I have made the drive a million times. Winding down the familiar street, I make my way to my patient’s home. The Florida sun, glaring through my windshield, forced me to don my sunglasses. The car radio is playing my favorite music, gearing me up for my shift. I pull in the driveway and enter through the tall, dark wood door to see my favorite young patient. There’s seemingly nothing unusual as I walk in, greeted by the night nurse. My patient lay in his bed, tucked between the bright blue sheets and wearing a fresh Batman shirt given to him for his birthday.
This will be like all the other days, I thought, filled with routine medications, assessments, checklists, notes, and most importantly, keeping my patient comfortable.
Like clockwork, I begin my first morning assessment. Dad entered his son’s room, cup of coffee in hand, and greeted me with a rousing “Good morning.” We stood by my patient’s bed, Dad on one side giving morning hugs to his son and myself auscultating lung sounds on the opposite.
Our eyes met suddenly as we noticed something was wrong. Without saying a single word, our eyes had communicated, “there is a problem.” In a matter of minutes, my routine path had taken an unexpected and frightful turn.
In those moments, it was very clear my patient was in serious trouble. My training began to ring through my mind like an old-school tape recorder on repeat, “airway, breathing, circulation, airway, breathing, circulation.” These words played through my head in the same way my radio played my favorite music earlier that morning. I started systematically resuscitating my patient.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Dad frantically call 911. Yet, when he tried to speak to the operator, the words struggled to fall from his tongue. I noticed this and directed him to give me the phone. At this point, Mom has heard the commotion and entered the room. As I continue to care for the child, I see his parents, the two people I have known for years. But, in that moment, I saw his parents in a way I had never seen before. They were standing together, arms around each other, faces overcome with fear, desperation and helplessness.
With the force of a hurricane, the rescue crew arrived and I provided them with a report of my patient’s condition. The captain looked at me and asked, “Nurse, you are coming with us right?” I sat in the ambulance, looking out the narrow back window, lights and sirens drowning out the conversation of the back of the rig. I saw his parents, following us closely with the hope that this will not be the day they lose their son. I am thankful and happy to say that their son survived.
Years have passed and I still work with the same young patient. Recently, his dad turned to me and asked, “Do you remember that day?”
“Yes, sir, I do.” I answered.
“I don’t think I ever said thank you,” he said, his voice shaking.
I replied with a warm smile and he continued to say, “You sacrifice time with your family, with your own children and you provide my child with great medical knowledge and skill, with love and kindness. You saved him that day. Not a doctor, not a respiratory therapist, not the rescue crew. You did, his nurse.”
When I was a nursing student, I often found myself questioning why I chose this career. Any nursing student or new nurse can tell you, it can be an overwhelming and daunting career path which holds great responsibility and burdens. Even today, as a seasoned nurse with years and years of experience, I doubt my career choice on certain difficult days. Sometimes the struggle seems infinite. Sometimes the challenges seem impossible to overcome. But, I end each day, with that old-school tape recorder playing in my head, that father’s voice telling me, “thank you, thank you.” This is why I love being a nurse.