empower.

We came here for a reason. Let’s not destroy ourselves.

Nurses Week. Always and forever.

Originally published on KevinMD

I have to work tonight. It’s Saturday. And I don’t want to go in. It’s springtime, the skies are blue, birds chirping, and the flowers show off their magnificent colors.

But it’s Saturday. And along comes being a nurse. We have mandatory weekends, mandatory holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter and Independence Day and Memorial Day.

Mandatory.

And even on my day off when I get a real nights sleep, I think about or dream about that emergent intubation, central line insertions, propofol drips, wrist restraints, code blues, and CPR. Chest compressions and O2 sats dropping because the patient has sputum plugs, catching that patient before he falls out of bed, medicating that one that is in active DTs, and the psychotics and the hallucinations.

If it’s a dream, I wake up exhausted.

The surgical trauma unit was my nightmare as I’d stare into that 18-year-old boy’s eyes who now was paralyzed from the neck down cause he did drugs and no seat belt and crossed over the line and killed that innocent driver on the other side.

Paralyzed from the neck down. Forever.

Or that beautiful young girl that jumped out of a building and came to us dead on arrival. And the exhaustion and anxiety of 12 to 13 long hours without a break, without a lunch.

This is a pledge I request to those not in the health care field:

Stop the insults.
Stop the innuendos.
Stop the disrespect.

Unless you have breathed our life, then stop announcing what you do not know nor have experienced.

A salute to you nurses. We have a special calling of saving your life. Of bringing in new life. Of sending you off softly into the night when it is your time.

I could never acknowledge all fields of nursing, but thank you.

Spread this:

Empower.
Enrich.
Respect.

Nurse’s Week. Always and forever.

A nurse willing to forgive others. And to forgive herself.

Originally published on KevinMD

I was 5 years old on a busy New York City street with my mom, dad, and two sisters. A large man in shabby clothes holding a garbage bag in his hand stood on the corner waiting for the light to change.

My dad reached into his wallet and handed the stranger a $20 bill, patted him on the shoulder, and said, “Have a good day, my man.”

Dad knew everybody — even strangers, it seemed.

Back then, I didn’t know what poor was, but I did know he was a stranger and dressed oddly. And I knew that $20 was a lot of money.

No one explained anything to me, and we just kept walking.

Now, I was raised in the Catholic church where only Catholics go to heaven. We prayed for the “public” children and their parents because they weren’t Catholic. They were going to hell.

If you missed a Sunday mass, a very large, dark spot appeared on your soul — you’d be going to hell too.

I became defiant as I got older. I met the man of my dreams — or at least thought I did. He was this pseudo-intellectual hippie with Afro-eque hair and a long, unruly beard. His eyes were beedy and blue complementing his thin frame in a way. And he would always smoke those cigarettes. He was my magic man. We played music together, wrote poetry, too. I inhaled and exhaled his every word.

We bought a trailer on five acres, and we were going to live off of the land. I dumped my Catholic religion. As my parents said, we were “living in sin.”

But I was naive and young and came from a dysfunctional family with a mommie dearest and alcoholic dad. Daddy would drink a gallon of wine a night and bump into walls. Here he was Mr. IBM man who sent us to private Catholic school and owned the big brick house on the good side of town with a cute lake cottage and boat. The big, dark house disguised the sadness, the dysfunction, the negligent parents. The screams of emotional and verbal abuse. The message like a tape recorder over and over again:

“You’re dumb and stupid and not pretty.”

I thought I broke through — I became that nurse Mom told me I had to be!

We married and had three beautiful children. Before baby three, there was no future vision from my husband. Are we to stay in this two-bedroom trailer?

There was no movement from him. And so I got a second job as a nurse and saved money for a down payment to move out of that trailer and never look back.

It was a sad and tormented marriage. He had many lovers. Many infidelities. And though I put my heart into raising our children with the greatest joy, I always felt degraded and disrespected — and sad.

My husband, Ted, led a life of being a computer guru, public health servant, awesome father, and friend to others in the neighborhood, even a surrogate father to some.

Ted carried a glow to his universe.

I’d work 60 hours a week as a nurse to make ends meet. I worked until I was exhausted.

But I carried on.

Thirty-seven years of marriage. And then my life came to a halt.

Tormented years of marriage, of the infidelities, of the emotional abuse…. sadness and loneliness and always wishing for that happy marriage that never happened.

And in a blink of an eye, the only man I really ever knew, was gone. Liver and pancreatic cancer with mets to his lungs.

And today I wake up alone except for my pups; they stay by my side. I’ve been through therapies to lessen the pain, the anger, the sadness, and the loneliness.

And it was recent that I woke up one morning, as the sun squeezed through my blinds. I had tears in my eyes.

I had rejected Jesus for a very long time.

But today I felt Him.

The five-year-old in me remembered my dad handing a poor man $20.

And there he was. Jesus.

The Jesus in all of us.

Kindness and love and forgiveness.

I felt that glow that I had lost long ago.

An old poem that I had cross-stitched many years ago came out of my top drawer.

Maybe an anonymous author:

He spun a thousand webs to capture me
One was faith, and one was simple grace,
A strand broken out into the wind …
I look today at all the tattered ends
And wove a web of prayer back up to Him.

Tonight I walked the dogs. And I looked up and saw the Big Dipper. I hadn’t looked up in a long time.

The beauty of this universe, the stars, the flowers, the oceans, that newborn baby. The mountains.

I stand stripped and humble.

And willing to forgive others.

And to forgive myself.